EFFORTS to improve female representation in politics have often focused on quotas and reserved shares.
What is needed is a nuanced approach that tackles the underlying, interconnected barriers that women face in getting nominated for elected office and conducting successful campaigns.
More than 12,000 candidates from Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar—including 1,039 women—vied for the Parliament and the Zanzibar House of Representatives in 2015 elections, local District Council and the Presidency.
Tanzanian law provides for special seats, with 30 per cent reserved for women appointed by political parties, based on proportional representation. However, more than 1,000 women claim their space by contesting in their own right through their constituencies.
Currently, the Tanzanian parliament has a total of 3,041 Members of Parliament, among them 484 are women, which equals to 15 per cent. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has 1,294 MPs, where 256 are women, while the opposition has reached a total of 328 MPs, with 124 women.
Such quotas may, however, be unnecessary. In seven of the top ten countries for female representation, political parties have voluntarily implemented their own rules on the matter. Globally, over 100 political parties in 53 countries have voluntary measures in place to increase the number of women candidates and party officials.
With International Women’s Day just around the corner, it is an important opportunity to celebrate women's achievements while calling for greater equality. Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), Chairperson, Ms Asseny Muro, said political parties are among the most important institutions affecting women’s political participation.
In most countries, parties determine which candidates are nominated and elected and which issues achieve national prominence.
“The role of women in political parties is, therefore, a key determinant of their prospects for political empowerment, particularly at the national level, because political parties are so influential in shaping women’s political prospects, governments and international organisations seeking to advance the participation of women in elections justifiably tend to focus on the role of political parties,” she noted TGNP Executive Director, Ms Lilian Liundi, urged political parties in the country to field more women candidates in the next general election so that there will be more women representatives in parliament.
She said the under-representation of women at any level of governance and decision-making results in a democratic deficit; It has been proven time and again that diverse groups make better decisions.
“So I hope that political parties, whether the ruling party or opposition, will field more women candidates,” she said during a women and leadership session with civil society organisations and political parties to discuss pre-election Women Manifesto in Dar es Salaam.
Envirocare Monitoring and Evaluation Manager, Ms Salome Kisenge said equality was crucial without leaving anyone behind.
“Women’s representation is not the only factor, but it is a critical factor for the development of inclusive, responsive and transparent democracies. Moreover, not every woman elected to parliament or another legislative body will place women’s issues or rights at the forefront of her agenda,” she said Ms Kisenge noted that the positive impact of women in politics is undeniable.
“As we mark 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a progressive roadmap for gender equality, it’s time to take stock of progress and bridge the gaps that remain through bold, decisive actions,” She further said male and female legislators must work together to solve the myriad of problems in their countries.
To meet worldwide development goals and build strong, sustainable democracies, women must be encouraged, empowered and supported in becoming strong political and community leaders.
A few months before Tanzania conducts its general elections, she urges all women who intend to vie for a political post to align their agendas with the women manifesto, which includes voices of women from various groups.
Chairperson of the Coalition of Women and Constitution Tanzania, Prof Ruth Meena, said to bridge the gender gap in Tanzanian politics, political parties should be obliged to respect international standards and agreement in promoting gender equality in their parties by giving equal leadership opportunities to all members.
“In the last general election, nominated female candidates for the ruling party were only nine per cent of all candidates, while the opposition Chadema nominated 6 per cent, ACT Wazalendo 15 per cent and CUF 11 per cent of the rest of the candidates during a primary election,” she said Accordingly, the meaningful participation of women in national, local and community leadership roles has become an important focus on global development policy.
Still, some may ask why it matters if women become political leaders, elected policymakers, or civil society activists. Why does the world need more women involved in all aspects of the political process? Women's political participation results in tangible gains for democracy, including greater responsiveness to citizen needs, increased cooperation across party and ethnic lines, and a more sustainable future.
Women’s participation in politics helps advance gender equality and affects both the range of policy issues that get considered and the types of solutions that are proposed. Research indicates that whether a legislator is male or female, it has a distinct impact on their policy priorities.
There is also strong evidence that as more women are elected to office, there is a corollary increase in policymaking that emphasizes quality of life and reflects the priorities of families, women, and ethnic and racial minorities.
For Tanzania, this year International Women's Day celebrations will be marked in Simiyu Region under the theme ‘Accountable leadership for a generation of equality’.
Globally, the day is marked under the theme ‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’ bringing together people of every gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion and country, to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world.
According to UN Women, only 24.3 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of February 2019, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995. As of June 2019, 11 women are serving as Head of State and 12 are serving as Head of Government.
Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide, where women have won 61.3 per cent of seats in the lower house As of January 2019, only 20.7 per cent of government ministers were women; the five most commonly held portfolios by women ministers are Social Affairs; Followed by Family, Children, Youth, Elderly, Disabled; Environment, Natural Resources, Energy; Employment, Labour, Vocational Training, Trade and Industry.