Tanzania is very well known for its wild safaris; Kilimanjaro; and its heavenly beaches of zanzibar. It is a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.
But what exactly do we know about Tanzania?
With a population of 58 million people, Tanzania is the 25th most populated country in the world but also one of the poorest. Today the country ranks 159th in the Human Development Index, which includes 189 countries in total.
Tanzania can be seen as an astonishing and paradoxical country if one compares its culture with the rest of the world. Its population consists mainly of indigenous tribes, with about 120 ethnic groups scattered throughout the country. Approximately 80% of Tanzania's population lives in rural areas that are still landlocked. Each Tanzanian tribe has its own customs and cultural clues associated with the history and region concerned. Despite the enormous cultural and linguistic diversity, Tanzania's ethnic groups are united by national identity and the common language, Swahili.
This diversity is also reflected in the field of handicrafts, which is a great source of inspiration in the country. Here, people work with wood and mosaics, invent musical instruments and weave bead jewellery.
It was after several trips to the Iringa region that I had the chance to meet local artisans specializing in basketry. Indeed, it is from this central region of Tanzania that most of the baskets woven by the Hehe people come from.
Today, more than 70% of Tanzanians generate their income from agriculture. Most of the weavers are actually farmers who optimize their milulu production by transforming this grass into beautiful baskets that are then sold locally or exported. The money they earn allows them to pay for children's schooling, medical fees and to invest in new weaving techniques to improve the quality of their products.
Basket weaving in Iringa is a women's story. They have the choice to organize themselves into cooperatives and work from home. These cooperatives offer a fair income to each member. In addition, they offer many training courses on weaving techniques and design.
Each basket is carefully woven and it can take up to three weeks to produce an extra large basket. The dedication and energy spent in the making is extraordinary! Baskets woven in Tanzania also enable women to improve their status within their communities in rural areas dominated mainly by men.
The situation of women in Tanzania is still very precarious today. While women are gaining more and more rights in the cities, it is still very complicated in rural areas. Indeed, 64% of women in the country are illiterate, which makes it difficult for them to integrate into the formal economy.
The protection of women's rights is also threatened by enduring cultural traditions such as polygamy, dowry and genital mutilation.
31% of girls in Tanzania are married before their 18th birthday and 5% before the age of 15. According to UNCICEF, Tanzania is the 11th country with the most married children in the world.