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Women Tell a Different Story: G@W Facilitator Story: Zanzibar
"At a workshop in the Zanzibar, Tanzania, a Gender at Work Facilitator met with the leaders, all men, of an organization that oversees a number of grassroots women’s organizations.
One leader, a man like the other organization leaders, claimed that gender disharmony was not an issue in their organizations, or in the community, because everyone respected the gender roles as set out in the Koran.
Our facilitator listened respectfully, and then asked if together they might visit one of the women’s groups. During the visit, our facilitator noticed that this leader spoke for the women’s organization, as he stood up amongst the kneeling women. The difference in their position and posture made manifest the gender hierarchies embedded in the culture.
When the leader finished speaking, our facilitator thanked him and asked politely if the women might speak for themselves. When they did, they told a very different story. Although they believed in living by the tenets of the Koran, which assign men to the head of the household and as primary breadwinner, while women cared for all domestic activities, the women said that in reality they not only do all the domestic labour, but they often have to earn the family income as well. The men leave the house each day but they do not go to work. Instead, they spend time with their friends in public spaces, playing cards and so on.
The leader of the parent organization admitted to having his eyes opened after hearing this story. He promised to work with the women’s organizations to institute change around this issue.
During the next visit to the women’s organizations, the leader notably removed his shoes and kneeled down with the women and allowed them to speak for themselves."