Author: BBC Media Action's Jo Casserly, December 11 2015 - "There's one thing I felt today and it was sisterhood and I've never felt that before during a production."

Meena, our presenter for the day, was summing up her thoughts on Tanzania's contribution to the BBC's #100Women season - a global collection of thought-provoking debates about what it means to be a woman. BBC Media Action was taking part in Tanzania through four debates - all with a live audience of 100 women, delivered by an all-female production team.

The day started with a special, Haba na Haba (Little by Little), BBC Media Action’s debate programme, where a panel of female political figures came together with a live audience to talk about women in politics. As Tanzania’s new president set about appointing his cabinet (and appointed a woman as vice-president), they asked why it matters for ordinary citizens to have women in government and how society views female politicians.

Who decides who is beautiful?

Doris Cornelius, a candidate in the recent election, rebuffed the suggestion that female politicians would be soft on corruption: “Where there are female leaders we are not soft, we are committed to hard work from the family to politics”.

Next up in was Niambie (Tell Me), a multimedia programme which mixes music and humour to engage with young audiences. The programme kicked off with a game of musical chairs and a dance off between Ave Maria SemaKafu, co-ordinator of the Cross-Party Women’s Platform and Meena, the presenter. With everyone up on their feet dancing, it got off to an energetic start. Then the conversation turned to beauty: who decides what it is and why should it matter? Throughout the debate, women of all ages were questioning, challenging and redefining beauty.

“Since I was a child, where I'm from, I was raised to know that men decide who is beautiful”, said one participant. “Who decides who is beautiful and why should it matter?” asked another.

Here at BBC Media Action, our work aims to empower women to voice their opinions and get involved in their communities. And sometimes it’s also useful to turn the camera round on ourselves and the way we work. In Tanzania, as in many other parts of the world, men still tend to hold positions of power in media organisations. But seeing women calling the shots during our production turned the status-quo on its head.

It’s easy to dismiss initiatives like our all-female team as gimmicks: what difference does one production make if men are back on top tomorrow? But from my experience, and I think most people would agree, sometimes you just need that push. You need your first experience of taking the lead to make you trust in your own judgement and abilities.

Female role models

If I could pick out three key lessons from 100 Women in Tanzania they would be, firstly, that sometimes it takes men stepping down to allow women to step up. And the men in the Tanzanian team did this beautifully, offering support and encouragement but never taking over. Secondly, it’s not a trade-off between having more women in leadership positions and programme quality. When these women were given the opportunity to run the show, they grabbed it with both hands and exceeded all expectations. And finally, by having female editors, producers and presenters, we’re creating such important role models for our audience.

As Tulanana, a producer from the BBC Swahili Service put it: “Whatever role you are playing, these women in the audience can see you and hear you. You have such a great impact by them seeing you working together with men supporting in the background.”

Click here to access this BBC Media Action blog and related links on their work in Tanzania.
Image credit: BBC Media Action

BBC Media Action
BBC Media Centre, MC3A, 201 Wood Lane
W12 7TQ
United Kingdom (UK)
Phone: 44 (0) 20 8008 0001
Fax: 44 (0) 20 8008 5970