A New Chapter in Refugee Women’s Empowerment in Tanzania

After months of planning, Asylum Access Tanzania launched its inaugural Women’s Empowerment Group on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2011, creating a peer support group where women could learn and be empowered in a collective setting.

A year ago, when a volunteer legal advocate (VLA) was campaigning for non-inquiry policies to allow women to report sexual violence without being asked about their legal status, she realized that the opportunity to reach out to other refugee women could help them tremendously. It would allow them to share their stories in a safe environment, and work towards overcoming their experiences together. And all that was required was for someone to organize and provide the space and opportunity for the women to meet.

Colleagues at AATZ were very excited about the prospect of a group, ideas and suggestions were tossed around, but we lacked the time and resources to develop this – until now.

In February 2012, VLAs Lisa D’Annunzio, Nadhifa Mahmoud, and Mwajabu Khalid organized a focus group to determine refugee women’s needs, wants and how best to organize a women’s group. It was clear that this would fulfill a need within the community, and the women were very eager for a space devoted to addressing their unique needs as refugee women.

Based on their suggestions, AATZ combined a peer support network with an opportunity to learn and develop through socio-economic opportunities. Each session would be themed, with a guest instructor providing rights-based training, skills training, or counseling support.

14 women enthusiastically participated the first Women’s Empowerment Group on March 8, which focused on micro-finance and other economic opportunities. Upcoming bimonthly sessions will be announced as AATZ secures the help of volunteer specialists.

While the group is still in its early days, AATZ hopes that this will help build strength and confidence among refugee women in Dar es Salaam, enabling them to advocate for their rights and make empowered choices for them and their families.

AATZ’s new Women’s Empowerment Group marks Asylum Access’s second women’s programming, following the launch of women’s workshops by Asylum Access Ecuador in 2010. Please contact Lisa at lisa [at] asylumaccess.org if you would like to be involved in the women’s group in Dar es Salaam.

Published May 2012