How the ILO contributes to the MDGs: Stories from East Africa

ILO programmes in East Africa are good examples of how decent work combats poverty and contributes to the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Two programmes presented here show the importance of promoting gender equality (MDG 3) at work and youth employment (MDG 8) in order to attain sustainable poverty reduction.

TANGA, United Republic of Tanzania - "Initially, we were afraid of borrowing. We did not know that as poor women, we could borrow and repay loans," says a member of the Kiwamboma Women Group in Tanga.

The group joined an ILO project which helped them with business ideas and training activities, including designing new products, food processing and marketing techniques. The women learned how to process cassava leaves and sell the final product to supermarkets.

Loans and new business ideas also made a difference for women workers at a tea estate in Tukuyu: "Before joining the project, I was earning less than 30,000 Tanzania shillings a month from my business, but now I am earning at least 150,000 a month. I can buy uniforms and exercise books for my grandchildren…and we can eat three meals a day," tells one of the women.

The testimonies show how the ILO programme Promoting Gender Equality and Decent Work Throughout all Stages of Life makes a difference for poor Tanzanians and contributes to MDGs 1 and 3 by assisting women to improve their businesses and incomes, and to MDG 2 by putting education within the reach of their children. The programme also contributes to other MDGs by offering employment to youth (MDG 8), skills development and education (MDG 2) and alternatives to commercial sex business with high HIV/AIDS infection risks (MDG 6).

"A young boy aged 15 was sent by his family to work as a domestic worker in Dar es Salaam," says programme officer Heidi Solheim Johansen in ILO Tanzania. "But his employer sent him away. The boy ended up in the commercial sex business and drug abuse. Thanks to discussion groups for young sex workers organized by the ILO, he is now better aware of the risks of his work and alternative job opportunities."

The programme was launched in 2004 in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour, Youth Development and Sports in Tanzania Mainland and the Ministry of Youth, Employment, Women and Children Development in Zanzibar, as well as other key stakeholders. So far, 1,200 women workers have received loans and accumulated their own savings for their businesses. More than 600 youths aged between 15 and 17 have been identified from hazardous and exploitative working conditions and provided with alternatives for vocational training. Sixty-five girls have been reformed from commercial sex work. More than 1,360 children between six and 13 years of age have been withdrawn from child labour and continue to attend school.

Work from waste

The city of Dar es Salaam is the setting of another successful ILO programme. Like many of the world's urban centres, it faces problems ranging from unplanned housing to unemployment and lack of water supplies.

"I lost my job…there was no husband to care for me, but I have four children and other dependants. Together with other women, we looked around: garbage everywhere and rampant cholera...we also noted boys collecting waste", says a woman assisted by this ILO programme through a Civil Society Organization (CBO).

She and the other women asked themselves, "If these boys are earning a living from waste, why can't we?" As a result, they started solid waste collection informally in their area. Luckily enough, they were spotted by the ILO which assisted them with encouragement, training, advice and tools. In a short while, they built a reputation for getting an unpleasant job done successfully - and earning enough to feed their own families.

The ILO programme Employment Creation in Municipal Services Delivery in Eastern Africa covers Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It contributes to employment and income generation (MDG 1), improving living conditions for the urban poor women and men (MDG 3), providing a cleaner environment through waste collection and disposal (MDG 7) and offering employment and improved living conditions for youth (MDG 8).

MDGs in the United Republic of Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania is an emerging model of reform in Africa, according to the United Nations Resident Coordinator in the country. Good economic and social stewardship along with strong leadership on the part of the Government make it an ideal location for the successful implementation of the MDGs.

By 2004 Tanzania had made promising progress in several MDGs. The country is on track to meet the targets on universal primary education (MDG 2) and on gender equity in primary education (MDG 3). More than 95 per cent of children aged seven to 13 are now enrolled in primary school, where there are broadly equal numbers of boys and girls. Tanzania has also made progress in respect of MDG 7 (increased access to safe drinking water) and MDG 4 (a steep decline in child mortality rates). Still, substantial challenges remain in improving maternal health (MDG 5), combating malaria and improving HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment (MDG 6). Despite sustained economic growth and a fall in the poverty rate (from 39 to 36 per cent between 1991 and 2001), due to population growth the absolute number of poor people has actually increased.

All eight MDGs are fully embraced in Tanzania's Poverty Reduction Strategy, the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP), running from 2005 to 2010. In cooperation with the social partners, the ILO became actively engaged in the preparation process of this strategy in 2004. Thanks to this involvement, the NSGRP acknowledges the need for productive employment for women, men and youth, in addition to economic growth in order to achieve sustainable poverty reduction. In its Decent Work Country Programme for Tanzania, which is currently under preparation, the ILO will continue its contribution to the MDGs and the NSGRP, now with a special focus on youth, child labourers and HIV/AIDS in the workplace.