Women and Empowerment Department

“There is no wrong with being a woman… And if there are some things I cannot do, it does not mean I’m weak. So I have different abilities and capabilities and it is acceptable… I don’t prove myself to be a better person by comparing myself to men. I can be a better person even without comparison.” Lynnchristine Isote, Head of Women and Empowerment Department, May 28, 2015
The Women and Empowerment Department works through a number of programs and workshops to educate the community about gender issues, democratic citizenship and environmental awareness. As the newest department, established in 2012, the women and empowerment programs have seen rapid expansion and the introduction of new projects including Village Community Banks (VICOBA) and gender-based violence trainings.


Women in the YWCA spend the afternoon making soap.

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Gender-Based Violence trainings in nearby villages promote positive change.

YWCA Ilula

The YWCA Ilula hosts over 50 active members. It works to encourage economic empowerment, environmental justice and democratic citizenship in the Ilula area. YWCA Ilula facilitates workshops targeting women and youth. One of their longstanding programs, the Tamar Campaign, works to break the silence on gender-based violence through the use of female Bible narrative. YWCA Ilula encourages women’s economic independence by instructing women to make and sell batiki (a type of fabric), soap, handmade cards, body oil and dried fruit.

Communication for Change

The Ilula Orphan Program is a YWCA-YMCA partner in the Communication for Change (CFC) program. Organized by Norwegian YMCA-YWCA, CFC creates bonds among youth in the North and South so that they may come together to confront global and local development issues. Each year, IOP sends two female participants to travel to Norway for three months and then to another participating country for a month with other international students. Participants learn about a chosen development theme, such as poverty or climate justice, while developing their leadership skills. When participants return to Tanzania, they create clubs aimed at educating local villages on youth leadership and development. Currently, there are six CFC community empowerment groups.

Girl Guides

IOP Girl Guides empowers young girls morally, educationally, and recreationally. From learning First Aid skills to pitching tents, the Girl Guides builds a sense of community. Girl Guides are a long-standing tradition at the IOP. Founding director, Berit Skaare, first visited the Ilula area at the invitation of a life-long Tanzanian Girl Guide friend and the Girl Guide troops she has organized have been active ever since. Following on that early international connection, IOP Girl Guides often collaborate with international Girl Guide groups.

Ilula Youth Empowerment Center (Souf House)

The Ilula Youth Empowerment Center (Souf House), currently a pilot program, is intended to be a home where young women can live for three months for low rent. They will have opportunities to participate in empowerment workshops. The Ilula Youth Empowerment Center intends to foster a supportive environment empowering young women to overcome societal pressures regarding relationships and marriage.

Young Mothers Incubation Center

In Tanzania, young single mothers are usually not allowed to continue their education. To compensate for this, the Young Mothers’ Incubation Center was created to service these socially isolated women. The Center teaches economic empowerment and economic independence to young mothers. Different workshops are currently held at the IOP, different churches, and in meetings with the local government. When the Sollerud Kindergarten is opened in late 2015, it will host the Young Mothers’ Incubation Center in the afternoons. For the first few months, 10 to 15 women will be accepted into the program, with the hopes of including more in the future.Village Community Banks (VICOBA)

Village Community Banks (VICOBA)

In partnership with the Foster Family Program, the Women and Empowerment Department works to install VICOBA in various villages. Currently, there are 33 VICOBA groups spanning 16 villages. These groups empower families within the community to create their own support systems. 15 to 30 village community members join in the banking process. Members meet and discuss economic issues, as well as any conflicts in the community, such as differences of faith. Money is contributed to the VICOBA and community funds that the group chooses to establish at each meeting. Examples include the Orphan Fund that assists and finances the care of orphans in the village and the Community Fund which provides interest free loans for member of the bank who face immediate problems. One example of an outstanding VICOBA group has been operating in the Ikuka village since 2010. In 2015, the members decided to construct a bank and offer lending to the community. Collectively, they financed and provided volunteer labor for the construction of the building.

Public Expenditure Tracking Systems (PETS)

In Tanzania, money for development is usually allocated by international donors and the national government to be distributed regionally or locally for development projects. The process of distribution is not always transparent, resulting in misallocation or other corrupt practices.

To combat this problem, the Ilula Orphan Program has been working with area villages to establish and train PETS committees. These committees are made of eight to ten people who track funding allocated by the local government or donors to ensure that the funding reaches the people. Currently, there are five active PETS committees within Lyasa, Ilula, Rugala, Kipuka and Mayaa. These groups have been successful in empowering village members, exposing officials guilty of corruption, and creating leaders committed to open processes in government.


Ikuka village community bank members and IOP volunteers standing outside the newly constructed community bank.