WITH the budget session in full swing, the National Assembly bustles with activity.
A number of delegates from the private sector to the entertainment industry and media and civil society come in on different days to observe the ongoing sessions.
People all over the nation are following parliamentary discussions through the media, with official engagements and informal meetings taking place on the sidelines. Amidst all the activity, special seats MP Shally Raymond, has become accustomed to managing her multiple responsibilities, between her core duties as an MP, attending regular sessions and parliamentary committee meetings.
As the current chair of the women’s caucus of Parliament - the Tanzania Women’s Parliamentary Group (TWPG), her responsibilities in the last week also included participating in and chairing a transformational leadership workshop organized by UN Women in partnership with the University of Dar es Salaam Department of Political Science and Public Administration.
“I believe there is no end to learning,” said Ms Raymond, at the workshop which brought together over 100 women MPs and male MPs that have been identified as male champions, “and this training is a unique opportunity for women MPs to commit to directing more of our efforts towards the achievement of equality,” she added.
The four-day workshop, which aimed to strengthen and equip women MPs with further knowledge and skills to effectively undertake their legislative, representative and oversight functions, particularly in the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality, was organized as a part of UN Women Tanzania’s flagship Women’s Leadership and Political Participation programme, “Wanawake Wanaweza” Phase II.
The programme, supported by the governments of Finland, Sweden, the United States (USAID), and Switzerland, supports the efforts of Tanzania government to ensure women lead and participate in decision-making at all levels, with interventions focused on creating an enabling environment, eliminating social barriers, supporting institutional change, and strengthening the capacity of potential and actual women leaders.
In an interview, the UN Women Tanzania Representative, Ms Hodan Addou said that as global, regional and national commitments on gender equality and empowerment of women have become important components of the national development agenda, the realization of these commitments requires an engaged and committed Parliament in order to enable concrete action.
“Being sensitive to gender makes parliaments efficient, effective and legitimate,” added Ms Addou. “In addition to realizing commitments to 50:50 representation, which Tanzania has made great progress towards, it also requires enhancing the establishment of dedicated mechanisms and systematic processes to mainstream the advancement of gender equality across all policy areas.”
Tanzania is on a strong trajectory towards the achievement of equal representation. Women currently consist of 37 per cent of the National Assembly, and 38 per cent of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.
Through support from the UN, the National Assembly has also successfully developed a Gender Strategy and Action Plan, and a Gender Mainstreaming Handbook, tools that have contributed to a significant increase in the gender scrutiny of policies, programmes, bills and budgets within parliament.
Furthermore, in a bold and historic move to strengthen the nation’s commitment to gender equality, in her recent address to Parliament, President Samia Suluhu Hassan committed to appoint more women to leadership and decision-making positions in various capacities.
“This presents many opportunities for women MPs and those we represent,” said Salome Mwakagenda, Deputy Chair of TWPG, “and as decision-makers we need to ensure that we do our part to level the playing field for women from all spheres of life to operate in.”
With the majority of parliamentarians, and more than 50 per cent of women MPs being first-timers following the 2020 General Elections, the Programme Lead for UN Women’s “Wanawake Wanaweza” Phase II, Ms Erasmina Massawe said that strengthening capacities of the women MPs is critical to ensure effective implementation of global standards to safeguard the rights of women and girls through parliamentary processes including adoption of gender responsive legislation and budgets.
“We therefore tailored the programme so that it not only enhances MPs capacities to execute their roles effectively, but also orients new MPs on key gender issues they need to be aware of, and practical tools to use for more gender responsive decision-making,” she said.
UN Women is also partnering with the University of Dar es Salaam to support TWPG in the development of their Strategic Plan to cover the duration of the current term, with plans in place to undertake further capacity strengthening initiatives.
“As TWPG, we are aware of the important role we play as women leaders to effectively represent the needs of women and girls across the country,” said Hon. Raymond, “with the support we are receiving, we want to build a stronger TWPG, for current members and the members that follow, working to achieve far-reaching benefits for the constituencies we serve.”