Empowerment is…

The founders Empower Tanzania chose the two words of its name deliberately and after long discussion. It was important to focus our efforts—and the funds donated to us—on people, not buildings or equipment. Our target was the marginalized people in Tanzania—the poor, the uneducated, the rural, and across all these categories, the women.

As in many developing countries, women are virtually powerless. The traditional culture relegates them to homemaking and subsistence farming. Education is secondary to their roles of fetching water and firewood, bearing and raising children, and tilling the kitchen garden.

Oftentimes, they are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and when widowed, their land and even their children can be taken from them. The authorities ignore these atrocities because the culture permits it. It is not surprising that even a large minority of women support the idea that beatings by their husbands is acceptable.

Within this context, Empower Tanzania has developed programs that seek to empower women. Key components of each program include what we believe will facilitate empowerment within the context of this male dominated culture.

First, women need self- confidence. They must believe that they deserve gender equality. They must recognize their potential as members of a just, egalitarian society.

Second, they must believe that it is possible for them to achieve gender equality, overcoming the oppressive, exploitive cultural norms.

Thirdly, they must begin to have economic independence. They need ways to earn money and the respect that comes with it.

Fourthly, they need role models who show that it is possible to be successful and respected in their society.

All of Empower Tanzania’s programs encompass these components. We do not give women chickens or sewing machines and tell them to go and become empowered. All our programs focus on education, targeted information that teaches useful skills—training as providers of first aid in remote communities, educators who teach health promotion, the know how to operate a small business. This training is provided by Tanzanian women who are educated and respected in their positions in government, education, religion and business. They demonstrate that empowerment is possible.

Our Beyond Gender Based Violence program provided counseling to 100 women in 10 support groups. They overcame the hellish experiences that brought them to the support groups and our tests and observations showed marked improvement in their self-esteem and confidence. The groups now want to be identified as entrepreneurs and they are operating small businesses.

Our Community Hospital Improvement Program trained 21 women from remote Maasai villages to provide first aid and referrals to hospitals when necessary. Even in one of the most traditional cultures in the country, these women gained the respect of their communities, became the source of knowledge about health problems, and educators of basic health practices that are saving lives. Their husbands are supporting them and helping them with their responsibilities. Their roles are changing from servant to partners.

Women participating in these programs have become active in their communities. They meet regularly with local officials to describe problems and possible solutions. Two have been elected as Ward Councilors. Over half of them are now serving on local government committees. They have succeeded in generating incomes for their families and using this money to educate their children and improve their living conditions.

Of course, there has been resistance to these changes in women’s roles—changes that empower them. However, we have minimized backlash by moving slowly, encouraging our women to be respectful of their husbands, and by convincing men that empowering women benefits everyone, including men. Despite these efforts, there are still occasional outbursts of resistance. We found champions among men who supported these programs and we used them and their status to resolve these occasional spasms of resistance.

It would be naïve to think that our programs will lead directly to the empowerment of women in Tanzania or that gender equality will soon result. Women will need to become politically active and mobilize to achieve this goal. But, if they have developed confidence and are convinced that they can be equal, the chances for successful mobilization efforts are greatly enhanced.

Our goal is to create the conditions under which women are individually empowered and who believe that they can successfully mobilize to gain gender equality and social justice. Without the former, achieving the latter is much more difficult.

Women’s Empowerment Event is a Huge Success!

On a cool summer in August, over one hundred Empower Tanzania supporters  gathered at Vivian’s Diner & Drinks in Des Moines to celebrate the work we’ve done and to help launch us into an even better, more ambitious tomorrow. Board members, staff members, volunteers, founders, and friends all gathered to share stories, bid on silent auction items, drink sangria, and eat a fabulous dinner curated by Vivian’s staff. Not only were we given the privilege of the sharing  stories of the people we serve in Tanzania, but together we raised over $10,000 for our women’s empowerment projects in rural Tanzania!! We are so grateful to all who attended and all who donated. So often we spend our time looking ahead to what we’ve yet to do, but the Women’s Empowerment Event allowed us to pause and celebrate the work our teams in the states and in Tanzania has done so faithfully over the years. To view an alum of photos from the event, click HERE.

Our incredible volunteers made this night happen:

Before sitting down to dinner, guests enjoyed appetizers, sangria, and a new video produced by ETI highlighting our work towards women’s empowerment in Tanzania:

Dinner was outstanding and as people finished their dessert, we were thrilled for the opportunity to thank our honorary hosts, Dr. Jeff and Ali Carithers:

10 Steps to Water at Pangaro

Clean water solutions are incredibly complex and require intense planning, organization, management, and fundraising. Here’s a brief primer on how we delivered on our promise of clean water in the village of Pangaro:

1. Acknowledge request from the community for a clean water source. After learning about the need, Empower Tanzania made a commitment to the people of Pangaro and asked that the community form a water committee.

Click on the photo to watch a video explaining the need.

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Meet Four of the Most Empowered Women in Tanzania

If you’ve followed Empower Tanzania for long, you know that we provide  tremendous opportunities to advance the rights of women across the globe. Why? Because we believe it’s important to empower women and to lift one another up. Projects that benefit women are crucial and we’re grateful to our staff, program managers, and donors who are exceedingly generous with their time and resources. We’ve spent nearly a decade educating and empowering women across the Same District of rural Tanzania. Allow us to introduce you to four of the most empowered!


Nietiwe is a successful farmer in our Integrated Farming Program. Her training, skills, and hard work pays for her four children’s school fees, healthy food for her family, and even a motorcycle to use to gather fresh grass for her livestock!

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How do we empower women?

We’re currently in the midst of a Mother’s Day campaign in which we’re working hard to raise $3,000 for our women’s empowerment programming through the sale of some pretty beautiful jewelry made in Tanzania. Because of our generous business sponsor, Onion Grove Mercantile, we’re offering supporters the chance to donate $30, receive a pair of earrings, and be assured that their money will go toward the women of rural Tanzania. Continue reading

Water is Life (World Water Day 2017)








The  men and women we work with in Tanzania often tell us that “WATER IS LIFE.” They say this with a seriousness that is sometimes difficult for Westerners to comprehend due to our oft-taken-for-granted infrastructure. “MAJI NI UHAI,” one of our program managers, farmers, educators, or students might exclaim in Swahili. WATER IS LIFE. Too many Tanzanian women and children walk miles upon miles—spending a good portion of their day that could be devoted to work or school—collecting water that may or may not be clean. We take this challenge seriously and work hard to find sustainable solutions to this very basic human need at every level of our programming. Here’s a glimpse of what it all entails:

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An Empower Tanzania Ag Update



Which animals are changing the lives of agricultural entrepreneurs in Tanzania? Goats, ducks, and chickens. Each animal helps farmers greatly increase their status and income. Eating meat, milk, and eggs benefits their health and the extra income can improve all aspects of life, including allowing parents to send their children to school. A third quarter visit to 31 farms conducted by Steven M. Kihoko, PLFO Same District,  and Mr. Joseph Kimbwereza, project manager, was successful.  Continue reading

Training Begins!

Drillers, water technicians, citizens from the Same and Mwanga districts, and representatives from the Pangani Water Board Authority gathered earlier this summer to learn about drilling viable wells.

Empower Tanzania, the Ames Rotary Club, and Rewerts Drilling Company were able to bring in several Iowan drillers to conduct a seminar. The seminar centered around basic drilling techniques that are not common in dry areas of Tanzania. Over 25 people from all different locations and backgrounds were there for the two-day seminar led by Iowa driller and Empower Tanzania volunteer Justin Rewerts.

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