Z’bar activists push for law review to create more space for women

06Oct 2021
By Guardian Reporter
Zanzibar
The Guardian
Z’bar activists push for law review to create more space for women

​​​​​​​HUMAN rights activists in Zanzibar are pushing for the review of different laws that curtail women and girls back from reaching their full potential in decision-making bodies.

This comes at a critical moment in time when only nine years remain to realise the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides a comprehensive roadmap for the future of people and the planet. Empowering women and girls is central to achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

In Zanzibar, activists from Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) and Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) are working through Strengthen Women-In-Leadership (SWIL), a project supported by the Royal Norwegian embassy in Dar es Salaam. It’s aimed at encouraging more female participants to fight for and grab more leadership positions in the coming years.

Titled 2020/2023 ‘Strengthen Women-In-Leadership (SWIL)’, the project is expected to reach at least 6,000 women with barriers to female leadership in the country by 2025.

According to the activists, male dominance, ignorance, laws, and traditions/customs are the main obstacles to the growth and development of women in leadership at different levels in society, corporations, and politics.

SWIL project coordinator Salma Ameir Lusangi said that there are various strategies under the project which will help to address and identify the challenges.

She said that the goal is a fair representation of women within corporations, politics, professions, religious organisations, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and even in sports. Many women are now capable of holding various positions in society.

“The strategies to overcome the barriers to women’s leadership will include capacity building of at least 60 NGOs that will in turn advocate for women to take part in politics and leadership without fear. Other ways are to organize forums on public awareness on the importance of women in leadership and decision-making bodies,” says Salma, who works with TAMWA-Zanzibar.

ZAFELA executive director, Jamila Mahmoud Juma says her organisation has identified gaps in some laws that hinder women in leadership such as law governing education, election, political parties, public service, and ‘Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act’ that need reform to accommodate more women in leadership.

Citing a study carried out recently in the Indian Ocean archipelago, eight laws are outdated and need to be reviewed for the benefit of women.

Those laws include the Education Act No. 6 of 1982 was amended in 1993, which deprives a girl of the opportunity and right to education for a girl when she gets married to continue with education while giving her a chance to continue her education if she becomes pregnant while in school.

According to her, the law needs to be amended, because education is a fundamental right if also among the 17 priorities of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar in its budget for the financial year 2021-2022.

Jamila says: It’s not wise at all for a girl child when she gets married to be the end of her journey to get an education which is a basic right.”

“The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have given priority to the education and development of women but our laws still place restrictions on a girl child receiving primary and secondary education when she marries,” the activist says.

She notes that laws on election and political parties also need reforms in order to maintain gender balance in the party's leadership positions and the right to run for office in politics.

Patriarchal systems within political parties have not yet been able to give priority to women and thus have reduced women's participation in political parties, she says.

Jamila also says that even women nominated by political parties to run for various positions including parliament and representation are small and eventually the winners are small.

She further says that in the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) whose part of the responsibility is to oversee the Zanzibar general elections there is a policy on gender and social inclusion but its implementation and monitoring remains a major challenge.

She adds: "These are the barriers to political parties and electoral laws where we want them to be amended, a step that will create a conducive environment for women to actively participate in political and electoral movements."

In addition, another law that according to ZAFELA wants to be amended is the public service law, which prohibits public servants from entering politics and running for leadership positions while in the public service.

“We want the Public Service Act to be amended because it denies public servants the right to democratic and good governance to run for elected leadership while in the public service by imposing strict conditions," she says.

West A Unguja District Commissioner, Suzan Peter Kunambi said: “My hope is that by 2030 more women will hold political leadership positions due to the commitment of Zanzibar President Hussein Ali Mwinyi to trust women to hold leadership positions.”

The DC said women have a great opportunity to run for various leadership positions where he urged them not to be afraid to run for political office at the constituency level, noting that a favorable environment had been created for women to run for leadership positions at the constituency level through political parties.

"I urge my fellow women never to sit back and be ready to compete for various leadership positions and studies show that the group's potential is great and never give up," she says, adding:

“Women have shown great loyalty in leadership and performance positions for those entrusted with their responsibilities where since the term of the retired President Ali Mohamed Shein have made it clear at different times that the women he gave those positions have not failed.”

She also commends the President Hussein Ali Mwinyi for continuing to trust women to hold various leadership positions a step that provides opportunities and opportunities for the group.

"We hear the statements of the president Hussein Ali Mwinyi at various times urging women to be confident and compete for leadership positions where during his term he has no reason why women should not give them those positions," she says.

Women and children's rights activist Fransisca Claimant says she was committed to mobilizing the community to support women in running for various leadership positions to increase the number of women in those positions.

She says when women are given a chance they work well especially considering they have compassion and faith so they want justice to be done.

"We are well prepared to persuade the community to see women elected to leadership positions in order to bring about major changes that will enable the nation to make strides in development," she says.

TAMWA-Zanzibar director, Dr Mzuri Issa says that there is still a lack of awareness among the community about women's participation in leadership, a situation that has led to women leaders being few compared to men.

"The ruling patriarchal system also prevents women from competing for various leadership positions be it political or social," she says.

Dr Mzuri adds: "We have met in this period while we still need a great exchange of ideas for a new Zanzibar that will be prosperous and prosperous without discrimination."

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