AS Tanzania is set to join the rest of the world to celebrate the International Women Day, tomorrow, experts have expressed the need for the government to put in place mechanisms to strengthen the long-term vision on the role of women in the country.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Tanzania, Mr Alvaro Rodriguez, was quoted saying last week that, having mechanisms in place will ensure all women and girls access better education, health care, employment opportunities, social protection, and child care support.
“It is encouraging that Tanzania has set-out the right measures to enable actors to work towards inclusive growth. But let me also say one of the great expectations around the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), is that inclusive development should not just be of governments and the United Nations but also for the entire society including the private sector,” he said, adding that: “We can effectively work together to ensure that investment and development also take place in the remote areas, through economic models that will ensure that we reach all women and men and that there are no inequalities in future.”
The move, according to him, can ensure that women are an asset to the economy and not a cost, adding that it is believed for Tanzania, the way to go is to strengthen its long-term vision on the role of all women throughout their lifetime.
The envoy added that in any case, an industrialised economy requires educated and healthy labour force and as such the working population should include both men women.
“That is why it is fundamental for women to have equal opportunities as men to ensure a collective approach and for Tanzania to achieve its goal of becoming a middle- income economy,” he stated.
On the same footing, the Forum of Women with disabilities in Tanzania, a product of the Tanzania Federation of Disabled People’s Organizations (SHIVYAWATA), has echoed the statement by the UN Resident Coordinator, stressing that disabled women should not be left behind since they also have a role to play in development of the country.
The Forum is among groups which is set commemorate the International Day, tomorrow, by presenting various topics to encourage the government and other actors to recognize disabled women’s contribution towards bringing about both social, cultural, economic and political development in the society.
The Chairperson of the Forum , Ms Nuru Awadh, told this paper that like any group, disabled women also needs both social and financial support to back up their efforts, thanks to Foundation for Civil society (FCS), which recognized their roles.
According to her, it was FCS which encouraged formation of the Forum in 2017 where it released a total of 29m/-in two different phases (16m/-and 13m/-) for public awareness campaigns so that disabled women can stand together and fight for their rights.
“At present we have about 300 members in Dar es Salaam and Coast regions. In collaboration with various public authorities and organs, including business, social welfare, social development officers and police gender desks, disabled women are now aware on where to start in the fight to their rights,” she said.
Sexual harassment, beatings and children abandonment by male spouses were among of Gender-Based-Violence (GBV), acts disabled women used to experience before the formation of the Forum, said Ms Awadh, who is also Special Seats Local Councilor in Ilala through the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
Getting aware on the availability of free health services for people with disabilities as well as where to report in case of any GBV acts, are among of the Forum’s successes, according to Ms Awadh who suffers from eye impairments.
Economically, members of the Forum were made aware on the availability funds which are allocated by local government authorities for women, youth and people with disabilities.
However, Ms Awadh complained only few women have the courage to apply for the two per cent which is allocated by the local government authorities for disabled.
“It is only women in Kinondoni municipality who have been coached on entrepreneurship skills to secure the free-interest loans,” she explained.
The groups are now con-ducting various businesses including selling shoes and handbags as well as making of bar, liquid soap and shampoo.
Given the fact that FCS had also offered them entrepreneurship trainings, like fish and vegetable farming, as well as livestock keeping, the Forum was on plan to request the plot from the government for such activities, which will serve as one of its sources of income for sustainability.
The Chairperson also requested other actors to back-up FCS initiative (supporting women with disabilities), so as to let all women join the Forum and jointly air their voices.
Politically, disabled women still suffer from discrimination and stigmatization in almost in all political parties, which speaks nothing on people with disabilities.
The Forum's Central Committee’s member, Ms Sarah Katanga, who is also a Special Seat Local Councilor in Ilala through the opposition Chadema proposed for presence of special seats for disabled people in all levels of the government.
According to Ms Katanga, it is only CCM that has special seats for people with disability, a step that symbolizes the recognition of such a group.
“We face serious challenges when we contest for political positions with our able-bodied counterparts. It is only God’s power which put me and my colleague Nuru (Ms Awadh) in our positions.
“All political parties should set special seats specifically for people with disabilities,” said Ms Katanga, who is suffering from albinisms. Despite the challenges, both Forum members (Ms Katanga and Awadh) are determined to contest for legislative positions in the coming General Election next year.
The theme to mark the International Women Day this year which will be celebrated in Mwanza at national level is: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”.
In marking the day, the UN Women stresses towards achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men.
UN Women states that it begins with making sure that women’s and girls' needs and experiences are integrated at the very inception of technology and innovations through building smart solutions that go beyond acknowledging the gender gaps to addressing the needs of men and women equally.
And ultimately, it needs innovations that disrupt business as usual, paying attention to how and by whom technology is used and accessed, and ensuring that women and girls play a decisive role in emerging industries.