CONVERSATION WITH MARY RUSIMBI
EMPOWERING THE WOMEN WE NEED FOR THE AFRICA WE ENVISION
AN INTERACTION WITH MARY RUSIMBI THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF WOMEN FUND TANZANIA
In order to create the Africa we envision, it is important that we curb all manner of inequality that exists in our community, even if these inequalities have been created as a result of our cultural heritage. The inclusion of women, should not be regarded as a by the way agenda, but as a building block required in the structural development of Africa’s foundation and future. Such an ambitious objective is one that Mary Rusimbi and the team at Women Fund Tanzania are trying to bring to life with every element of creativity and innovation that they uphold.
Women Fund Tanzania is a Tanzanian based civil society organization that exists to change the narrative of women and girls by supporting their ambition and initiatives that identify an undivided cause to changing the course of history in their community. “As an organization is our undivided priority to ensure that we provide training, incubate talent and provide every kind of technical support as need arises. As regards allocating our supporting we ensure that 60% is wholly dedicated to the women in the rural community while 40% is allocated to the national level,” Mary eloquently established during her conversation with APN.
How would you describe the state of African Philanthropy as regards challenges and trends, and what is the way forward in rethinking African Philanthropy?
When asked about how she would describe the Philanthropy Sector in Africa, and what challenges and trends she has noticed in recent past; Mary speaking with absolute knowledge, wisdom and insight she was quick to note on how she believes there is a lot that needs to be done internally before we can complain about factors that are externally promulgated.
“We are learning to adapt the idea with an African context. We cannot run away from the fact that most philanthropic activities are externally funded, because of this we find it difficult to cartel programs and initiative with an African context. Funders give conditions, some are leading to unAfrican strategies of implementing programs and projects,” Mary inspirationally elaborated. Mary elaborated on funding that centre around the women movement as having a short-term face to it, which lead to uneven distribution of worthy programs. On the other hand, the state interference and certain regulations put in place are limiting the credibility of philanthropy in most African countries, especially programs targeting women. “As WFT, we are working with a deliberate intension to break the myth that women do not have the capacity to work and deliver with ultimate efficiency. With the projects and ideas we are supporting, it is inevitable to state that we are heading in the right direction” said Mary.
How can philanthropy encourage innovation at the grassroots?
“As women fund Tanzania, we believe in nurturing the innovation that we find at the grassroots and not taking innovation to the grassroots. This is because we believe society varies in its approach of addressing problems, and hence we cannot take our solutions to the grassroots with an objective of changing their narrative,” Mary stated with profound reasoning and eloquence. According to Mary, there are brilliant and innovative ideas that originate from the grassroots; however, they lack the ultimate funding. Hence, WFT’s desire to allocate 60% of their grant support to the rural women.
“We ensure that we contextualize what we do with a local touch in order for the local people to understand, this means using local languages and procedures they can understand and are familiar with,” Mary stated. Therefore, taking what Mary established, for Philanthropy to be able to encourage innovation at the grassroots, it needs to nurture the innovation already available at the grassroots while supporting the implementation of such innovations. According to Mary, WFT has instituted intermediary organizations that help consolidate a locally established idea into a proposal and create a roadmap of implementation that supports the process of bringing the idea to life.
How is being a member of APN strategic for your work or work being done in the continent?
During our conversation with Mary, she was quick to establish the extent to which APN is working in ensuring that African philanthropy is well represented across the region of Africa and its approach towards changing the African narrative of philanthropy is one worth supporting. According to Mary, being a member of APN, is worth celebrating especially when as African civil society organizations we are trying to promote the importance of collaboration, self-sustainability and friendly regulations for easier delivery of service.
Is African Philanthropy Sector Changing or evolving on the continent?
“I believe it is, and I believe we are making progress. However, there are many battles that we have to fight, especially taking into consideration some of the red tapes we are facing as philanthropist, as I had already established in the first question,” Mary elaborated. From Mary’s emphasis, collaboration is key if we have to improve African philanthropy. “Having the need to depend on ourselves, especially in the context of funding, is mandatory if we have to improve African philanthropy on the continent,” Mary stated.
Dependency on external funders, including international NGOs, reinforces a perception that many organisations are disconnected from their roots, have no obvious impact, and have no long-term viability. In a changing development landscape, what are some of the strategies you are exploring an institution for sustainability?
“It is important that we “all” as entities sit down more often and begin to think of how we are growing to approach the idea of dependency, we need all of us. We need action-oriented ideas that can help us to be able to demonstrate evidence. We need to reach a point where we can say “NO” to this power basis that comes with funding attached with conditions. It not fair to look upon African philanthropists as actors that do not have capacity. The solution to is a collective voice, because in a globalized world we all need.” Mary stated profoundly without any reservation.