The Challenge of Sitting Allowances

[vc_row type=”vc_default” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”5″][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Challenge of Sitting Fees

Blog Post #7 – Artisans – Paying for Workshop Participation


Sometime in the not too distant past the idea of paying “sitting allowances” to persons who attended workshops, lectures, meetings, and training sessions became the norm in Tanzania. Perhaps it grew from program implementers getting inadequate numbers of volunteer participants in their programming. This might have been the case in communities that didn’t sense it had a need for what the program was offering. But since the majority of folks would agree that some extra Tanzanian shillings just for showing up at an activity was appealing, the system caught on.   As could be imagined, this had its challenges. I heard that it was not uncommon for village leaders who were asked to invite representatives from each family in the village to attend a presentation, and instead he invites his own family because there was a sitting allowance. I also remember a Catholic sister who was asked to start a sewing training program. So, she began the preparations. However, when she told the women requesting the training that there would be no “sitting allowance”, the women said they were no longer interested. There are more examples.

Early in my time in Tanzania (way back in 2003), I had heard about “sitting allowances” and I was determined not to be drawn into this. “They should be thankful that we were not charging them for our training!” So ADEA offered its first two-week skills training workshop with artisans – painters, tailors, and carvers. And so we did. Some people attended regularly, other did not. As any good program should, we did an evaluation at the end, and had a place for comments. One of our painters, Omari, stated well what I had not considered. He said “I wanted to attend every day, but at the end of the day, my family must eat, so if someone offered me a job in the morning I had to take it.”   This hit me hard, and was an important wake up call. The people ADEA came to serve were often so poor that each day was a question of survival – particularly those without land and farms. Though they realized the value in attending, many lived a day-to-day financial reality. I pondered and prayed about this and this parallel came to me.

If I had a young child I would insist the child should to go to school. If that child objected, would I not insist by arguing that I understood the future opportunity of schooling better than they? When they went to school, I would not also insist that they take an after-school job to pay for school. Instead send them to go to school, then create a space for them after school either to do homework or at least be nourished and rested for the next day of school to maximize learning? I realized the artisans in Mtwara were in some ways similar. Many could not know the opportunities there would be for them after better products and better production practices, others would believe us and desire to attend. But in either case, few could afford to sacrifice a day’s earnings to attend without worry.

So I no longer opposed the idea of “sitting fees.” However, they could and were used as leverage for timeliness and quality homework (but that’s the subject of another blog).


Thank you  for reading – Asante Sana – Ashe oleng

Douglas – Kupikita – Oloikurrkurr


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