Empowering Rural Communities to Empower Rural Women

Introducing CARE Tanzania’s Wezesha Program


A picture of a typical poor person in Tanzania that emerges from many of the poverty analyses is one of a woman living in the rural areas. No wonder poverty analysts describe poverty in Tanzania as being “a rural phenomenon with a woman’s face.” For ease of describing this rural woman, CARE Tanzania has nicknamed this typical poor person in Tanzania, “Upendo.”
Upendo lives on smallholder farming, raising cattle, or income earned from fishing or mining. She may have been orphaned at an early age and her life may be subject to emotional traumas and economic insecurity.1 She never went to school or, if she did, she dropped out from primary school or failed in the Primary School Leaving Examination because of her orphaned state, early pregnancy, early marriage, or extreme poverty of her parent(s). She may be married, divorced, widowed, or separated. She has more than four children, one or two of whom are girls. Upendo and her daughters live in a society that is patriarchal and polygamous and that places low value on women and girls. They have less decision-making power than men and boys and do not have the right to own property. They are overloaded with productive and reproductive responsibilities but have very little access to the resources they produce. nicknamed this typical poor person in Tanzania, “Upendo.”
In the farming communities, Upendo owns no farmland; in the pastoralist/agro-pastoralist communities, she owns no cattle or grazing land; in the fishing communities, she owns no fishing gear; and in the communities adjacent to mines, she has been evicted from her household’s settlement and farmland. Productive natural resources typically belong to men and boys or have been taken up
by the government or investors. Where Upendo has access to productive natural resources, i.e. water, farmland, grazing land and forestry, and marine parks, she uses them in an unsustainable manner, as she is not aware of modern methods for sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry or fish farming. She has no knowledge of conservation agriculture, and climate change.
Upendo and her daughters suffer from hunger, disease, and exploitation. They have limited livelihood opportunities, no income of their own, and are, therefore, unable to make decisions about money. Upendo has no opportunity to further her education and cannot pay the school fees for her daughters. Upendo and her adolescent daughter are likely to die in childbirth. They have no access to clean water and live in an unclean environment.
Socially, Upendo and her daughters are not members of any group in their community. She is not aware of existing forums for expressing her views and needs. She does not know how to influence policy, or budgeting and planning processes at local and national level that affect her. She cannot become a leader in her community partly because of socio-cultural norms, but also because she cannot write in Swahili or English; only those who are literate in Swahili or English can contest for leadership positions. She does not own land because of the corrupt practices involved in land allocation at the local level. Upendo is too overworked to participate in the planning, budgeting for and implementation of development initiatives and local government officials lack either the skill to engage her or the political will to do so. Within pastoralist communities Upendo’s interaction with government officials is especially limited. This is the result of a history of oppression and marginalization of pastoralists by the government, which has eroded pastoralists’ trust in government institutions and officials.

WEZESHA Strategy



CARE Tanzania has decided it will intervene in Upendo’s situation. Between 2014 and 2020, CARE Tanzania and its allies will work to empower rural communities in the northern highlands, coastal areas, southern highlands, and Zanzibar as a means of empowering “Upendo” to realize her social, political, and economic rights and manage natural resources sustainably in the context of a changing climate. CARE Tanzania has named this 6-year intervention or work to achieve lasting impact on the causes that underlie Upendo’s poverty and social injustice, Wezesha Program.

WEZESHA Impact Group

The overall specific population group upon which Wezesha program aims to have a positive impact consists of women in rural, food insecure households whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and natural resources. This group ranges from young, out-of-school women of reproductive age to older women no longer of reproductive age but still engaged in subsistence or market-based economic activities. The choice of this impact group is based on the fact that women are the most marginalized (economically, politically and socially) and vulnerable to poverty; in addition, they constitute more than half of the rural population and are more likely to be instrumental in improving the well-being of their households than their male counterparts. While defining women in rural, food-insecure households as its impact group, this does not mean that CARE Tanzania will not also target/include men in its interventions. Indeed, in order to achieve the goal of “vibrant, equitable and resilient rural communities” where women are empowered to realize their rights and natural resources are sustainably managed, CARE must engage men, including young men, to build more equitable social norms and structures and to promote more vibrant rural economies.

WEZESHA'S Impact Goal

Like all programs, Wezesha has a long-term and sustainable social change that it wants to see happening for the rural marginalized and vulnerable women and girls. Wezesha wants to see vibrant, equitable and resilient rural communities” where women are empowered to realize their rights and natural resources are sustainably managed in a changing climate. Based on a number of considerations, including CARE Tanzania’s comparative advantage/expertise, CI member interests, and donor priorities, the decision was taken through the Country Presence Review process to “focus on climate change adaptation and economic empowerment of women, with VSL and land rights as entry points to achieve transformational change”26 in the lives of the impact group.

WEZESHA Broad Change

In order for Wezesha’s long-term social change to happen, change is necessary in four broad areas of the lives of rural marginalized and vulnerable women and girls: their capacities, their relationships, their landscapes and ecosystems, and governance. Without some degree of change in each one of these broad areas of change (also known as “Domains of Change”), Wezesha program impact goal will not be achieved.
So, with regard to capacities, rural women and girls must have the knowledge and capacity to equitably access and control inputs, services and resources for resilient livelihoods and disaster risk reduction. As with regard to relationships, social norms and structures must be transformed to enable the engagement of men (and boys) in promoting gender equality at household and community levels. With regard to landscapes and ecosystems, they must be sustainably managed to make them healthy, resilient, and supportive of human life, productive livelihoods, and social equity. As with regard to governance, the legal frameworks, public institutions, the private sector and civil society institutions must be made capable, responsive and accountable to citizens.

Broad Changes

Knowledge and capacities to equitably access, control, and claim rights over inputs, services, and resources for resilient livelihoods.
Transformed social norms and structures that engage men in promoting gender equality at household and community levels.
Healthy and resilient landscapes and ecosystems that are managed to sustain human life and promote productive 2 livelihoods and social equity.
Legal frameworks, public institutions, the private sector, and civil society institutions are capable, responsive, and accountable to citizens.


Vibrant, equitable and resilient rural communities where women are empowered to realize their social, political, and economic rights and natural resources are sustainably managed in a changing climate.

Pathways to Wezesha’s Broad Changes

In order for the four broad outcomes of Wezesha Program to be achieved, progress towards a number of immediate outcomes, referred to as “pathways” is necessary. A total of 16 pathways under the four broad changes have been identified.

Pathways to Wezesha’s Broad Changes

Pathways to enhanced capacities of rural women and girls

Capacities of women in food-insecure rural households dependent on agriculture and natural resources to have resilient livelihoods to climate change, natural disasters, and other shocks will be enhanced if:
  • Their access to and control over natural resources will be increased: by paying particular attention to expansion of land rights of these rural women and girls (Pathway 1);
  • Their access to and control over financial resources will be increased by bringing them into membership of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) (Pathway 2);
  • Their access to inputs, services, markets, and information will be made equitable by building their negotiation and decision-making skills for them to interact effectively with service providers, markets and sources of climate and market-related information (Pathway 3);
  • Their climate-smart agriculture knowledge and skills will be enhanced by building their knowledge base and practical skills for them to implement more sustainable, productive, equitable and climate- resilient production systems (Pathway 4);
  • Their livelihoods will be diversified by promoting suitable livelihood diversification strategies, including crop and livestock diversification and expanded access to irrigation in agriculture, as well as non-farm economic activities. (Pathway 5).

Pathways to equitable relationships

Relationships between women and men, girls and boys, in rural food-insecure households and communities will be made equitable if:
  • Women and girls will have control over their lives and bodies as a result of their empowerment to take responsibility for their physical and emotional well-being and to make their own life choices (Pathway 6);
  • Collective action will be promoted by expanding the participation of women in various forms of collective action undertaken by different types of groups and associations (Pathway 7);
  • Respect for women’s right to security will be increased by advocating for human and women’s rights as well as for reduction of gender-based violence (Pathway 8) and 
  • Men and boys will be engaged in transformation of social and cultural norms (Pathway 9).

Pathways to healthy and resilient landscapes and ecosystems

Landscapes and ecosystems required to sustain human life and promote productive livelihoods and social equity will be made healthy and resilient if:

  • Sustainable practices will be promoted by adopting sustainable soil and water conservation and other sustainable land use practices through community-
          based natural resource management approaches (Pathway 10).
  • Integrated land use planning will be adopted (Pathway 11)

  • Partnership with conservation organizations will be promoted by developing long-term partnerships and strategic alliances with local and international conservation organizations (Pathway 12)

Pathways to capable, responsive and accountable institutions

Public, business and civil society institutions will be made capable, responsive and accountable to citizens, especially rural women and girls, if:

  • Citizen engagement among rural women and girls will be increased (Pathway 13);
  • Capacity of institutions to respond to the needs and demands of citizens will be increased by building their knowledge base and capacity (Pathway 14);
  • Stakeholder engagement in planning processes will be strengthened by expanding spaces for negotiation and supporting efforts to bring together diverse stakeholders (Pathway 15); and
  • Partnership to influence policy and practice will be promoted by giving particular priority to building long-term partnerships with women’s rights organizations, farmers’ organizations, and environmental conservation groups at district and national levels (Pathway 16).


CARE’S Evolving Niche
Over its 20-year history in Tanzania, CARE has been known for its work at the community level and has built up strong and extensive relationships with different development actors. Increasingly, CARE has also broadened the nature of its engagement from working primarily as a direct implementer at the community levels to also working with civil society partners, research institutions, social movements, and the media to influence national policy. Under the Wezesha Program, CARE Tanzania will draw on its experience as direct implementer, partner, and advocate, to transform its role as an actor in local and national development processes. While CARE Tanzania will retain a role in the direct implementation of programs at the sub-national level, such work will increasingly focus on promoting innovation and developing new models/interventions. At the same time, more and more of the responsibility for direct implementation and scale-up of established models will be transferred to local partner organizations, whose capacity CARE Tanzania will continue to develop.