Women empowerment can be described as “having increased life options and choices, gaining greater control over one’s life, and generally attaining the capability to live the life one wishes to live”, according to Mahmud et al 2012, whereas Kabeer (1999) considers women empowerment as “an expansion in the range of potential choices available to women so that actual outcomes reflect the particular set of choices which the women value.” Borrowing from the two authors, empowerment signifies a change in the capability of women and this is what SARD-SC project has contributed to the lives of women in Bumbwini, Zanzibar.
When a group of women in the isles were asked whether the Innovation Platform (IP) established under IITA/SARD-SC Project has brought any changes to their livelihoods, they almost responded in unison “Yes”. Specifically, the women said since the establishment of the IP there has been an increase in their income due to rise in cassava productivity as a result of using improved varieties and good agricultural practices. They also got an opportunity to learn how to develop other products from cassava (clips and chips) and cassava flour (confectioneries). They sell their products to shops (as wholesale) and to individuals (retailing), while other customers come to them for the products.
Mwanaisha Mohamed, Kijakazi Haidari and Asia Abubakar all from Bumbwini are women who say they have no regrets participating in SARD-SC Project and being members of the IP. “My income has increased through selling cassava flour and cassava chips”, said Mwanaisha. “I have even bought a cellular phone which I, otherwise, could not have managed if it were not this initiative”, she said with a smile on her face. Mwanaisha says she also manages to give pocket money for her children when they go to school and can attend to other family necessities from her own income.
“I am no longer depending on my husband for everything. I have my own income through which I take care of the family like buying school uniform and kitchen equipment”, This is another story from Kijakazi Haidari. According to her, all matters which required money were previously left in hands of her husband including buying a 250g packet of salt. “The project has earned me respect as I can address some of the family issues which require cash”, Boasted Kijakazi.
“I don’t ask my husband for money anymore when children need new school uniforms or shoes, I handle such cases by myself”, Said Asia Abubakar with confidence. “I used to depend on my husband even for very minor cash requirements, but now that is history”, She added. Similar stories were also told by a couple of other women at Bumbwini including Miza Makame and Maua Khamisi who admitted that since IITA/SARD-SC project reached them, their lives have never remained the same. “We thank IITA through SARD-SC Project for empowering us. We now get more respect from our husbands because we assist in reducing burdens from their shoulders through our earnings”, Said Miza in conclusion on behalf of other women.