The European Union celebrates 100 years' anniversary of International Women's Day Gender equality and women's empowerment at the heart of EU external action (07/03/2011)

This 8th March, as the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of the declaration of International Women’s Day (IWD), the European Union member states jointly celebrate the political, social and economic achievements of women and the campaign for women’s rights in Tanzania.


Since the groundbreaking Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the international community has established clear, legal norms on the prohibition of discrimination and the active promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment, and made a firm commitment to monitor their implementation.

The Government of Tanzania can hold its head high as a champion for promoting gender equality, through its high rate of ratification of gender sensitive international Treaties and the important steps it has taken to implement its gender commitments. But, there is much still to be done.

Despite substantial progress over the last few decades, women and girls still constitute a vulnerable part of Tanzanian society. As the principal victims of discrimination and violence, women have fewer opportunities of access to education, fewer employment opportunities, less access to labour and financial markets than their male counterparts.

Women are more often illiterate, have little or no access to income generation opportunities, and have minimal opportunities for participation in public leadership positions. Their key assets, such as cash and land, are still largely controlled by their male relatives. Social justice and poverty alleviation are still gender unequal matters.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are still neglected and the provision of Maternal Health Care services highly inadequate. Despite increasing Government interventions, Tanzania's maternal mortality ratio remains one of the worst in the world.

Gender-based violence, most notably domestic violence and Female Genital Mutilation, remains a widespread dramatic phenomenon that has serious negative effects on the lives and health of women and girls, as well as significant socio-economic consequences.

On the eve of the International Women's Day, the European Union (EU) Heads of Missions in Tanzania re-state their highest commitment to the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment in Tanzania.

The EU has a long-standing commitment to promote gender equality. International Women’s Day (IWD) was initiated 100 years ago in 4 European countries and the early commitment is reflected in the EU's ongoing support in this area.

Last year, the EU undertook important efforts to further reinforce its policy notably through the adoption of an EU Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development for the period 2010-2015 (GEWE).

The European Union Delegation and Member States in Tanzania took this a step further and agreed on joint efforts, with measurable targets and indicators, to address gender inequalities at country-level.

Their strong commitment is reflected in the EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (GEWE) for Tanzania for the period 2010-2012 which was officially launched by the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children on occasion of the 2010 IWD.

This Plan was a result of joint efforts by the EU to strengthen and coordinate action on gender issues at country-level. The EU Action Plan is the first of its kind and a true benchmark in addressing gender issues in EU development cooperation.

Together the EU members agreed to strengthen and coordinate action on gender issues, to support the Government of Tanzania in its efforts to implement its gender commitments as well as to support the action of women's groups and networks in their efforts for greater gender equality and women empowerment.

At the policy level, Gender issues have been systematically raised in dialogue between EU member states in Tanzania.  Mechanisms have been established to ensure that the EU GEWE is mainstreamed in all EU funded Development cooperation projects and programmes.

Mainstreaming alone does not suffice, and specific actions have been identified to catalyze the reduction of gender inequality, prepare the conditions for effective mainstreaming and redress situations where women and girls are particularly disadvantaged.

Cooperation and support to the Government of Tanzania as well as to the women's groups and networks in their fight for greater gender equality has greatly improved, and financial and human resources substantially increased.

European Union members' support to women's groups and networks in their fight for greater gender equality in Tanzania has risen to more than 10 million Euros (21 trillion Tanzanian shillings) and is projected to increase further.

Thanks to the efforts made by our implementing partners, the impact is already visible in critical areas such as access and participation of women and girls in education and training; promotion of women's entrepreneurship and equal access to formal employment, decent work and financial services; sexual, reproductive and maternal health; access to justice and fight against all forms of violence and discrimination against women, notably gender-based violence, female genital mutilation and land rights.

On the eve of the International Women Day, the Head of the European Union Delegation in Tanzania, Ambassador Tim Clarke, declared his optimism about the progress made by the country and the EU:

He said: "Sustainable development, peace and security cannot be achieved without the full participation of women. Discrimination against women undermines the development of an entire country. Violence against women has direct negative consequences on women's access to education, jobs and on to their participation in the public life. The impact of the marginalisation of women runs counter the empowerment of their children and communities and ultimately the development of the whole nation.

The Government of Tanzania is showing true commitment to gender equity and through the EU Gender Action Plan for Tanzania, the EU has lifted gender mainstreaming from rhetoric to effective policy-making.

We believe we have made significant advances during the last year, in terms of: raising political awareness; raising the EU's profile on Gender issues; identifying key strategic issues that we can address; forging a real alliance between EU Member States, the Government, other International players, and NGOs on Gender priorities; mobilising additional financial resources for both the Government and NGOs on Gender empowerment; and identified training needs for our own staff.

On this day of celebration I wish to laud on behalf of all members of the European Union the dedication and endeavors of our many implementing partners that are making a difference for the people of Tanzania.

We truly commend the commitments to gender equity made by the Tanzanian authorities. Their support to women empowerment is a clear sign of leadership.

I also wish to address a special word of thanks to our partner NGOs and CBOs which strive very day to defend and promote the rights and conditions of women and girls in Tanzania.

I profoundly believe that if all together we can help pull Tanzanian women out of poverty, give them respect, honour their rights, give them dignity, provide them with economic incentives, they can be the real drivers for change and prosperity".

Further info and update: Serena Bertaina – Gender Focal Person, EU Delegation to Tanzania