About Sahiba

Leadership Resources Foundation
formerly the SahibaSisters Foundation

Sahiba is a development network whose mission is to enhance the leadership and organizational capacity of women and youths community actors, as individuals or in groups so as to facilitate their informed engagement in civil society. Presently, Sahiba’s membership spreads in 13 regions of Tanzania as follows:
Mwanza Municipality and its environs
Manyara (Kiteto-Kibaya)
Morogoro (Municipality and Ulanga)
Dodoma (Municipality)
Iringa (Municipality and its environs)
Kilimanjaro (Mwanga and Moshi)
Dar es Salaam
Lindi Town
Kigoma (Ujiji)
Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba)

How and Why Sahiba Begun?

Sahiba Sisters Foundation was registered in 1997 as a trust. However, as an idea and process it began much earlier. Sahiba began as an informal network ran on a voluntary basis concerned with addressing the continued marginalization of key groups of women from mainstream development processes. The enthusiasm created by Beijing very much informed Sahiba’s creation and agenda.

Sahiba’s engagement arises from the reality that existing national, legal and religious and local governance structures fail to sufficiently consider and protect the interests of key groups of women. In particular, Sahiba wanted to address the continued exclusion of specific groups of women from mainstream development processes, mainly Muslim women, as well as women who continued to be excluded because of their age (the very old or young), lack of education or geographic location. Significantly Sahiba wanted to address the absence of young women from the civil society sector and specifically from the women’s movement.

At the philosophical level, Sahiba was disturbed by the perpetuation of women’s powerlessness in new aid modalities and funding relationships post- Beijing. Increasingly, professional women’s organization viewed poor women as objects needing salvation and not as subjects with agency, an approach that disempowered rather than empowered women. This same approach is applied by religious figures in their teachings by emphasizing dependency and submissiveness on the part of women instead of full agency and citizenship.

The choice to register Sahiba as a trust was motivated by the desire to create a foundation of sort where people give their time, skill and money for social justice work. While this has meant that the organisation does not have a significant resource base, it has also allowed the organisation to create its own version of a self help act that supports innovative grassroots and activist work.

Who is the Network?

Sahiba constitutes mainly of local CBOs and NGOs ran by women many of which are not registered. Also, it consists of over 200individual men and women who are development inclined and espouse a progressive agenda of social justice activism. The institutional membership includes the following groups:

MCAEE, Tusichoke Women, Umoja wa Wanawake Walima Mwani Matemwe (Umwama), ZAWCO, ZAFELA, SOPLE, MUWOFO, Yetu, Lulu, Almasi, UpendoNamanditi Women, Mkaja Women, Pacha Nne Women, Tupawaki, Jabal Rahma, Luqman, Firdaus Women, Umoja wa vijana wa Sultani, Chachamamu, Munawara, Lwami, Kisangiro, Lambo, Mwalikwa, Faraja, Jitegemee, Nguvukazi, KIWOCOA, Muhajirina, Hadira, Mkwakwani, Riyadhwa, Trust, Ukukima, Kiwochiri, Wamaki, Jitambue, Mabatini, Igunam, Mawa, Teyoden, Poverty Fighters, Kigogo Youth, Mikumi Youth, Furaha Women, Kigamboni Women, Makangarawe Youth Information Centre,

“Literally we built a network from scratch. We went into mosques and asked if they had women’s groups or a women’s committee. In other instances we asked women we met in other meetings if such a thing existed in their neighbourhoods. We did a lot of foot work trying to understand who was where and what they were doing with whom. In fact we went to different regions looked for contacts and informants and worked the streets that way. By the time we had some interest from those we ‘discovered’ we organized forums, sometimes regionally other times nationally where we could partake in bigger interventions.” (Executive Director, Sahiba)

Sahiba’s Structure

Sahiba is more than an organization in the traditional sense. Acting as a resource, Sahiba positions herself at the heart of a constellation giving life to a network of stars operating autonomously in their own galaxies (i.e. locations). Sahiba’s operations are realized via a symbiotic structure that consists of the Board of Trustees, the brain of Sahiba; the Core Team or Secretariat, the heart of Sahiba; and Sahiba’s Networks and Partners, her limbs for effecting outreach. Thus rather than replicate herself and her work Sahiba’s development approach focuses on building capacities among local actors and organizations empowering them to manage and respond to development needs relevant to their specific contexts.

What Sahiba networks/partners say about Sahiba

“My relationship with Sahiba started in 2004 with the advocacy training ‘Rights at Home’. I was able to develop capacity and get to know a lot more about human rights with many different human rights activists. This particular process opened my eyes as to what I can do in my community. After the training, I went back to my community to mobilise widows and also set up a project for orphans. We have also through ongoing engagement with Sahiba learned how to instil self-awareness and engage with issues of HIV”. (Leader, Jabal Rahma Morogoro).

“After attending a workshop on HIV, I learnt new things and it changed not only me, but also my family – and my relationship with my husband. In our group, we have also become much more able to solve issues of the group and I think we are stronger to confront challenges than we were before”. (Sahiba Member Songea)

“Sahiba gave us training on gender based violence (gender equality and issues). We realised through this training that our laws were discriminatory to women. We are living in patriarchal society and trying to address some of these issues. We now have more girls participating in our leadership structure. We have also used the training to address issues of rape and do advocacy. The training changed our mindset – before we used to think that rape is an ordinary thing in society. After the training, one of our women members brought to our attention a rape case around which we organised on and took to court”. (Sahiba Network Member Mwanza)

“Through Sahiba we have been exposed to new knowledge and networks. We have been able to participate in leadership and also take on key issues in our community”. (Sahiba Network Members)

“Sahiba showed us a world beyond our own – we were treated with dignity and they always ensure we are comfortable”. (Youth Leader Temeke)

“Sahiba’s relevance and efficacy is growing due to the world problem of deepening poverty; especially in developing countries and specifically among Muslim communities”. (Sahiba Member).

Sahiba’s Vision and Agenda

Sahiba’s Vision

Sahiba’s vision is “the active involvement of all women in development related initiatives and activities within a culturally responsive environment.”

Sahiba’s Mission

Sahiba’s core purpose is to “enhance the leadership and organisation capacity among marginalized women, especially Muslim women’s groups so as to facilitate their informed participation in civic engagement.”

Sahiba’s Philosophy
The image of a constellation captures Sahiba’s basic philosophy. It evokes a place for conceiving and nurturing new stars that are then set free to become illuminants in their own galaxy. Sahiba’s ability to create this spiral of life is spiritual.

The choice to organize as a network is also in consonance with Sahiba’s purpose- we are sisters seeking a common cause, our development, while remaining true to our spiritual values- Islamic values grounded in the search for social justice. We demonstrate these values in our choice of organizing and managing relations with our network and others. The principle of shura’a (mutual consultation) informs how we make organizational decisions. Also, Sahiba encourages critical thinking consonant with the Islamic notion of ijitihad or reasoning.

And while our shared faith gives us a shared meaning, we do not necessarily share the same interpretations on all ritualistic and doctrinal issues. Rather, Sahiba sees this diversity as necessary to internalize a culture of tolerance and dialogue in the community and outside the community.

Sahiba’s Core Values

In addition to her philosophy Sahiba is guided by core values that inform what she does and how she operates. These include:
The belief in the human potential and the ability of human beings to reason towards self-discovery and mastery;
Reclaiming and grounding the core spiritual values in the teachings of Islam of equality, humility, personal struggle, empathy, leadership and justice in search for gender and social justice;
Understanding oppression, especially gender oppression and responding to all forms of discrimination, subjugation and domination on principle.
Recognising that change is fundamental to human existence and progress
Networking and consultation to maximize inclusion of actors and to build and further movements;
Understanding the context and striving to work within that context to bridge divides on the basis of ethnicities, language, class, age, disabilities and other form of exclusions;
Recognising that different issues are important for different women at different times. The challenge is to surface them and granting them the legitimacy they deserve;
Recognizing that development is a process and individual become at different stages. Sahiba’s main role is creating the space for women to become in their activism and struggles
Celebrating our uniqueness and diversity as fundamental to building tolerant and respectful relationships and societies; and
Encouraging a culture of critical thinking and excellence in order to exercise the gift of reason and learning to enable personal growth.

Why Focus on Women and Faith

When Sahiba began working 10 years ago there was no autonomous Muslim women’s organizations or associations that were cause led and working in development and specifically in women’s human rights advocacy. The few groups that existed were socially or spiritually oriented concerned mainly with marking key social events like the birth of the Prophet (saw) or Idd (the Feast). Muslim women organizations were very absent from mainstream development initiatives or the women’s movement mushrooming across the country.

Likewise, the dominant perception among development practitioners and gender activists was that religion and culture are incompatible with gender and development paradigms. This needed to be debunked in a strategic way considering the reality that most women, especially the bulk of non professional women organize around faith or sectarian basis not through professional NGOs/CBOs which were emerging in the 90s. To include these women in movement based activities required reaching out to them in the forms they relate to rather than imposing alien forms of organization.

Drawing inspiration from the 1995 Beijing Conference on Women, Sahiba sought to organize and empower women. In effect Sahiba attempted to do what Beijing conceived: work with women as full development partners and to go beyond what women needed to what they wanted. Essentially Sahiba was, and continues to be, about making a strategic intervention in development approaches and to say religion matters and activists and donors can’t go on pretending it does not.

Sahiba’s Strategic Interventions

Young Women’s Internship Programme
Each year Sahiba provides local young women a space to work in various capacities at the Secretariat in the hope of exposing them to activist work. Since 2001, more than 16 young women have taken up this opportunity and some of the younger professionals also have an opportunity to visit groups in the regions, to attend meetings, to conduct outreach or to prepare position papers.

This approach is unique among women’s organizations who mostly tend to recruit foreign students or graduate denying local activists much needed policy and advocacy exposure. Sahiba is currently exploring a system of placing young graduates or students to work in the field with her networks in different parts of the country.

Action Research
Sahiba has involved the membership, young women and communities in action research on a number of issues including;
-Marriage practices in Zanzibar
-Impact of demolitions for young people and women small traders in Dar es Salaam
-Mosques, Women and Democracy.
-Availability of basic social services in Islamic Institutions
-Status of Muslim Women groups.
-Religious programming and women.

Sahiba is also collaborating with ICJ Kenya on understanding people’s experience with access to justice.

Data base of Islamic Instituions
Sahiba is the first organisation to keep an inventory of Islamic Institutions in Tanzania. The data base has allowed Sahiba to refer a number of researchers as well as institutions to Islamic institutions. For instance Sahiba advised UNICEF on the existence of the Islamic Refugee services for emergency work.

Independent Publications
Sahiba understands the importanceof giving voice to women and their concerns thus her emphasis on independent feminist publications. Sahiba’s Newsletter was first published in 1998 as Nasaha but is now known as Sahiba News. Sahiba has also published two books intended to impart life skills –Misemo ya Nguvu (powerful sayings for young women of today; and for young men of today) Sahiba has also issued a position paper entitled “Marriage or Education which is the duty for Muslim women?” Sahiba is looking for funding to publish a book called Bits about HIV (Ukimwi na Vijimambo) essentially a compilation of HIV/AIDS related anecdotes by a young woman who as she describes herself “was born and grew up with the pandemic”.

Progressive Interpretations of Scriptures
Sahiba is the first institution in Tanzania to challenge negative and anti women scriptural references. Specifically Sahiba has posted on her e-list and newsletters as well at forums progressive interpretations related to rights in marriage, GBV and gender equality.

Defining Novel Work Cultures
By encouraging and facilitating her membership to obtain travel documents and to travel Sahiba has done away with the malaise gripping most NGOs of the ED; or middle age and urban only dominance at critical events. Sahiba grassroots members have had opportunities to travel outside their home regions as well as outside the country.

Sahiba facilitated the presence of over 50 network members and partners at 2007 World Social Forum processes. At the last Femnet General Assembly Sahiba was represented by 9 grassroots members. Moreover, Sahiba has actively sought to recognize local members, not the governance structure, for their leadership and community service by nominating them for mention in various human rights award categories as well as beginning a culture in the Network of recognizing excellence among women.

Sahiba Areas of Focus

Leadership and Governance
Network members’ ability to manage their needs and shape their destiny is fundamental to Sahiba’s empowerment philosophy. This programme inducts members through a holistic leadership development strategy that focuses on nurturing individual abilities, building institutional capacities and strengthening networks abilities to manage the immediate and larger environment. The programme strives to develop a new breed of women leaders capable, confident and imbued with activist courage and skills.

Reproductive Health& Rights and HIV/AIDS
HIV is a national pandemic. Women are affected disproportionately prompting Sahiba to emphasize the reproductive rights and health of women and youth to enable them to negotiate intimate relationships. Pre-marital health education and counselling is a key intervention aimed at women contemplating marriage. Sahiba emphasizes communal and institutional measures aimed at curbing the negative effects of HIV/AIDS on victims and their families.

Women Human Rights Advocacy
Advocating for the rights of women, and Muslim women in particular, is the bedrock of Sahiba’s work. This involves researching the realities of women and exposing the same to wider scrutiny at different levels in an effort to establish the linkages between women realties and their powerlessness. By joining forces with other global social justice initiatives Sahiba wants to show a face of Islam that is progressive, compassionate, and rooted in issues of social justice.

Resource Mobilization and Wealth Creation
Eradicating poverty is a national priority. This requires adequate human, financial and material resources. Sahiba understands this and invests in her human resource potential- the critical mass of change agents necessary to execute her mission. Also Sahiba promotes assets based development models to build wealth and secure the financial sustainability of networks to meet organizational and community needs more consistently.

The media, traditional and non-traditional, remains one of the most effective ways to gain visibility and to reach wider and more diverse audiences. Sahiba promotes information communication technologies (ICTs) for women and youths as a means to obtain and exchange information; and as an advocacy tool to further their agenda; and as an educational platform to challenge negative assumptions about Muslim women’s role from within and without.

Peace Building and Mutuality
Most women encounter violence in their lives, both at the public and private sphere making continued peace, both in the home and in the larger society, necessary for sustained development interventions. Addressing gender-based violence is a priority for Sahiba towards building healthy families and communities, particularly in view of mounting religious tensions and economic hardships in the country where women become easy targets for disgruntled mobs.

Since 2004 Sahiba has participated in a GBV Campaign using religious text and the law. Since 2006 Sahiba has focused her GBV work on young women. In 2007 Sahiba worked with ZIFF and ZAFELA to begin a GBV Campaign in Zanzibar. In 2008 Sahiba working with her members in 4 regions KIWOCHIRI in Manyara, Jitambuein Mwanza, Makangarawe Youth and Information Network in Dar es Salaam and Songea Para Legal Centre in Songea launched a campaign against sexual corruption focusing on empowering young women to develop local response mechanisms against GBV in collaboration with local governments and actors.

Operational Strategies

Sahiba believes foremost in investing in our own liberation and empowerment. Thus while she has benefited from some funding, mostly from women’s funds, Sahiba has largely operated by the sheer determination of her volunteers and the private gifts of her supporters. Using the creativity of women in savings and stretching a buck, Sahiba has achieved maximum impact in her interventions and outreach led by her cause. Specifically, Sahiba has applied the following key operational strategies:

Partnerships with Sahiba Networks and Friends
Activist endeavours are best realized through alliances and collaborative efforts. Rights at Home Project for example was implemented by Sahiba members in Zanzibar, Mwanza and Morogoro. The Violence Against Women Campaign focusing on young women is implemented by network members in Kiteto, Mwanza, Songea and Dar es Salaam. This ensures that Sahiba maintains a support and backstopping role leaving the actual implementation to local actors.

Building of Capacity
Sahiba has developed a capacity building model that focuses on developing leadership capacities and functional organisations to ensure the creation of a strong and vibrant civil society. This particular approach is a key movement building strategy. Moreover, Action learning is actively used in the Network to build a culture of learning and improvement.

Information Generation and Dissemination
Sahiba promotes women’s control over the generation, interpretation and dissemination of information especially on issues of strategic interest. For this reason Sahiba has invested in building members capacity to use information resources. Sahiba strives to build efficient systems of communications between network members using both new and conventional technologies.

Movement Building
Sahiba belongs to a number of national, regional and International Human Rights Networks and bodies because of her belief in linking up action towards the realization of women’s human rights globally. Also Sahiba’s activist work has been about organizing and empowering women to have confidence and initiative in order to take appropriate action to transform their situations. Sahiba’s investment in developing skills in the areas of leadership and organizational capacity, as well as to engage with all manner of movements is intended to contribute to the emergence of women subjects conscious of their rights and obligations in promoting social justice for all.

Adult Education
For Sahiba, Adult Education is a strategy, an intervention as well as a methodology. Sahiba is in the business and movement that promotes learning as a life long empowerment strategy. Sahiba’s main constituencies are adults who have an appetite to learn outside formal spaces. Therefore, learning in Sahiba takes place in varied spaces using creative formats aimed at challenging the learner tap their hidden wisdom towards realizing their full potential.
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