How SWIL Project has encouraged women in political participation in Zanzibar     

MWANTATU Mbarak Khamis, a member of Zanzibar House of Representatives and Ms Fatma Djaa Chessa, Chairperson of Zanzibar National Association of the Blind (ZANAB) as women leaders with disabilities have encouraged girls and young women not to fear competing for leadership positions.

The two women leaders join others, regardless of physical ability, to testify that after the ‘Strengthen Women-In-Leadership (SWIL) project’, they have been motivated to advocate for women to engage in leadership struggle to increase their number in leadership roles and decision-making positions.

“For a long time we have been complaining about the limited support and lack of a conducive environment for equal participation of women in vying for leadership positions, including elections. SWIL has enabled us, the future is ours,” said Ms Khamis.

“Many women have been reached. The ball is in our court after the SWIL project. We need to be self-motivated to run for positions whenever there is an opportunity, including elections. Let us encourage each other,” Ms Asya Mwalimu- a journalist says.

‘Strengthen Women In-Leadership’ (SWIL) project supported by the Embassy of Norway in Dar es Salaam started in 2020 and ends this year (2023) with the main objective of increasing participation of women in leadership and democracy in Zanzibar and Tanzania at large.

Implementers of the project are Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), Pemba Environmental and Gender Protection Community (PEGAO) and Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) which identified gaps in some laws that hinder women in leadership.

The gaps include law governing education, election, political parties, public service and ‘Anti-corruption and Economic Crimes Act’ that need reform to accommodate more women in leadership. It is fortunate that stakeholders, including respective authorities nod positively to have legal policy reforms to remove the obstacles.

Ms Maryam Ame Choum, the Project Cordinator from TAMWA joins others to say that the project has been successful because many women are now preparing to vie for top positions and contest in future elections while leaders led by President Hussein Ali Mwinyi are repeatedly promising to pave way for more women in leadership roles in the government.

“The aim is to have equal or a fair representation of women within corporations, professional roles, religious organizations, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), political parties and even in sports. Many women are now capable of holding various positions in society,” she says.

She pointed out that overcoming barriers to women’s leadership also included capacity building to at least 60 NGOs which then advocated for women to take part in politics and leadership without fear. “Public awareness was used to send the message to young people who can make good leaders.

Dr Mzuri Issa says gender equality in leadership or having a considerable representation of women is vital in achieving development goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG No. 5)- Gender Equality and having an inclusive society.

“The main goal of this project is to give voice to women and build a community of citizens who have the courage to raise their voice on the challenges they face in their areas, especially women, to help solve these problems in time,” she said.

The director of the project from PEGAO, Mr Hafidh Abdi appreciates steps taken so far in building confidence among women, particularly the young female population to be prepared for all future elections.

“No one should be left behind in accessing basic rights, including women in leadership. SWIL project has helped improve women participation and identify gaps in legislation,” he said.

According to Human Rights and Women activists, male dominance, ignorance, gaps in laws/policies and traditions/customs are the main obstacles to the growth and development of women in leadership at different levels in society, corporations and politics.

The UN Convention on the Political Rights of Women states: Women shall be entitled to vote in all elections on equal terms with men, without any discrimination; Women shall be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies, established by national law, on equal terms with men, without any discrimination; and women shall be entitled to hold public office and to exercise all public functions, established by national law, on equal terms with men, without any discrimination.

 

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