WHILST I wouldn’t like to be carried away by the discussion clamour on President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s titles and imaginably on how to address her, what runs into my mind is something different.
According to the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania of 1977, Article 33 (1) and (2), there shall be a President of the United Republic of Tanzania, who shall be the Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
As President Samia starts carrying out her presidential roles people have started debating whether to address her as Mama Samia. To me starting with the title “Mama” gestures respect and doesn’t reduce Presidential powers.
Retiring from such debate, I developed the desire to understand more about women leaders, especially heads of state by searching from world respected libraries and other sources, such as the encyclopaedia, britannica etc. after which I concluded that her Excellence, Samia Suluhu Hassan, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, is now officially in the world record of 21st century female presidents list.
Females, and whatsoever way may be described, make up half of the world’s populations. But, even with their number being relatively higher than men, in many nations, to-date females are teased down in many aspects. Women in my view are even mocked, particularly when it comes to the journey to political leadership at the local or national or international level.
But reality across the world is emerging that organisations that are being headed by female Presidents are beginning to outshine men-dominated clubs in their ability to deliver.
I might be wrong but I am of the view that there is a pigeonhole perception that women are soft and might not be able to deal with certain key issues, especially in areas of bribery, security and the economy. While it is a challenging line for women to walk when it comes to satisfying people; whichever direction they take, they are always likely to be misjudged.
The approach taken by President Samia Suluhu Hassan, in my view and analysis, since assuming the office corroborates others’ views noted elsewhere that female presidents are largely viewed with a more critical eye than their male counterparts and their verdict on national strategic issues can be stricter on issues than most might have anticipated.
Way back in 1995, while working as tutorial assistant at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Dar es Salaam, I took part in one workshop, the first of its kind, in Dar es Salaam.
The objective of the weeklong –workshop, which draw women participants across Tanzania, was to remind women aspiring for political leadership on the do’s and don’ts as some were expecting to participate in the first multiparty general election in that year.
As a rapporteur in that seminar, I was fortunate to learn a lot about women that despite being humble and modest, the manner in which they handle issues, showed how smart, focused and sharp they are. I will never question an integrity, fitness and ability of a woman leader serving at any leadership position locally, nationally, regionally or internationally.
I have to confess, today, 26 years later that I can see the power and trust amongst female leaders in different positions when trusted.
Piecing together views of other economists, traders, clerics and many others good well-wishers on measures taken by President Samia Suluhu Hassan, on strategic decisions taken so far, almost all of them agree that Mama Samia is strategically aligned to take the country to the next level for the benefits of all Tanzanians.
Among the presidential roles she has performed so far is the recent cabinet realignment during which she told Tanzanians to expect more, asking the ministries to stop working in silo. All these gave me an assurance that Tanzania is not only in the right hands but also is under the competent leader who thinks about the best for the country.
Many might not be aware but research on women around the world as updated on February 2021, indicates that women currently hold 25.4 per cent of seats in governments around the world, an increase from 12.7 per cent of government seats in 1998.
Facts further shows that as of December 1, 2020, women held 50 per cent or more of the government seats in three countries: the United Arab Emirates, Cuba and Rwanda. At the decision-making level, facts also indicate that at least 29 nations currently have an elected female head of state or government.
Since 1960, about 110 women have been voted or appointed as heads of government in approximately 70 countries. When next updated, I am confident that institutions examining and chronicling women leaders across the world will too contain the name of her Excellence President Samia Suluhu Hassan as a new comer to join the 21st century women Heads of State in the World.
What I have learnt over the years, plus my full participation during Burundi peace negotiation held in Arusha, as negotiator under the leadership of the former, the late President Julius Nyerere, is that the involvement of women as heads at every level is largely well-thought-out as healthy in many aspects.
In my involvement, as a member of board of directors in strategic government institutions such as TPA or STAMICO or Red Cross just to mention a few, plus involvement in other international level engagement in South Africa, Zimbabwe, UK etc, where I was fortunate to confront women in discussion tables, I exceedingly value a fact that when women are involved, whether in any confined issue, in their own right or making a case on critical issue or making a point at the negotiating table, they are indeed critical, smart and constantly have their decision, and when well advised, they know better to make verdicts.
For Samia Suluhu Hassan, based on lesson learnt, I have all the confidence that issues of this country whether related to security, economy, education or international matters etc. will be competently handled.
I also have the confidence that President Samia will competently lead CCM and steer it to the healthy future and whatever she will sign at her table, will help to make Tanzania become more secure and peaceful. In many countries, leadership positions were initially considered a privilege of men.
History reminds us that in 1907, the voters of Finland elected 19 women to the country’s new unicameral parliament. A year after Finnish women were granted suffrage; this was the first election in the world in which the names of both female and male candidates appeared on the ballot.
On the other end of the continuum, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia granted Saudi women the right to vote and run in municipal elections in 2011. In Saudi Arabia, women were able to practice this right for the first time in 2015. These developments show us that the world is changing, as women are equally able and capable to do what many thought was men’s club business especially for higher position such as county’s president.
As I pen down few issues on how women are increasingly occupying higher positions in their governments, at least 70 countries around the world are now known to have unanimously elected or seconded women as their executives, including assigning them president roles.
Records show Sirima Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka was selected as the world’s first female Prime Minister in 1960. Around the world, presidents are selected or appointed through various systems: directly elected from a ballot dedicated to the executive office; indirectly elected by the parliament; appointed as per what contained in the national constitution or through other means.
In this context, the Constitution of Tanzania assigned her excellence Samia to be our president, though others could have thought otherwise. This epic political development in Tanzania, even though is clear in the constitution made some critics question her leadership capability.
Personally, I will always uphold her stand. During her speech at Magufuli’s state funeral in Dodoma on March 22nd 2021, her excellence Hon President Samia reiterated her willingness and readiness to lead the nation. Diplomatically and calmly, for those who are skeptical on whether this woman will be able to be the president of Tanzania, she said, ‘I want to assure you that I’m standing here as the President’.
I repeat, ‘I’m standing here as the president of the United Republic of Tanzania’, Yes, ‘I am a woman’, but president. Apart from such powerful message to Tanzanians and to the world while in Dodoma, on yet historical day to the nation of Tanzania, on oath day, for her new cabinet, after mini-cabinet reshuffle, once again prompted her wisdom, by clearly signalling what kind of team she desires in her government to serve Tanzanians by saying serving public diligently, hard work and trailing on own record will be the main determinant factor to be in the team that will lead others to do what is best for Tanzania and Tanzania generation to come.
Those who fell aren’t ready; she will not shilly-shally to put them aside in the cause of steering Tanzania ahead at her presidency term, that was also clinched by a caution warning to those aspiring for 2025 high top position in Tanzania.
Hearing such sparkler clear message, in my opinion, meant that Tanzania has strong and strong-minded leader, ready to stay on course in building and steering Tanzania to the Promised Land wished-for by her predecessors, especially the late Dr John Pombe Magufuli who died while in service as President on 17th March 2021.
Dr Shayo is an economistcum- investment banker