Pastoral Women's Council creates change in 3 pastoralist districts in Arusha, Tanzania


Region: Tanzania 

Founded: 1997
Scope of Work: Tanzania and East Africa


Women’s empowerment, girl’s education, poverty reduction, economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive rights, land rights, and community building.

Vision and Founding

The Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC) is a non-profit, membership organization, serving pastoralist and agro-pastoralist women at the community level to empower them in their own development. It was founded in 1997 by nine Maasai women including the organization’s Executive Director, Maanda Ngoitiko, and works across three districts (Longido, Monduli and Ngorongoro districts)  in northern Tanzania. These women all shared a vision that their daughters and other young women in their community should not fall into the same traps of poverty and the cycles of dependence pastoralist women traditionally faced. This was no easy challenge, since according to their custom, Maasai women are not allowed to assemble - but the group went around this by meeting under a tree in informal discussions that later turned into PWC.

“PWC is the story of ten women wanting to change the path of young Maasai girls, wanting to address the intersectional marginalization of girls and women, wanting to influence a different generation of pastoralist girls to have the same opportunities as men and boys.”

Impact: The Numbers


Maasai girls received scholarships for secondary and tertiary education.


Women have access to microcredit financing across northern Tanzania.


Pastoralist women accessing micro-credit through village community banks.


women have been allocated land by village governments, improving their capital wealth as well as food security.


Women accessed services and reported GBV (through facilitated women’s rights leadership forums).


Women now hold positions of power at the local level, and are helping new generations of women and girls to rise up.

PWC works with Maasai women to transform their power, turning them into empowered agents of change. They challenge social norms that prevent women from owning capital, getting an education, and becoming financially independent. PWC's has helped open doors for women’s higher education, economic power, wealth, leadership and status.

Scholarships for Maasai girls to get secondary and tertiary education
PWC began its work without any financing and with the founders volunteering their time. Their activities have evolved significantly: in the beginning, they would interrupt child weddings to rescue young women from early and forced marriage, and work with them to find scholarships and sponsorships for education. As their organizational structure began professionalizing, they slowly started partnering with other NGOs and government agencies to secure education sponsorships. After 15 years of working with girls, providing scholarships and financial support where needed, this has resulted in over 1,500 girls finishing both secondary and tertiary education.


of girls in PWC-supported schools passed their Form 4 (primary) National-level exams


of girls who participated in a PWC program reported that they felt less pressure to marry while they were still children.

Fathers are now sharing the importance of a girl’s right to education and sexual health with others in the community.

“The remedial classes program in Mairowa and Mondorosi Primary Schools has solved the problem of poor numeracy and literacy skills for Standard 2-4 pupils. With their new skills, teachers now assist students who are lagging behind by specifically focusing on their individual challenges and maximizing the use of teaching aids, games and role play to facilitate learning. This has helped over 80% of pupils who had difficulties to master the 3Rs.”

Julius Alaipukoi,
Ngorongoro District School Quality Assurer

Through microfinance programs, small loans are used to create intergenerational shifts in social and economic status of women.

PWC realized that the education and scholarship program they were running on its own was not enough to empower women. Given this reality, PWC’s microcredit program was born, providing support to women of all ages to support them in becoming financially independent, to save for their children’s - or their own - education, to start their own businesses, and to build wealth so they could become financially secure. Over the past ten years, PWC has created and facilitated 438 active women micro-credit groups. Each group contains roughly 30 women, for a total of over 13,000 women reached through 2020.

PWC's focus is on sustainable changes and shifts in women's status and economic position. “You have to look at different aspects: her education, economic might, is her voice being heard. Is she being heard in decision-making at the household level, at the community level? If she’s not being heard, we’re not creating sustainable change.” - Ruth Kihiu-Mollel, Programme Manager, PWC

“When a woman is free, she is not only able to make better choices for her children but she also gets confidence to participate in the decision making at the household level and at the community level.”

PWC’s work has defied local social norms since its inception: the microcredit program enabled women to own land and livestock, which they were not allowed to do before. In areas of northern Tanzania where land is held communally, women are increasingly being included in the land use planning and management processes.


active groups of women, coordinated by a village community bank


women who have access to microcredit interventions.
These groups have generated over


for some of the poorest, and most vulnerable women in northern Tanzania

Fathers are now sharing the importance of a girl’s right to education and sexual health with others in the community.

Individual stories of transformation

Personally I am touched with the fact that we women are great leaders, and we have been exercising our leadership skills in various ways, but we have never been appreciated and recognized as leaders. From today, I will carry myself as a leader with complete confidence.
Naomi Ngelelei, Kakesio village

Individual stories of transformation

PWC is deep in my heart, I can’t describe how I feel. Everyone now respects me. they see how hard I’ve worked. My children are healthy and more confident. My three eldest are in school.I am now able to pay my school contributions. PWC is like a milking cow, I want it to survive forever.”
Kimererio Moson, Mondorosi WSB

Individual stories of transformation

PWC has helped many women, and me personally, to promote our voices. If PWC ended, women would become like orphans again, they wouldn’t have a place to run to
Noongipa Alais, Sakala village

Individual stories of transformation

The issue of girls’ inheritance is due to our tradition, but now I know that it was just a box we decided to lock ourselves in
Luka Ndoros, Orkeju village
Strategies that work

Shifting behaviors and norms in traditional communities

Over 23 years, PWC has worked at the community level to chip away at centuries of oppressive social and cultural norms.

Behavior change is a slow process that takes several iterations to perfect; add to that the burden of reversing centuries-old norms and traditions, PWC’s achievements are that much more impressive. A huge part of these successes is PWC’s sustained behaviour change work, which targets all members of a community - from religious and traditional leaders, to government officials, school teachers and administrators, men, women, boys, and girls.

This shift in mindset came as PWC began sharing how girls’ education would benefit their families, their household, and their communities in different settings and with different groups in the community. Educated girls are better able to get good and stable jobs, providing financial support to their household. They are also able to be independent and to determine what they want for their own lives, helping remove some barriers to empowerment and break the cycle of poverty that the Maasai society faces in northern Tanzania.

our impact

After 15 years of working with communities, PWC started to notice that fathers began talking about the importance of their daughters’ education to other members in the community, and were championing the experiences of certain girls as role models to others.

"In the Maasai community women are not given the opportunity to own land and property, only men have this chance. I was very lucky to get this training course on securing your family's future as it has transformed me. I am going to make sure that my family will prosper by making decisions with my wife and am also going to give one acre of land to my wife. I will also give part of property to my daughter’s even if they get married"

Christopher Meyano

“I have participated in the secure your family future training for men and I found many of the women's rights have been violated within the community, especially the issue of women land rights and joint decision making as taught under the gender boxes session. I have found that most of us are still in the gender boxes. From today, I am going to come out of these gender boxes and I will start now planning the family with my wife and make sure decisions are made together and come out of the gender boxes.”

Lengai Toroge

The Future

The road for PWC has not always been smooth, however. Maanda herself has faced significant physical security threats, even having to run away for several months at a time from the backlash she has faced. The reality of women's rights defenders facing backlash is well documented, and underscores the centrality and importance of this work, protecting women's rights activists on the front lives of pushing progressive change, and in ensuring sustainable support for this work continues.

Despite challenges, the work has gained significant momentum in the three districts they work in, leading PWC to look to other districts and traditional communities to expand their reach. On the immediate horizon, PWC hopes to expand their work to climate change resilience. With success in securing ownership rights for women, the group has also noticed an emerging need to develop strategies to adapt to the effects of climate change on the Maasai. Livestock mortality rates are rising, drawing attention to the need for improved strategies to diversify sources of income and adaptation related to climate-smart pastoralism. Now that more women are educated, empowered, and economically independent, they feel it is a good time to educate communities about how to adapt to climate change given their resources and to develop strategies together. “We hope that in 20 years we’ll need to close our doors because our work will be done.”

SDGs Contributed

PWC’s programming centers around access to quality education, women’s economic empowerment, climate change adaptation, land rights, sexual and reproductive health, and women’s rights and leadership