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Why Zanzibar leadership still has few women

Why Zanzibar leadership still has few women

Pressure groups and women rights activists have been pushing policy makers and the government to make sure that factors contributing to low representations of women in leadership at all levels are removed.

However, it has been noted that some of the barriers to women leadership and participation in decision making groups like jealousy, division and hat among women, lie within the reach of women themselves.

Prof Elias R. Mathipa and E. M. Tsoka from Vista University, South Africa say in their article published in South African Journal of Education that possible barriers to the advancement of women to leadership positions are poor self-image, which is a factor attributed more to women than to men and lack of assertiveness - as a habit associated more with women than men.

Less career orientation - as a sign of less interest in women as leaders; less confidence - as an argument that women, unlike men, generally lack the will to achieve; poor performance - a myth used as an excuse for employing less women in demanding occupations and discrimination as a sign of low interest in the recruitment of women into leadership positions.

The scholars also mention demotion as a form of punishment thought to suit women better as they are perceived to be lazy and arrogant. Mr Khatib Suleiman, a senior journalist in Zanzibar says that change should begin from women should they need to get more opportunity in leadership roles.

“Women are failing to use their advantage of being many. They easily get divided, resulting in hard time for female candidates in elections. Our work of activism becomes difficult when women get divided,” said Suleiman at a training workshop for journalists on “Journalists role in promoting women’s leadership.”

Other journalists at the workshop organised by the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) in the implementation of ‘Support Women in Accessing Leadership Positions (SWALP)’ project also were of the opinion that “women should support initiatives to fight for women rights by minimising hatred among themselves.”

Ms Salma Said from Mwananchi, Ms Rahma Suleiman of Chuchu FM, Ms Khamisu Ali of ZBC-tv, Mr Juma Abdallah from Zenji- FM and Mr Ramadhani Himid- Freelance, admit that they (journalists) have not done enough in promoting women leadership, but argued that lack of unity among women frustrates the campaign for the rights of women.

Mr Rashid Omar Kombo, acting principal Zanzibar Journalism and Mass Media College (ZJMMC) made a presentation, saying that Journalists have a big role in promoting women leadership and participation in decision- making groups. What should journalists do?

Kombo says Journalists can help promote women leadership, “by promoting accountability and efficiencies and acting as a catalyst of fostering social development and the take the responsibility of binding up women together.” He adds, “Acting as a linkage of binding up the women together, promoting democracy and gender equality in the country, offering means of expression for various women social groups to demand women rights and mobilising women for common course, key values and behaviour patterns for women and public at large.”

However, Kombo cites some of the challenges facing Zanzibar Journalists in promoting women leadership as low level of education for many reporters, lack of confidence, inferiority complex and low income and lack of clear understanding on issues related to leadership participation. Dr Issa Ziddy, Islamic scholar and lecturer at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), says that Islam allows women becoming leaders and that some people in some countries perceive that women are not allowed to take up leadership.

“We have hard leaders in Islam and this is to confirm that Islam does not prohibit women to become leaders,” said Ziddy. The SWALP coordinator challenged journalists that initiatives to increase women voices in Zanzibar is mainly through media, capacity building, lobbying and advocacy skills to have more women participation at all levels of leadership. “The target is to have at least 3,600 women from 60 Shehias (wards) on Unguja and Pemba Islands trained.

We want them to have skills of lobbying so that their views are considered and integrated in development plans,” said Ms Halima. Halima said the programme is being implemented by Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) - Zanzibar with support from UNWOMEN under its ‘Support Women in Accessing Leadership Positions (SWALP) project which started in October 2011.

The programme coordinator said that the aim of UNWOMEN and TAMWA is to help women to have a say not only in family life, but also in the priorities of their community, their region and their country such as pushing for better health provision in their villages and legal rights. She said the project is also to help promote communication among groups of women on the ground, so that they share ideas and skills, develop confidence and form networks.

“Once women are able to participate at a local level and realise they can influence public life, many of them feel motivated to get involved in political competition and in decision making groups from grass-root,” Halima said. She said that in most cases political and economic instability coupled with gender inequality worsens women’s situation, pushing them further into challenges like violence.

The violence includes domestic, sexual and rape and HIV and AIDS infection which is increased by violence and inequalities in marriages and relationships; Limited representation and participation in decision making.


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