WE have made some progress in the country and now women are beginning to emerge as key leaders. Most of those in senior positions are doing very well and congratulations to them.
This is good news because gender equality is not only fundamental to responsive and accountable democratic societies, but because women have been fighting for it for a long time.
As elections nears, surely is it high time to remind the general public that women’s representation in elected institutions in equal proportion to men should remain key to the credibility and legitimacy of Parliaments and local governments across the globe.
Unfortunately, as I write, despite the progress we should cherish, however, small it may look, Women Members of Parliament are still few.
This speaks of the fact that the journey towards addressing or combating discriminatory legislation and policies and improving gender equality outcomes in policy making should continue, and continue at an unprecedented speed.
Indeed, in order to be successful, we have to make elected institutions more inclusive, transparent and accountable. But here is my question today: why electing more women may be pivotal in the forthcoming 2020 election in Tanzania? Well, they are unique.
Indeed incomparable in a number of ways and many have suggested this observation in different ways. I remember Margaret Hilda Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990, strongly believed, and she was right, in insisting that if you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.
Baroness Thatcher’s proposition reminds me of resilience found in Madeleine Albright, the first female United States Secretary of State in U.S. history, having served from 1997 to 2001. She once said: “it took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I’m not going to be silent. This is a woman. They have a hidden power to transform the world.”
So we may be hesitant for women to lead us, but we can not deny the strength they have shown, especially here in Tanzania at least in recent years under President John Pombe Magufuli leadership. We can not ignore women like Vice-President Samia Suluhu Hassan, Ministers Joyce Ndalichako, Jenister Mhagama, Ummy Mwalimu and others. They are our pillars!
These strong women, and many more whom we can not enumerate due to space limit, have shown us that what they know, what they want in their life and leadership measure to the national desires. To use the words of the author Obi Okorougo, they did not wait for a man.
Since they took office, they have been actively creating, doing things and they have their own life. They are simply resilient and immovable. Diane Mariechild Diane, the author of “Mother Wit” would simply say these women are and will continue to be in a full circle - within them is the power to create, nurture and transform.
And they have done well amidst some political forces who have demonstrated insufficient understanding and lack of acceptance of the gender equality concept and its advantages for society. The good thing is JPM has stood with them because for him women empowerment is one of the important dashboards.
It is good that empowerment, which has also tended to be measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by women, is becoming more and more visible today.
Likewise an active role in the processes of democratization and achievement of gender equality and justice, their unstoppable involvement in economic activities as seen in the labour market participation by them. I think this is the time to encourage women to take part in the coming elections.
It is also a time to warn all those, especially the political elite who can be seen operating on the level of political declarations regarding, here I mean women’s participation in politics and women’s access to decision-making, while actual implementation of the existing gender-related legislation and policies is lacking.
This is not good news. Yes we commend the progress we have made but we should also highlight the fact that the current levels of women’s political participation in many African countries symbolize the main challenges women face in accessing political structures. We have to make it work for the wellbeing of our people.
But I am aware of the difficulties because there are still many challenges to women in leadership. Although many of the challenges come from other people, yet no one can deny the fact that some of them come from the women themselves.
One challenge that finds its source from women is, though not always, less confidence. Women need to be confident in themselves and their ability to do anything anyone can do, not just a man. I therefore encourage them that at this 2020 election they should know who they are as people and strongly express that.
It is time for them not only to take forms, register and be ready for elections. It is more than that. Let them continue to demand and expect the right to be treated fairly. I know we have moved a step ahead as far as giving women the opportunity to lead.
This is not the time to say society needs to start accepting women as capable to accomplish anything, but rather it is high time that the momentum we experience, that which led to JPM choosing Mama Samia Suluhu Hassan as a running mate and becoming the first woman Vice President in Tanzania, should continue.
Women should know and accept the fact that their success should not be dependent on what gender one is . I am hopeful therefore that as agents of change for gender equality they will have a positive attitude not only for this coming election but will explore all other avenues out there and lead. Don’t get me wrong.
I am not campaigning for women candidates. No. What Iam doing is to remind the general public that the importance of equal participation of women in politics and especially in decision-making positions, is crucial in the coming 2020 elections.
And my view is this, electing women is not simply about equal numbers; it’s about cultivating an environment that values women’s perspectives, recognizes women as change-makers and leverages differences to improve democratic governance.
Let us honour them because they are virtuous and honourable, says Delano Johnson, a Canadian footballer. Let us give more positions. On this position, Eleanor Roosevelt is right when she said; a woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.
The author, Dr Alfred Sebahene, is Ag Head of the Department of Corruption Studies, lecturer, researcher and social issues analyst at St John’s University of Tanzania, Dodoma. Email address: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: 0767 233 997