Enhancing business opportunities and livelihoods for Women Cross Border Traders at Namanga Border

The Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC) is women-focused, non-governmental organization and women’s movement of over 5,000 pastoralist women living in northern Tanzania. PWC has been working to positively transform the lives of pastoralist children, women and communities in northern Tanzania since 1997. PWC goal is to address women’s marginalization in patriarchal Maasai culture and to enhance their quality of life through facilitating their access to education, land and property rights, social services, and economic empowerment. It also strives to empower women to engage in social and economic processes to alleviate poverty and promote self-directed development.

In November 2017, PWC spearheaded a one-year project to establish a cross-border association, a business incubation process, and a women’s market along the Namanga One Stop Border Post (OSBP). This project was dubbed Empuan, a Maasai word for renewing and transforming people lives and was financially by GIZ- EAC under the IIDEA project. The project aimed at contributing to the realization of the EAC Treaty and Common Market Protocol, especially partner states’ commitments related to promoting the private sector and business women.  The project delivered various interventions aimed at renewal and socio-economic transformation of the lives of Women Informal Cross Border Traders (WICBTs) selling Maasai handicrafts along the Namanga border between Kenya and Tanzania. These women face double marginalization as their trading approach (mostly hawking) earns them a low income and most of them come from the Maasai pastoralist community, which continues to foster oppressive attitudes and culture towards girls and women.

Left- Chairperson of Nalepo Shanga Women’s group, Mama Sarah Keyia who advocated for the allocation of business center space at Namaga (Tanzania side) OSBP

To implement Empuan, PWC met with various government officials to explain the importance of a business center in the Namanga community. On 20th September 2017, the Prime Minister of Tanzania himself (Hon. Kassim Majaliwa) instructed the Head of Customs Tanzania at Namanga’s OSBP and district leaders to immediately allocate a strategic business center for women traders selling Maasai beadwork at the border. As a result in December 2017, PWC was officially invited to support the women set up a temporary business center at strategic area next to the OSBP building, Tanzania side. The businesswomen have also been welcomed to use the OSBP’s sanitation facilities. This business center will be used by Tanzanian and Kenyan Maasai women bead makers and is envisaged to increase social cohesion and integration amongst the women (and by extension the larger community) from the border countries as well as cross-border trade and economic prosperity of the women.

In the coming month, PWC will mobilize funds to construct this temporary business centre and will continue advocating to and linking the women border officials and non-state actors, such business groups, with aim of strengthening the women’s business acumen, basic literacy skills and access to markets.

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