Dr Priscila Izar

Gender, and Urban Transformation in Dar es Salaam’s Fast Changing Peripheral Communities

Funding period: 1 September 2021 – 15 April 2022
Type of funding: International Fellowship

Priscila Izar leads the Dar es Salaam City Laboratory, an action research platform that sits at the Institute of Human Settlements Studies (IHSS) at Ardhi University in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Between 2018 and 2020 she was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at IHSS and lecturer at the School of Architecture Construction Economics and Management at Ardhi University. Her research focuses on the intersection of housing and urban development policy, everyday housing and neighbourhood transformation and right to the city in the context of Southern African and Latin American cities. She is also involved in grounded research design and methodologies, and co-production of knowledge through critical collective engagements.

As a USF International Fellow, Dr Izar will spend six months working under the mentorship of Professor Alison Todes at the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Through co-production lenses and an intersectional approach, her research project seeks to examine how gender and urban transformation interact and unfold in Dar es Salaam’s peripheral neighbourhoods.

Profile at ORCID | izarpriscila@gmail.com | Women to Watch on YouTube

As part of her USF Fellowship, Dr Izar also received a USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award in November 2021 (see below).

USF Knowledge Mobilisation Award: Making action research findings on gender and urban transformation accessible to peripheral communities of Dar es Salaam

The goal of this Knowledge Mobilization Award is to further the reach of an ongoing USF International Fellowship Award – Gender and Urban Transformation in Dar es Salaam’s Fast Changing Peripheral Communities – on which I am working at CUBES, School of Architecture and Planning, University of Witwatersrand (Wits), under the guidance of Urban and Regional Planning Professor Alison Todes. Specifically, the KMA will support the writing in Swahili of two research articles and an electronic book produced during the International Fellowship, presentation of research findings and collective reflection through participatory workshops in Dar es Salaam, and production of a short documentary.

In order to address a gap in gender and urban research in Tanzania and the sub-Saharan African region more broadly (Ampofo et al., 2004, Ellis 2007, Goldman, Davis & Little, 2016), a project titled Women to Watch (W2W) explored the intersection between gender and urban transformation in Dar es Salaam’s peripheral communities. The research was grounded in the realities of the predominantly self-built, low income and fast changing neighbourhood of Keko Machungwa, and in the work of women-led committees for local water and sanitation improvements, under the umbrella of the Tanzania Urban Poor Federation (Federation). The research involved undergraduate students from different schools at Ardhi University, and unfolded through partnership with the Centre for Community Initiatives, a Tanzanian NGO working in Keko Machungwa (Ndezi 2009). I was the principal investigator of this research project during a Postdoc at the Institute of Human Settlements Studies (IHSS), Ardhi University, Dar es Salaam. The project was undertaken in the framework of the Dar es Salaam CityLab, a research platform at IHSS that examines urban transformation through co-production lenses, with projects that are co-designed with local partners, with funding by the Bosch Foundation.

Research findings indicate that the reality where Federation women are operating in Keko Machungwa is complex and contested. While projects that they manage are based on female empowerment, and women’s achievements are celebrated within the Federation and partner organizations, daily practices reveal the reproduction of patriarchy in the construction site, with little to no opportunity for women to expand beyond the (unchanging) tasks assigned to them. Still, belonging to a collective and having an income to help support their families, even if only temporarily, help explains women’s continued engagement in the Federation and their navigating patriarchy through politics of resistance.

However, a greater challenge is represented by rising urbanization and the persistent reliance of Federation-led projects on resident’s fees, despite broader change in the national economy, from resource constraint to national investments in large-scale infrastructure and property development (Izar and Limbumba 2021). As urbanization increases, so do the need for expansion and the complexities, of local-level systems such as water, sewage, sanitation, road maintenance, and social services. These demands create new dimensions of political and economic oppression on the Federation women who become the de-facto local representatives of a system over which they have no control and that conditions neighbourhood improvement on the payment of resident’s fees.


Ampofo, A. A., Beoku-Betts, J., Njambi, W. N., & Osirim, M. (2004). Women’s and gender studies in English-speaking sub-Saharan Africa: A review of research in the social sciences. Gender & Society, 18(6), 685-714.

Beall, J., & Todes, A. (2004). Gender and integrated area development projects: lessons from Cato Manor, Durban. Cities, 21(4), 301-310.

Ellis, A. (2007). Gender and economic growth in Tanzania: Creating opportunities for women. World Bank Publications.

Goldman, M. J., Davis, A., & Little, J. (2016). Controlling land they call their own: access and women’s empowerment in Northern Tanzania. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 43(4), 777-797.

Izar, P., & Mtwangi Limbumba, T. (2021). A matter of value: assessing the scope and effects of Tanzania’s national housing corporation’s development strategy on Dar es Salaam’s urban neighbourhoods. International Journal of Urban Sciences, 25(sup1), 195-217.

Ndezi, T. (2009). The limit of community initiatives in addressing resettlement in Kurasini ward, Tanzania. Environment and Urbanization, 21(1), 77-88.

Project links

Link to Dar es Salaam CityLab website, Women to Watch page (updated on on-going basis)

Reflecting on some key results of the Women to Watch Project in Keko Machungwa. (Documentary on YouTube)

Exploring how women live, work and transform their environments in Dar es Salaam. (Documentary on YouTube)