Notes to broadcasters
Sistas are doing it for themselves: A drama about women growing and marketing common beans is a five-episode drama about a group of women who persevere against difficulties to achieve success. The women belong to a village savings or vicoba group in Tanzania, and all of them grow common beans. Women do most of the field work for common beans. But, because of the traditional gender roles in their community, men make all the post-harvest decisions, including selling the beans and controlling the income.
A few of the major female characters in the drama, including Farida and Mama Mjuni, take the lead on this endeavour. They encourage the women to work together on their farms, and finally to grow beans together to market as a group to the village bean factory.
The drama takes place against a backdrop of dramatic situations, including conflicts between women and men: domestic abuse in one family, and the underhanded efforts of a village womanizer to both manipulate women and profit from criminal activities.
There are light, funny moments in the drama too, though it covers serious themes. If you produce the drama with a local group, ensure that the more serious moments are balanced with the lighter scenes of friends reminiscing and laughing.
Each of the five episodes is approximately 20-25 minutes long, including intro and extro music. Because the episodes are long, you might want to air only two or three scenes at a time in your program. In most cases, two or three episodes take 6-8 minutes.
You could follow up the drama with a call-in program that discusses some of the issues raised in the program, inviting male and female experts on the issues. Discussions could include:
- how the community divides the work involved in growing and marketing common beans, or other crops grown in your area, and how this might be biased against women’s interests, and may even hurt the family;
- domestic abuse and the culture or habit of silence that allows it to continue; and
- the kinds of support men can offer women who are struggling to help themselves and their families in difficult situations.
Farida: Women in late 20s.
Farida is a housewife who does all the domestic tasks in her household, including cooking and cleaning for her husband and her three girls. Farida is also responsible for the labour-intensive aspects of farming on her family’s small, one-acre plot with no help from her husband, who makes all the post-harvest decisions about their crops, including selling.
She is married to the police chief of the village, Afande Kaifa, with whom she has three beautiful little girls Sifa (10), Zuhura (8), and Hafsa (3).
Farida had Sifa she was still at secondary school and was forced to drop out of school and marry her husband. Every now and then, she wishes she had finished school.
Farida has endured years of physical abuse from her husband, though he is careful not to injure her in visible ways. Mostly because of his own insecurities, her husband has held a grudge against her for not bearing him any boys. He expects Farida to be a submissive housewife, but she has a mind of her own. She likes to listen to taarab music in her free time.
Farida is a very energetic woman with many great ideas for herself and her family, but constraints from her chauvinistic husband have constantly held her back.
Farida cultivates common beans, which her husband sells in different village markets. Farida’s decision-making in the household is limited to deciding what they eat in the house.
Besides cultivating beans, she also grows some crops on the side for family consumption.
Farida and her husband own some animals, and Farida mixes their manure with other ingredients to sell as fertilizer, and also buys chickens and sells their eggs. She is good with money, business, and investments.
The only time Farida feels important, liberated, and worthy is when she is spending time with her kids or when she is with the other women at the women’s group-saving association. She is the treasurer for the group.
Farida’s best friend is Jenny, but she is also very close to Stella, an old friend of hers and Jenny’s who has recently moved back to the village from the city. She is also close to the chairwoman of the women’s group, Mama Mjuni.
Afanda Kaifa: 42-year-old man, police chief of the village, married to Farida.
He has developed a strong image for himself in the village. To many, he is a very charming and helpful individual, and a diligent and a reliable police officer. But behind closed doors, he has abused his wife for years.
He grew up in a household with a meek mother and a domineering father who was also the village police chief. He has followed in his father’s footsteps and looks up to his father.
He is insecure due to his seeming inability to father any boys, and his father’s disapproving attitude towards that doesn’t help. As a result, he has treated his wife and daughters unfairly over the years. He hopes to have a baby boy one day who will be the heir to all his possessions and follow in his footsteps just as he followed in his father’s footsteps.
Afanda Kaifa is overbearing and possessive, and his jealousy over Farida is well-known in the village.
Jenny: Married woman in her early 30s.
She has been married to Vumi for a couple of years. Jenny is unable to have children of her own, which is the reason her first marriage ended in divorce.
Jenny owns a motor vehicle garage that she inherited from her deceased father. She is a very hard-working woman who has developed a sharp business sense, and employs several men. She is very good with cars and, as a result, is perceived differently from other women by the people in the village, who generally feel that a woman’s place is in the kitchen doing domestic chores or in the farm doing fieldwork.
Despite always being busy at the garage, Jenny finds time to help with the fieldwork on her farm, though she entrusts her husband to look for markets for their crops. Jenny is also a member of the women’s group-saving association.
She had to endure years of mistreatment and criticism from her in-laws, especially her mother-in-law, because of her inability to have children, in spite being the breadwinner in her household.
Jenny does not have many friends in the village, but she is very close to Farida, and was school friends with Stella. To a certain extent, she can relate to Farida’s situation of not being able to have any boys, because of her own inability to have children.
Jenny and Farida are very close although they are completely different. In a way, Jenny wants what Farida has—children—and Farida wants what Jenny has—financial independence.
Grace: 19-year-old daughter of Mama K.
Grace is a very smart girl with her own principles. Her beauty precedes her in the village; in fact, it is somewhat of a topic of discussion amongst men.
Two years ago, Grace completed her O-level secondary education and wishes to proceed with her A-level studies, although her mother is not very supportive of her education.
Grace is not her mother’s favourite child, although she is the one who helps with the chores and with caring for her twin younger brothers, Alex and Adam, who have been spoiled by their mother.
Grace is a hard worker: she cultivate beans and other produce in a small plot of land in the backyard of the family house. Her mother and young brothers don’t pay much attention to her farming activities, though she feeds the house with some of her produce and sells the surplus at the market.
She helps at her mother’s local bar from time to time, to the enjoyment of the drunkards who flock to the bar.
Grace is a member of the women’s group-saving association, and is good friends with Doris. She used to be very good friends with Mjuni before he changed his ways.
Mama Mjuni: Woman in her late 40s, wife of district councilman of the village, Mzee Ali.
Her marriage is a thing of envy to most women in the village since she is the only woman who makes farming decisions collectively with her husband, from crop inputs to cultivation to harvesting and selling the produce. Her husband also contributes to household chores and farming duties in the fields. For a long time, it has been a subject of speculation among the villagers that Mama Mjuni has bewitched her husband and holds him under a spell.
Mama Mjuni is a very forward-thinking kind of woman. She is the one who started the women’s group-saving association and is the chairwoman.
She has one child from a previous marriage, a teenaged son named Mjuni. She is deeply troubled by Mjuni’s tendency to run with the wrong crowd. She does not have any children with Mzee Ali.
Mzee Ali: district councilman of the village in early 60s. Husband of Mama Mjuni and stepfather of Mjuni.
Although Mjuni is his stepchild, Mzee Ali cares for him and loves him as if he was his own son.
Mzee Ali believes in equality of decision-making between husband and wife. It is normal to find him in the fields with his wife during the tilling season or to find him in the house washing dishes while his wife cleans the house.
Mzee Ali’s character has been a subject of ridicule for some villagers who believe his wife wears the pants in his family and that he has been bewitched.
Sigi: Owner of a wholesale company and warehouse, in his 40s.
Sigi’s company is the main supplier of common beans to the Tikka factory. He is a cutthroat businessman who cares about nothing but money; he is the type to sell his own mother for a little cash.
Besides his wholesale business, he operates illegitimate dealings from his old warehouse. He uses Adam and Alex for his dirty work and shady businesses.
He is very promiscuous, loves the company of beautiful women, and is known to lavish them with gifts.
He also loves a good drink and frequents Mama K’s bar with a crowd of his followers and henchmen.
Stella: Childhood friend of Jenny and Farida in her early 30s.
After getting good grades in her secondary education, she went to university in the city.
She lived and worked in the city for a couple of years after university, and then, after returning to the village, got a job at the factory overseeing the supply of common beans.
Mama K: In her 50s. Mother of Grace and the two local thugs, Adam and Alex.
Mama K is the owner of the famous local bar that goes by her name, Mama K. The bar is a hangout for the many drunkards in the village.
Mama K has a drinking problem herself, and becomes obnoxious and belligerent when she drinks, especially towards Grace, whom she has treated unfairly over the years due to her belief that Grace is the reason her first husband walked out on her. Mama K raised Grace and the two boys by herself and favours the two boys in spite of the fact that they are always getting in trouble.
Adam and Alex: Mama K’s twin boys, aged 17.
The two boys are inseparable, always hanging together. They formed a “crew” and came up with a name for it: viroboto (fleas), which is a very fitting name since they are always looking to steal something and cause havoc.
They are spoiled rotten and know they can always depend on their mother to bail them out if they get in trouble.
They don’t go to school, but spend most of their time smoking reefer and looking for their next score. The village is tired of their petty crimes and theft.
Mjuni: Sixteen-year-old son of Mama Mjuni and stepson of the district councilman, Mzee Ali.
He is a troubled boy who rebels against his parents. His behaviour causes great pain to his parents, especially his mother. He likes to hang out with Adam and Alex, and skips school and gets in trouble, despite numerous warnings from his parents.
Mjuni was close friends with Grace before changing his ways.
Doris: Twenty-year-old woman and member of the women’s vicoba group.
Doris is a girl who likes good things in life, but doesn’t like to work hard for them. She would rather be with a rich man who can provide her needs. She is a somewhat of a spoiled brat, and becomes one of Sigi’s many women.
She fancies herself as smart, but is easily manipulated by Sigi. She is friends with Grace.
[Editors’ note: shikamoo is the respectful greeting of a younger person to an older person in Swahili, and marahaba is the response from the older person that acknowledges that respect.]
ground with a shovel.
Contributed by: Kheri Mkali, script writer, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Reviewed by: Frederick Baijukya, IITA.
This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada, www.idrc.ca, and with financial support from the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca