Gender equality in Tanzania leadership elusive - activists

09Mar 2016
Felister Peter
The Guardian
Gender equality in Tanzania leadership elusive - activists

With only a decade and a half to go before the 2030 global target of achieving a 50/50 equality ratio between men and women in top leadership positions, Tanzania has so far achieved just 36 per cent of women in such roles, according to local gender activists.

Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA), Eddah Sanga

Lack of political will and failure to harmonise civil and customary laws to conform to international provisions that uphold women rights have been cited as the main reasons why Tanzania now seems certain to miss the 2030 target.

With only two general elections (2020-2025) scheduled to be held before the target year, activists and analysts who spoke to The Guardian yesterday on the occasion of the International Women’s Day called for a review of the national constitution to allow the equality ratio to cover both political and administrative posts.

Currently the constitution only stipulates a 50/50 ratio in the National Assembly, and according to the acting executive director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Lulu Urio, the 36 per cent leadership share currently enjoyed by Tanzanian women is restricted to the august House only.

Urio said the two general elections would not help the nation achieve the 50/50 ratio goal by 2030 because of the lack of political commitment.

“Even if we achieve the goal in the National ip) organs?” she queried.

She underscored the need for specific laws and regulations that would make it compulsory for political parties to field contestants of equal gender balance for various elective positions.

The percentage of women aspirants in last year’s general elections was negligible, she noted: CCM had only 9 per cent, Chadema (6 per cent), ACT-Wazalendo (11 per cent) and CUF (11 per cent).

The country coordinator of the Tanzania Women Cross Party (TWCP) – Ulingo platform, Dr Ave Maria Semakafu, was optimistic that the 50/50 ratio could be attained by the year 2020 if the country endorses the new proposed national constitution.

On the other hand, the executive director of the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA), Eddah Sanga, quoted a recent global report that shows many countries including Tanzania would need at least 113 years – or 35 general elections (after every five years) - to achieve the target.

Sanga called for the scrapping of local laws against early marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM) as necessary steps towards promoting real women’s empowerment.

She mentioned the Marriage Act of 1971 as among the impediments since it permits girls aged just 14 to get married with parental consent.

According to the Tanzania Demographic Health Survey, 4 out of 10 girls in the country are married off before the age of 18.

It is estimated that in the 2000-2011 period, 37 per cent of women aged between 20 and 24 were in a marital union by age 18 in Tanzania.

Speaking in Arusha yesterday, Lady Justice Aishiel Sumari of the Moshi High Court said that current national laws offer too many loopholes for the propagation of discrimination and violence against women.

She said there is a need to harmonise civil and customary laws to ensure they are in line with international treaties like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly and ratified by 189 states including Tanzania, CEDAW is described as an international bill of rights for women.

Among other things, the provision demands women’s participation in decision-making at all levels, and the rejection of violence against women as well as impediments against their advancement.

The chairperson of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Arusha chapter, Modest Akida, said it was important for the government to adhere to the Maputo protocol that guarantees comprehensive rights to women, including the right to take part in political processes, enjoy social and political equality with men, be in control of their reproductive health, and say no to female genital mutilation.