TANZANIA is the second country in Africa, next to South Africa for having many female Members of Parliament in the National Assembly. The total number of women is 145 which is equivalent to 38.6 per cent of all members.
On the other hand, gender activists insist on equal representation of 50/50 in the legislative assembly, though the current figures in Tanzania reveal positive changes towards the target. Having sufficient number of women in Parliament makes it easier in reforming policy and laws that have been suppressing women in politics, social, economic and other matters.
Among the things that affect women are cultural and traditional norms that have been giving more priority to men and regarding females as second class citizens. There are as well some laws and policies that need to be formulated and get into action in favour of the female gender; this could be possibly done in the parliament and having 38.6 per cent has made the work easier.
The Wanawake Wanaweza Project, is aimed at empowering women, youths and people with disabilities to compete in politics; it is under United Nation Women’ organisation, UN Women. It empowers them with political education and it has led to increase in the number of women vying for different posts in the three general elections.
In 2005 general election, the number of women who vied for different political posts were 160 while 2010’s general election saw the number rising to 193. The Wanawake Tunaweza Project that came into action in 2014 has led to the increase in the number of women participating in the past election whereby 239 women vied for ward leadership, parliamentary as well as presidential post.
The participation of women in politics from the grassroots to the national level marks a good start in attaining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals even before 2030. This is due to the fact that all the SDGs require political will which may be easy if we have effective women participation in politics.
Those 17 goals are ensuring no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, and clean water and sanitation also affordable and clean water, decent works and economic growth, industry, innovative and infrastructure, reduced inequality, sustainable cities and communities for women.
Voice of female politician Esther Matiko, the MP for Tarime Urban Constituency, (a male dominated constituency) said having a woman in politics brings positive results in many aspects of life. She cited the example of her constituency which for a long time has been regarded as among societies that tend to ignore women; it is among the notorious areas that for a while, it has been practicing female genital mutilation (FGM).
She said, by being the Member of the Parliament, she has managed to reduce the culture of circumcising women and many of the elders who used to lead in promoting FGM have abandoned the practice. She said that in her three years of serving as a high ranking politician, she has managed to increase the number of girls taking part in education.
She has been encouraging parents and guardians to offer equal opportunities to girls to study from the primary to university level. Esther insisted that female politicians have special touches in serving the societies, as they give priority to things that might have not gotten priority from a male leader.
She said, “I have and I am still planning to do more things to this society; things that will benefit both genders and as the female MP, I do have personal initiatives in boosting girls and women”.
She added that education being the first thing that will enable women to get rid of many things; she has led to the increase of girl students in secondary schools. As goal number four of SDGs insists on quality education, such initiative taken by Esther in ensuring equal opportunities to girls in getting better and high level reveals on the needs of having many female politicians who are likely to change the world.
Matiko has set up wells in problematic areas that suffer water shortage; women living in such places used to walk long distances in search of water. Speaking on the challenges facing women in politics, she said, since she grew up in that constituency and managed to get her education to university level.
Challenges facing women in politics According to the research made by the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) women have been facing different problems while campaigning for political positions. Some of the complications are the use of abusive language; this is especially when they face a male competitor - women are abused and ignored by members of the society and politicians.
According to Tamwa, some women were taught on how to overcome those challenges and at last being empowered to overcome them and managed to win in the constituencies. Esther Matiko is among the women that managed to handle the challenges and at last won the election.
But, disabled women that vie for the political posts face extremely challenges. A disabled woman in parliament speaks. In the national assembly, there are only three disabled women who are all special seats, Riziki Lurida from CUF, Amina Mollel and Stella Ikupa who are from the ruling party, CCM.
Speaking to this paper, Amina Mollel for Arusha constituency special seats said that disabled women in politics face many challenges compared to those without disabilities. She said, society does not support women with disabilities and even if they have best plans and are willing to change the society still, members of society find it difficult to support them.
She said, in the last election, she had been fighting for other disabled women to get the chance in ward and parliamentary elections and she observed lot difficulties.
She believed in women that they are capable of working together with the society and bring changes especially on the issues that touch them and children and the society in general.
Speaking on challenges she is facing being among the few disabled women in the parliament, she said due to them being few, they find it difficult to campaign for some agenda. She said for an agenda to pass, it needs some support from other MPs something that seems to be difficult for them.
She asks the society to support women and people with disabilities in having a stake in Tanzania politics and bring changes to the society.