International women’s day is about celebrating women, and there is a special recognition to be given to the women who employ huge reserves of determination against the odds to move towards transformative change. We would like to this month highlight an organisation that is doing truly inspiring work, changing the negative social norms and practices in northern Tanzania, securing rights for women and empowering girls and women to achieve real change.
The Pastoral Women’s Council was founded in 1997 by ten Maasai women, including the current Executive Director Maanda Ngoitiko. Maanda Ngoitiko is a Maasai from the Ngorongoro district of northern Tanzania. Her family are traditional pastoralists. Refusing to take the traditional path of early marriage that many Maasai girls are expected to take, Maanda insisted on furthering her education, earning diplomas in Dar es Salaam, Ireland, and later in Kenya, where she graduated with a degree in environmental studies.
In the early years, the PWC worked on forming women's’ solidarity groups and initiating community fundraisers to start microcredit activities and to support girls’ education in the Loliondo area. In 2006, the Aigwanak Trust, a body representing Maasai traditional leaders in Loliondo requested the PWC to take over the management of Emanyata Secondary School, and their work expanded into education, women’s economic empowerment and later into women’s rights programmes. Their programme of work has led to legal advocacy, and since 2015, the PWC has supported over 700 pastoralist women to secure land and property rights, and to participate in the governance and management of natural resources.
The PWC continue to work on several key areas: they have formed Women Micro-Credit and Saving, Women’s Rights and Leadership Forums, collective livestock groups called Women Solidarity Bomas in pastoralists communities and support women via a number of community-based interventions. They also ensure paralegal training so that women know their rights and are supported to claim their rights. They arrange meetings with women groups and traditional leaders and government authorities to create dialogue and forums for sustainable change and development. In 2018, they joined the Global Support Initiative for ICCAs, a project focused on supporting and recognising pastoralist areas as ICCAs. “ICCA" is the abbreviation for territories and areas conserved by indigenous peoples and local communities. ICCAs achieve both the conservation of species and the natural environment, together with other social and cultural objectives.
Maanda Ngoitiko, the Executive Director of the PWC sums it up - “We are proud to say that after 20 years we now have over 5,000 pastoralist women across three districts tirelessly working individually and collectively to ensure sustainable development for their families and communities. We shall continue with this work and ensure the baton is passed on to the younger women so that they too are at the forefront of leading this transformational change”.