Inspiring Women's Participation in Local Governance in Tanzania

In Tanzania’s bustling commercial capital of Dar es Salaam, one woman’s determination is setting an example for many others living in the Bunju ward of Kinondoni, which houses almost 100,000 residents, 52 per cent of whom are women. Sophia Chove, a small-scale snack manufacturer, caterer and event decorator has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years and is now seeking to add local government leadership to her list of achievements.


Ms. Sophia Chove with her snack-making equipment in her home-based small factory in Dar es Salaam. Photo: UN Women
Ms. Sophia Chove with her snack-making equipment in her home-based small factory in Dar es Salaam. Photo: UN Women

“After attending a training workshop organized by UN Women and the Kinondoni district council, I realized that as women, our voices are often missing in local government decision-making, so I made the decision to run for election,” said Sophia.

Although Tanzania has made significant strides in advancing women’s leadership, women’s representation in local government remains relatively low. Only 6.5 per cent of elected district councillors were women in the last local elections, with even lower figures at the ward and village levels – 2.7 per cent and 2.1 per cent respectively.

In 2022, UN Women, with support from the Government of Finland, launched the five-year “Strengthening Women and Girls’ Meaningful Participation, Leadership, and Economic Rights at the Local Level” (WLER) project, focused on increasing the participation of women, including young and disabled women, in leadership and decision-making roles, and promoting women's economic rights. Through the project, 4,700 women and girls have engaged in training and dialogues so far, including Sophia. 

"The training opened our eyes to the status of women’s leadership at the national level down to our community level, and many of the leadership opportunities that are within our reach,” said Sophia.

Beyond training and dialogues, the WLER project collaborates with community facilitators at the local government level, religious, community, and traditional leaders, as well as grassroots women groups and networks, and leverages the media to tackle discriminatory norms, attitudes and practices. It also enhances local government officials' capacity to integrate gender into planning and budgeting, improves gender data collection, and advocates for women's economic rights.

“We believe that equal economic opportunities and more control over time and productive resources for women, combined with gender-responsive local governance and community engagement to tackle discrimination are key to enhancing women's influence, autonomy, and active participation in decision-making across all levels,” said Ms. Hodan Addou, UN Women Representative.

Post-training, Sophia is actively promoting women's leadership and economic rights in her community through her interactions with women's economic and savings groups.

"I'm determined to be a voice for women's issues. Our absence at the decision-making table means that many of our concerns remain unaddressed, and I aim to change that," she asserts.

As Sophia prepares to run for a village chair position in Tanzania's 2024 local government elections, she approaches this new challenge with the same optimism that has marked her business ventures: "With every discussion I have on the importance of women’s leadership, my support grows. I'm confident in my ability to succeed," she shares.