Women-only spaces on the 99% Muslim island have been usurped by economic growth. The Reclaim Women’s Space project is trying to change that
Wandering the maze-like streets of Zanzibar’s Stone Town, it’s easy to get lost and stumble into one of the city’s many courtyards. Here, a social buzz breaks the quiet: men sit on low stone benches, or baraza, which are carved into the sides of many houses, and fan themselves and chat; at night, the courtyards come alive with men laughing in the balmy night air, drinking cups of masala tea and watching football on fuzzy televisions, as hawkers sell juicy skewers of spiced meat. And yet, amid all the liveliness, there is just one thing missing. Women.
Zanzibar is 99% Muslim, and women and men in Stone Town have traditionally occupied separate spaces. Older women remember the days before tourism began to flourish, when there were all-female beaches and parks for local women. Near the coast, the Old Fort, built by the Omani empire when they expelled the Portuguese in 1699, used to belong to women.
We want to empower women to stand on their own
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