ALTHOUGH Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 5 advocates for gender equality participation of women in elective politics and decision making remains negligible in Tanzania just like many other developing countries globally.
Available data indicates that much as the country’s electorates is mainly constituted of womenfolk they are still lagging behind when it comes to active participation in elective democracy from grassroots to national level.
A recent study by the Political Science and Public Administration Department of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) shows that 53 per cent of all registered electorates during the General Election in 2015 were women while women who aspired to contest represented only 28 per cent of all contestants.
“Out of the 28 per cent who showed interests only 19 per cent actually stood in the election out of whom only 9.5 per cent out of all contestants were elected,” Dr Consolata Sulley of UDSM revealed while presenting a paper titled; “Gender and Women Political Empowerment.”
The findings show that women make up only 36.8 per cent of all 393 Members of Parliament (MPs) in the National Assembly out of whom 113 are special seats women lawmakers drawn from various political parties registered in Tanzania.
Dr Sulley pointed to even unattractive reality at grassroots level where the number of both elected and special seats local councillors in local government authorities is less than 30 per cent and yet women commands a lion’s share of votes as compared to their male counterparts.
The scholar is, however, upbeat that empowerment of women in politics will be achieved at one time in future since Tanzania is a signatory to international and regional treaties on equality on women.
It is on this backdrop that the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD), UN WOMEN and other partners have undertaken a series of interventions to sensitize women to actively participate in elective politics not only as voters but as contestants at various levels.
Through these interventions TCD and its partners has advocated for institutions, policies and systems that will cater for active participation and empowerment of women in electoral processes as well as decision making organs.
The Chairman of TCD, Mr James Mbatia, thus advocates for deliberate efforts to enable women aspirants from political parties to actively participate in forthcoming civic elections later this year and General Election next year.
“It is high time the country put in place appropriate systems and institutions to empower women and girls right from childhood, it is only through this that we will be able to create equality between men and women,” Mr Mbatia urges.
The Vunjo MP and National Chairman of NCCRMageuzi is highly upbeat that such institutions and systems will steer the country towards attainment of Goal number 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which advocates for gender equality and empowerment of women.
Mr Mbatia goes on and challenges registered political parties to put in place friendly, sustainable and participatory mechanisms to enable women aspirants to fully participate in the forthcoming elections both as voters and aspirants.
“Tanzania can hardly achieve its vision of industrialized middle-income economy if women who constitute more than half of the population are not active in decision making.
“Political parties need to change their mindsets towards the role of women in politics. Political leaders are crucial players in ensuring equal representation of women in political positions,” the veteran politician urges. At one of workshops organized by TCD, the Principal of the Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE), Prof B ernadeta Killian, made an outright observation showing that despite making a large part of the population women are still left out of political positions.
Prof Killian was referring to findings of a study commissioned to UDSM’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration by TCD and UN WOMEN to assess participation of women in past elections.
Based on the results, Prof Killian said the study showed that participation of women in competitive elections raised from just five per cent during the first multi-party elections in 1995 to 19.3 per cent during the past General election in 2015.
“As a matter of fact only 233 women out of 1,290 aspirants picked forms for intra- partly nominations. Out of these only 19.3 per cent were nominated by their parties to contest in the polls,” Prof Killian explained.
She expressed concerns on the other hand that despite trainings by UN WOMEN and several civil society organizations to 1,282 possible women aspirants only 509 of them, representing about 40 per cent turned out and picked nomination forms.
Speaking at the forum, the Leader of ACT-Wazalendo, Mr Z itto Kabwe (Kigoma-Urban), challenged special seats MPs to use their positions as a stepping stone to join competitive elections and vie for constituencies.
“We have vivid examples of women who have made it in competitive elections. It is high time special seats MPs used those positions as a stepping stone to join elective politics,” the youthful politician urged.
A Programme Officer at TCD, Ms Lucy Augustino, said the workshop was aimed at sensitizing more women not only to vote but also contest for elections.
“Politics affect the day to day welfare of women and society as a whole. It is hence important for women to actively participate in politics and decision making,” she explained.
TCD is a non –religious, non -partisan and not - for - profit non – governmental membership organization founded by political parties with representation in the National Assembly.
Current members include Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA), The Civic United F ront (CUF ), National Convention for Construction and Reform Mageuzi (NCCR Mageuzi) and Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT- Wazalendo).
Political Parties outside the parliament are associate members who participate in TCD governance organs by being represented as a block by one political party on a six months rotational basis.