A national women empowerment forum kicked-off in Unguja, providing space for legal aid stakeholders to broadly digest strategies that addressed women empowerment issues, gender inequality and protection of women and child rights in Zanzibar.
The forum, organised by the Ministry of Labour, Empowerment, Elders, Women and Children (MLEEWC) and sponsored by Legal Services Facility (LSF), attracted 200 delegates from government and nongovernmental organisations, donor agencies and other human rights and development stakeholders.
Key issues lined-up for discussion at the forum included women representation and participation in leadership roles, equal pay for work of equal value, increased support for women-owned businesses and companies of all sizes, advancing gender equality and women empowerment in the workplace, marketplaces and the wider community.
Speaking at the opening of a one-day forum, Minister for Labour, Empowerment, Elders, Women and Children Maudline Cyrus Castico commended LSF for collaboration and supporting women initiatives in Zanzibar aiming at women's economic empowerment and ending violence against women and girls, eliminating harmful practices.
She reaffirmed the government’s commitment to ensuring women, who are widely viewed as key pillars in social and economic development, were given opportunities in education, leadership and capacitated to be able to unlock their potential.
She stressed the importance of women participation in politics with a view to ensuring they were involved in decision-making processes, considering that under normal conditions women had fewer chances to get involved fully in political decisionmaking processes in Zanzibar.
The constitutional amendments of 2010 raised the percentage of special seats in the House of Representative up to 40 per cent of the total number of constituency seats in Zanzibar.
”According to latest independent studies, women in Zanzibar constitute 72 per cent of the entire population, but most of them lack legal knowledge on matters related to social justice, thus end up being denied their rights, losing their property, dignity, a tendency that affects the wellbeing of women, children and community at large,” said the minister.
Among other things, the forum will serve as a platform for participants to voice their grievances and ask the responsible government authorities (including the judiciary, the police, the DDP and social welfare officers etc) to ensure access to justice and the rights of all women, children and other vulnerable groups in Zanzibar and across Tanzania are respected, according to LSF Chief Executive Officer Lulu Ng’wanakilala.
Participants will utilise the forum to raise their grievances and call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and children by raising public awareness, strengthening activism and providing a forum for dialogue and strategy making to end violence against women and children (VAWC).