CALLS to incorporate gender equality into decision-making bodies, empower women economically, stop violence against women and children along with improving family and community collective responsibility in child nurturing were issues that dominated discussions as women International Women’s Day on 8th March.
It was observed in that women have proved to be powerful catalysts for sustainable development yet they are still discriminated, neglected, and abused at home, streets and at workplaces.
Governments including that of Zanzibar and Tanzania mainland have been taking different measures in recognising women’s role and contributions in the country in different areas of development: health, agriculture, education, and home care, but more still needs to be done to promote women.
During the forums organized to celebrate the ‘Women’s Day,’ held in both Unguja and Pemba, activists and women groups reminded authorities and members of the society about their role in making the country a better place for women and children to live.
Underscoring challenges facing women including poor access to clean water, inadequate sanitation, unemployment, insecurity of tenure and gender-based violence, and having little or no say in decision- making bodies, activists asked the authorities here to learn from Rwanda.
Ms Fatma Omar said women need full participation in the planning, decision-making, and management and to mainstream gender issues into the design and implementation of programmes.
She said that as we join hands to celebrate all women under the theme “Think equal, build smart, innovate for change” by the UN women and its partners, we call for more innovative approaches to achieve gender equality.
A writer Ms Novella Nikwigize says that Rwanda is hailed as gender equality success story because of political will at the highest level, gender sensitive policies, and laws and a strong accountability framework that are paramount in fostering inclusive societies.
Nikwigize says Kagame is one of the ten heads of state globally championing the ‘He- ForShe’ campaign launched by the UN women in 2014 to engage men and boys as allies for gender equality.
She said women’s participation in decision making is 61 percent in the parliament-the highest globally, gender balanced cabinet of 50 percent, and half of all women judges are women in Rwanda.
She said auspiciously women’s contribution to the economy through their businesses, farms enterprises, jobs, or through their unpaid care work at home has been increasingly getting much needed attention in Rwanda and other countries in the region can learn from the central African nation.
Political will and leadership; proactive public policy; enabling legal framework; home-grown policies; and supporting institutions are prerequisite in the development of women in all countries, Nikwigize says.
Researchers show that investing in women’s economic empowerment fosters inclusive economic growth and that gender equality could add as much as USD 28trillion dollars to the global annual GDP by 2025, and up six percent to GDP in Africa annually.
At the celebrations climax held in Chakechake, Pemba the Zanzibar’s First Lady Mwanamwema Shein graced the gathering, with a call on women to appreciate the on going government’s efforts to promote women.
“As we celebrate our Day (Women’s Day), we should thank the government for taking into consideration our problems. O ur environment has been improved with better infrastructure, education, access to water, health, and electricity,” Ms Shein said.
The gathering for women was also an opportunity for the First lady to remind the general public and women about responsible child care to minimize bad behaviour and moral decay in the country.
She also pushed for collective responsibility in our community in fighting the spread of HIV+ Aids because it is still a problem “In our society, we must end stigma and have no new cases at all by 2030.”
Mama Mwanamwema said the government has also been encouraging innovations that will help women become entrepreneurs, and that President Ali Mohamed Shein should be commended for empowering women and providing opportunities for women.
Supporting women Cooperative Societies, saving groups, loan giving and entrepreneur trainings (at Business Incubator Centre at the Karume Institute of Science and Technology- KIST), and solar power lights assembling supported by ‘India Barefoot College’, are some of the opportunities that the government has been implementing to empower women.
The Minister for Labour, Empowerment, Elderly, Children and Women Ms Maudline Cyrus Castico also appealed to women to work hard for their development and “For those seeking job abroad in the Middle East, should report and register with respective authorities before living the country.”
Ms Fatma Gharib Bilali- Permanent Secretary (PS), in the Ministry said in improving social welfare of women in the country, institutions and departments have been improving services delivery along with improving ‘safe House’ for the protection of victims of sexual abuse.”
“We thank the UNFPA and the UN Women for continued support for women development including women living in difficult environment,” Ms Bilali said adding that universal pension has also helped elderly women live decent life.
She said it is crucial for the development partners and the international community to continue recognising women’s vital role in sustainable development goals (SDGs), and that in order to achieve the goals, gender equality and empowerment must be mainstreamed into all policies, such as health, agriculture, energy and finance.
In many cultures, it is the women who work in farms, and care for the home including preparing food and looking for water, but they are often ignored in policies to support their development efforts.
This year’s women day celebrations happened during the last days of the session of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), prompting some members of the House like Ms Lugiko Happyness Elias to speak about women.
She called on women to stand firm and be bold in search for political position by contesting in all future elections “because being a leader such as MP is the only way to fully getting involved in decision-making.”
Ms Elias also urged women already in positions to support their fellow women striving to get into similar posts and also fight against abuse dominated by sexual abuse which sometimes becomes fatal or end in death.
Dr Saada Mkuya- Member of Parliament (MP) in the union parliament and former Finance and Planning Minister said in one of the forums to mark the 2019 International Women’s Day that women should turn up in big number to vie for leadership in the 2020 general elections without trepidation.
“There is bullying, threats, and other intimidations, along with negative attitudes and wrong religious views that women cannot become good leaders.
This should not discourage women and never giveup,” Ms Mkuya said during the debate organised by Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), here to mark the women’s Day.
Mkuya contested in 2015 and won the Welezo seat on Unguja Island, while Ms Raya Hamad who contested for MP the same year at Kijitoupele constituency was defeated by a man, but she says “Despite defeat, I am happy and proud to have attempted to join the race.”