A summary of an article by Lucy Ash
Women of Zanzibar are having a boom of economic independence and are making strides towards equality through their utilization of an often-overlooked crop- seaweed. Though one might think that the aquatic crop would have been a staple of the island region, it was only recently added to the commercial crop market in the mid-1990s and has been an advantage for the women of Zanzibar ever since. In its early stages, seaweed cultivation did not seem to be a viable cash crop and so was ignored by most male farmers in favor of fishing or other ventures. However, the women of the island region have taken full advantage of the opportunity the sea has given to them and created their own prosperity.
These farms have offered women the autonomy to leave the isolation imposed upon them by their culture. Initially, this elicited backlash from husbands that felt their way of living was being threatened but were quickly placated by the profits that were brought in by their wives. Seaweed is an edible cash crop which provides women much needed economic independence where they lacked any independence at all. As a result, marital disputes are no longer one sided as many women now have a say in the economic welfare of the household. One woman mentioned in the article, says that her productivity has allowed her to buy various amenities for her family as well as own the house her family lives in, which she says deters her husband from taking another wife. This is just one story of prosperity that the thousands of women are enjoying due to the cultivation of seaweed.
Women have become an irreplaceable economic necessity for many households through the cultivation of a simple waterborne plant. This business venture that many women have taken up has also opened the door for other economic opportunity if the seaweed crop isn’t as lucrative. With the imposition of climate and culture related issues, the door is still wide open for women to seize the opportunity to enter the workforce. It is common theory that with greater gender equality comes greater economic prosperity on a nationwide basis and it is fantastic to see a push for prosperity from the women of Zanzibar and hopefully will bring that prosperity off the island and onto the mainland!
by Patrick Garvey