03 Mar 2021

Tanzanian women learn new skills through Caritas program

The Southern Cross  |  March 3 2021

Tanzanian women learn new skills through Caritas program

Young women in Tanzania are gaining new skills and looking to a bright future thanks to a Caritas Australia program funded through the annual Project Compassion Lenten Appeal.

Growing up in Tanzania, Oliva, 22, didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. She went through life embarrassed that she was unable to read, write or count. As an adult, her small business lost money because customers were taking advantage of her.

Then Oliva enrolled in literacy and numeracy classes as part of Caritas Australia’s A+ program. Even while she was still learning herself, she decided to set up a classroom in her home so she could share what she was learning free of charge with other women who were too shy to attend public classes.

Now, Oliva has graduated from her classes. Attendance at her home-based classes is growing, her business is thriving and she’s fulfilling her dream of becoming a pastor.

Oliva lives in the Arusha region of northern Tanzania with her farmer husband and four children. She has two sons aged seven and two, as well as an adopted niece and nephew who have lived with them since her husband’s brother died seven years ago.

Oliva runs a kiosk that sells grocery products, and serves tea and snacks. To make ends meet she also works as a casual labourer on local onion farms.

With little rainfall for around five months a year, many Tanzanians face food shortages, and struggle to afford shelter and clothing. Some households survive on just two meals per day that mostly consist of maize, which doesn’t provide a balanced diet.

Oliva’s ability to earn an income was hindered by the fact that she could not read, write or count.

“Due to our low family income, my parents could not send me to school,” Oliva said. “My mother preferred that I take work as a labourer. I felt inferior and didn’t interact with my friends.

“When I went to church and the pastor said, ‘Let us open our Bible and read’, I couldn’t read a single word. As an adult, people used to take advantage of me because I couldn’t count. I was operating my business at a great loss.”

Around 25 per cent of Tanzanian girls and women aged over 15 years cannot read or write. Many families are unable to afford school fees or uniforms. Schools are often a long way from home with limited resources, and few teachers are willing to work in remote rural areas.

Women in Tanzania also tend to bear the burden of household tasks, with low participation in activities outside the home, and limited decision-making powers within their family and community.

Three years ago, Oliva attended a village meeting about the A+ Program run by Caritas Australia with local partner, Diocese of Mbulu Development Department (DMDD). This program helps the community to identify its resources and ways they can achieve their vision for a better future.

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