Data-driven journalism explores Covid-19’s impact on women in Tanzania

Jan 22 · 4 min read

Women in Tanzania combine data-driven journalism and Kiswahili storytelling to highlight effects of Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women and girls in Africa. (Photo by Sora Shimazaki, Unsplash)

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the livelihoods of women in Africa. As a result, job loss and unemployment skyrocketed with vulnerable groups severely affected. In East Africa, numerous Tanzanian journalists were let go or underpaid due to lack of income within the media industry.

WanaData, Code for Africa’s pan-African network of women data scientists, journalists and technologists, partnered with Twaweza — an organisation that works to amplify citizens’ voices so they influence decision-making in East Africa.

In this two-month collaboration, Twaweza offered grants to local journalists, allowing them to continue covering the effects of Covid-19 on people in Tanzania. CfA provided training, editing and social media amplification, which included selecting five WanaData members to be mentored on data collection techniques and investigative journalism.

“Given Tanzania’s unique approach to the global pandemic and the lack of reliable data on Covid-19 in the country, it was critical that we find other ways to amplify citizen voices and experiences of the pandemic. We know from around the world that women have been the hardest hit, so being able to support women to collect and tell these powerful stories has provided new insight and perspective into how Covid-19 unfolded in Tanzania,” said Risha Chande, Director of Engagement and Advocacy at Twaweza.

Despite challenges during the project, such as a lack of access to open data related to Covid-19, the WanaData members have since produced 10 data-driven stories published in Swahili. Their investigations uncovered how people with chronic diseases have been affected by the pandemic, the effects the outbreak had on food production, and the disturbing increase in gender-based violence (GBV) cases involving adolescent girls.

Jenifer Gilla wrote How ICTs supported learning during Covid-19, a story on how parents, teachers and the government ensured students were supported in their studies through tv and radio programmes as well as online learning.

She also wrote about Covid-19 and chronic diseases, revealing the challenges faced by people living with chronic illnesses, specifically HIV. It brings a sharp focus to the financial challenges and risks associated with exposure to Covid-19 and what the government of Tanzania has done to ensure that people living with HIV are not exposed.

Aurea Simtowe wrote two feature stories: How expectant mothers stayed safe during Covid-19 while seeking medical services and How people with chronic diseases were treated during Coronavirus pandemic in Tanzania. The former explores how expectant mothers kept safe during the outbreak, prioritising their health and the health of their unborn babies even when regularly visiting the clinic. The latter features details how people living with chronic diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis, could be protected from contracting other infectious diseases if provided with better access to healthcare.

Janeth Jovin, the newest member of the WanaData Tanzania chapter, published two stories titled The agony of Covid-19 among entrepreneurs and Covid-19 and food insecurity in Tanzania. Both stories looked into the economic and social impacts the outbreak has had on Tanzanians, including an investigation into why food production and domestic supply of food has seen a drastic change over the years compared to a time during the pandemic.

Jackline Kuwanda, a radio journalist, published two documentaries What effect did the Covid-19 experience have on girls? and Were women seeking birth control interventions still able to access services during Covid-19? Both stories focused on women and children’s issues, namely the disturbing increase of GBV cases and higher demand for family planning methods.

Penina Malundo published two stories, namely How HIV, TB patients protected themselves against Covid-19 and the Food situation in Tanzania during Covid-19. The first focused on how HIV and TB patients worked along with healthcare workers to access their medication in new ways to avoid unnecessary movement outside their homes. The second shares how food production since March 2020 changed in part due to good weather conditions and the government’s decision to not lock down the country, allowing production to be in consistent supply.

WanaData members and writers emphasised the importance of writing these pieces in Swahili. “For me it was about the impact because the message about Covid-19 and its challenges needed to be communicated to the target audience,” said Kuwanda.

Malundo said that publishing in their national language would benefit citizens, “It helps a lot, especially for those who don’t know English, to understand the whole concept of Covid-19 and its impacts.”

Code for Africa (CfA) is the continent’s largest network of civic technology and data journalism labs, with teams in 12 countries. CfA builds digital democracy solutions that give citizens unfettered access to actionable information that empowers them to make informed decisions, and that strengthens civic engagement for improved public governance and accountability. This includes building infrastructure like the continent’s largest open data portals at openAFRICA and sourceAFRICA, as well as incubating initiatives as diverse as the africanDRONE network, the PesaCheck fact-checking initiative and the sensors.AFRICA air quality sensor network. CfA also manages that African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR), which gives the continent’s best muckraking newsrooms the best possible forensic forensic data tools, digital security and whistleblower encryption to help improve their ability to tackle crooked politicians, organised crime and predatory big business. CfA also runs one of Africa’s largest skills development initiatives for digital journalists, and seed funds cross-border collaboration.

Twaweza works on enabling citizens to exercise agency and governments to be more open and responsive in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. We have programs, staff and offices across all three countries, and a world respected practice of learning, monitoring and evaluation. Our flagship programs include Sauti za Wananchi, Africa’s first nationally representative mobile phone survey. We undertake effective public and policy engagement, through powerful media partnerships and global leadership of initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership.

WanaData Africa

WanaData is a Pan-African network of female journalists…

WanaData Africa

WanaData is a Pan-African network of female journalists, data scientists and techies working on changing the digital media landscape by producing and promoting data-driven news while applying digital technologies in their storytelling.


Written by


WanaData Africa

WanaData is a Pan-African network of female journalists, data scientists and techies working on changing the digital media landscape by producing and promoting data-driven news while applying digital technologies in their storytelling.

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