Tanzânia, All Africa, Inglês


Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — The fight against climate change is seeing women emerge as powerful leaders around the globe, and Tanzania is no different. At the WomenLift Health conference in Dar es Salaam, Zuhura Ahmad, Program Head at the Women in Recycling Foundation in Tanzania, proudly took center stage to contribute to this crucial movement.

Ahmad, a rising activist in Tanzania’s environmental movement, is making a significant impact.

The science teacher won the 2020 Earth Day contest organized by Nipe Fagio, a Dar es Salaam-based environmental organization, and was a national winner of the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change. Now, she is the Program Head at the Women in Recycling Foundation. She empowers women through knowledge sharing, capacity building, and skills development in waste management and recycling activities there.

During her spotlight talk, she highlighted the Tanzanian women shaping climate action through innovation, eco-friendly businesses, and advocacy.

“Imagine the shores of Tanzania where the Indian Ocean kisses the sands, a place of natural beauty and community life, but look closer and you will see the unwelcome visitor, which is plastic,” said Ahmad. “And this is where our story unfolds, a time of challenge, resilience, and the power of women to turn the tide against plastic pollution.”

“In Tanzania, plastic pollution isn’t just a problem for the environment; it’s a clear picture of how it harms our communities, especially traditional ones, she said. ” Beautiful beaches, once untouched, are now scarred by our careless habits of throwing things away.”

She described it not just as an environmental problem, but also as a story tragically unfolding in communities, where once “pristine beaches” are now marred by the remnants of our disposable culture.

“But beyond the aesthetic, this plastic tide threatens marine biodiversity, food security, and livelihoods. Into the heroines of our story, women in Tanzania, who despite often being marginalized, have risen as leaders in the fight against plastic pollution. They don’t just wear capes, they are armor to their unwavering spirit.”

Women leading the charge against plastic pollution

She highlighted inspiring stories of Tanzanian women tackling plastic pollution.

Mama Aisha turned her grief at the damaged coral reefs into action by organizing community beach clean-ups. Sister Fatima empowered young and old with her local movement that recycles plastic into beautiful art, teaching them the value of waste. Dr. Zainab’s impactful program educated fishermen and vendors on the crucial link between plastic and marine life, promoting environmental responsibility alongside livelihoods.

“These are not isolated cases,” said Ahmad. “They represent a growing wave of change driven by women’s leadership in climate action.”

“As the founder of She Shapes Nature, my journey started with a single question. How can we harness the intimate relationship women have with nature to catalyze lasting change? And then I draw a lot of inspiration from initiatives like the seaweed farms along the coast that is not just a testament to innovation, but also a refugee from plastic pollution,” she added.

“The answer lies in innovative solutions like seaweed farms along the coast. These farms not only combat plastic pollution but also offer a hopeful vision for the future. Women like Halima lead these farms, cultivating not just seaweed but also hope. Mangrove restoration projects spearheaded by women’s collectives act as natural barriers against plastic entering the ocean. Each planted mangrove symbolizes growth and resilience.”

“Our story is one of unity, where each action, each initiative, and each woman play a pivotal role in the health of our planet,” she said.

“I invite you, leaders, activists, and the citizens to join this narrative. Support the policies, advance the projects, and champion the causes that place women at the forefront of shaping the climate action movement. Let the action of women, let the action of women in Tanzania remind us all, that in the fight against plastic pollution, everyone has a role to play. And together, we can ensure that the only thing that remains afloat in our marine ecosystem is the legacy of our collective action,” she said.

Following her inspiring speech, Ahmad spoke with allAfrica’s Melody Chironda. The conversation delved into her work in environmental activism, climate justice, and the critical link between gender equality and tackling climate change.

Can you tell us about your role and your work? 

I serve as the head of programs at the Women in Recycling Foundation where we are empowering women in waste management and recycling activities through knowledge sharing, skills development, and capacity building. Also, I am the founder of She Shapes Nature which empowers and captures the stories of local women and girls shaping nature and climate action in Tanzania.

What actions are most needed to advance gender equality in the context of climate action? 

I think the thing that is needed is education and capacity building because more so the girls and women speaking of gender, are not aware of what is really about climate change. They just know that climate change is climate change. So we need to advocate for them to understand the meaning of climate change, how it affects us and how can we take the opportunity to address it from the local level to the national to the international level.

I think the advocacy but also the capacity building to know what innovation they can do to address climate change. But also the knowledge-sharing platforms so that they to get aware and interact and network with people who are absolutely at the forefront of shaping climate action. And of course, centering women and girls in the case of gender and climate.

Could you provide a brief overview of your journey into climate advocacy?

In the case of advocacy, I started this when I was at the high school at Temeke High School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where I got to join an organization, which is the so-called Native Nation Temeke Club. We went to fellow schools and hospitals to plant the trees, and to educate about waste management.

After I went to university where I got the opportunity to volunteer to lead the organization, which is the so-called Tanzanian Youth Biodiversity Network, centered at Sokoine University of Agriculture. And then I got the mandate to advocate for biodiversity policies and it is conservation.

Then to train girls, women, and youth as well for them to understand the biodiversity policies and how they connect with it is conservation. Afterward, I got the opportunity to serve as the head of programs at the Women Recycling Foundation, where I advocate for women and, of course, local women so they understand how they can manage the waste at the home level, at their family level, and then to turn those wastes into wealth so that to earn an extra income while ensuring that the environment is free against waste, especially plastic waste pollution. So advocacy is a non-stop business.

How can people join your organization?

People can join as members, which now is not formally organized, but people can join as members. But what we do is we do an outreach going to the local community, especially now we have been outreach to the Makangarawi community, which is located at Dar es Salaam here in Tanzania, and doing a baseline survey to see the passion of women in the case of waste management and recycling.

What challenges do you face?

I think the challenge because I work with a non-profit organization, the challenge is the fund. Fund to implement those projects, because when it comes to advocacy, it needs money, because once you want to train the women, it needs money from the start, starting from organizing the event, training, giving them an allowance or some stipends. So the challenge is the fund because once you want to implement even the bigger project of recycling, you just want to install the machine. So how can you install without having the resources, especially finance resources?

So the challenge is funding, the challenge is sometimes resources, capacity building, team management, sometimes team, how the challenge comes and goes.

How important is it for women’s voices to be heard in this climate change discussion? 

Women’s voice needs to be heard in this climate action space because we are the ones who are at the forefront when it comes to climate change. We are the ones who are being marginalized when it comes to climate change. So our voices are really important to share with these high-level spaces for us to address our challenges and to see how can we solve the challenge of climate change in centering women, in centering girls, because nothing without us, nothing about us without us. So we need to be in this space to advocate for women and girls in climate action and of course to champion the gender responsiveness approach when it comes to climate action.

How do you define climate justice?

I think climate justice, I defined as the equity and equal sharing of the resources that actually will benefit everyone, even women and men. So when it comes to loss and damage for those who have been affected, so relating with climate justice, they have to get the backup so that they can get up and address those loss and damage, because we need the equity when it comes to addressing those crisis issues in our world.

What has been the greatest change you have seen in your years now as an environmental activist?

I think the transformative change is that youth are now very active, especially women and girls, specifically when speaking up to the girls and women in Tanzania, especially in Dar es Salaam because I’ve been here several times.

I have seen the women and girls in the case of climate action, they have been very active. Now they advocate, they are using their social media and advocacy platforms well to advocate for climate change and it is action. So I think this is a transformative change for them, for the girls and women to understand and see how they can amplify their voices to empower other girls and women in their community to understand what they can do to address this crisis that is affecting the world.

How do you stay positive in keeping what you are doing and fight for the environment? 

For me, I always stay positive because I know what I am doing and I know this climate change is affecting all of us. It doesn’t even choose to affect Zuhara or to affect somebody else, it will affect all of us.