Women’s history in Tanzania is intertwined with the different ways in which gender relations were constructed over time and space and how they intersected with class and race or ethnicity. Both women and men have been actively involved in sustaining as well as changing dominant patriarchal gender relations at the household and community levels. At the same time, the colonial and postcolonial governments sought to “manage” gender relations that perpetuated their power and control at different levels of society and ensured reproduction and cheap labor. Women have exhibited agency, individually and collectively, in promoting their own interests and those of their children, families, and communities in the economic, social, and political spheres. They were actively involved in anticolonial struggles on the mainland and Zanzibar. They took advantage of institutions such as Christian missions, schools, corporate-owned mines and plantations, and townships to run away from unwanted husbands or forced betrothals and to advance themselves. Women organized themselves separately or with men to enhance their welfare in response to the new opportunities that arose after independence. During the ujamaa period of socialism and self-reliance, women established cooperative shops in both urban and rural areas to access scarce commodities, and joined block farms in ujamaa villages where they had independent ownership and control over land, farm input, equipment, and produce. They intensified their labor to earn income to support their families during economic crises and after the Structural Adjustment policies in the 1980s led to low incomes and unemployment for men. Education was another terrain of struggle and advancement for girls and women before and after independence in Zanzibar and the mainland. Women educators acted individually and collectively to advance opportunities for girls and women.
While African women in film have distinct histories and trajectories, at the same time they have common goals and objectives. Hence, “African women in film” is a concept, an idea, with a shared story and path. While there has always been the hope of creating national cinemas, even the very notion of African cinema(s) in the plural has been pan-African since its early history. And women have taken part in the formation of an African cinema infrastructure from the beginning. The emergence of an “African women in cinema movement” developed from this larger picture. The boundaries of women’s work extend to the global African diaspora. Language, geography, and colonial legacies add to the complexity of African cinema history. Women have drawn from the richness that this multiplicity offers, contributing on local, national, continental, and global levels as practitioners, activists, cultural producers, and stakeholders.