Gender equality, women’s empowerment advocates in Tanzania worth praise

Tanzanians have witnessed women occupying higher positions in the last year more than at any other time in the history of the country. Bravo, President Samia Suluhu Hassan for leading the course!.

The offices of the presidency, speaker of the national parliament, minister of defense, and minister of foreign affairs and East African Cooperation are held by women–something unthinkable two years ago. I am not sure whether there is any other country in the world that has had such positions occupied by women at one time.

Regardless of the circumstances under which we have arrived at this unique position, there is every reason to celebrate.

This is a testimony to what we have long professed–when women are given the opportunity, they will perform equally or perhaps even better than men.

The popular belief that has existed for so many years in our society, which has limited women’s role in the kitchen and housekeeping duties, has been proved to be wrong. Now that these women are in office, and have shown what they can do, no one can question their ability, because they are managing by merit.

Honestly, we had already seen what women can do. We have seen them performing well in education, sports, media, health, engineering, and basically any modern “profession”, but for the sake of “traditions” the doors to high political posts and decision-making roles were somehow hard to open.

Tanzania’s women’s rights activists now have an easier job in convincing some amongst us who are still living in the past.

President Samia joins that list of female high office holders from Western Countries: Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May, Angela Merkel, Madeleine Albright, Jacenda Ardern, Hilary Clinton, and Condoleezza Rice.

Believed by many as something only possible in Western countries, President Samia, stands in opposition to those, who hold to the belief that a girl’s education should be limited to reading, writing and counting, and that their brothers should be given priority when it comes to educational opportunities.

We should not be complacent with this success. The fact is that the patriarchal system is still prevalent in our society. We still have people who abuse our traditional cultures and distort verses in religious books to justify oppression against women.

The presence of women in senior leadership positions in our country is a very good step forward, but does not necessarily mean that the chronic problem of patriarchal norms in our society are no more.

So while we are celebrating the reality of women in these high positions, we have to bear in mind that we still have a lot to do and continue to build upon these progressive gains.

 

Mr Mpunji is a China Radio International (CRI) presenter based in Beijing, China

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