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Elections still uphill battle for women

ALTHOUGH Tanzania has made tremendous achievements in implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), number five that advocates for gender equality, there are some legal gaps in the current election laws which partially negate women participation in the elections.

The elections laws in Tanzania provide equal chances for women and men to participate in the elections. However they have not been clear, comprehensive and transparent to ensure that no element of electoral process disadvantage women either directly or indirectly.

A recent analysis of five elections law by Coalition of Women and Constitution led by Women Fund Tanzania (WFT), shows that women may face gaps in resources that prevent them from competing effectively.

The legislation requires candidates to deposit a large amount of money, for example, 1m/-for the presidential candidate of the United Republic of Tanzania and 2m/-for the presidential candidate in Zanzibar.

Prof Ruth Meena, Women Fund Tanzania (WFT), Chairperson says these requirements are a limitation of women capable of leadership posts, because they have no financial capacity.

The analysis further shows that despite gaps in the election laws, parties are still giving limited opportunities to women to participate in elections whereas in the last general election women contestants from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), accounted for nine percent, Chadema six percent, ACT-Wazalendo 15 percent and the Civic United Front (CUF) 11 per cent.

Prof Meena pointed out that a number of women elected into parliamentary posts were still slim whereas, in the 2005/2010 elections, 18 women equal to 8 percent were elected as Members of Parliament, the number increased slightly to 21 in 2010/2015  equals to 9 percent. The number of elected women legislators increased to 25 equals to 9 percent.

WFT analysed five election laws including the National Elections Act 2015, Zanzibar Election Act 2018, Section 292 of the Local Government Authorities (Election), Act 1979, Local Government Act amended in 2002 and Local Government (Urban Authorities) Act—Cap 287 and 288.

The gender and women activist supposed that both constitutions for Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar specify equal voting rights for all citizens aged 18 and above, approximately 95 percent of registered voters in 2015 voted in which women were 53 per cent of all voters that year.

There was an increase in women who registered to vote in 2015 by 4.4 percent of those registered in the 2010 Election.

Another shortcoming she highlighted is the election system governed by the concept of the winner gets all, “The system is not friendly to the representation of all parties and participatory democracy. Statistics from many countries using this system show that achieving the goal of gender equality through that is extremely difficult,”

The WFT Chairperson said despite the good intention to introduce women special seats, women legislators are less privileged since they do not get Constituency Development Fund (CDF), an additional means of financing given to Members of Parliament for community-driven development.

“There should be amendments into the elections act to allow special seat legislators to be appointed to the positions of Prime Minister. There should also be a time limit for such positions, its implementation should consider gender equality,” said Prof Meena.

She noted that in Tanzania Mainland, special seats legislators could not be appointed to lead some of the Parliamentary Standing Committee such as the Ethics and Finance committees. At Full Council meetings, special seat councillors are not allowed to act on the chairmanship position.

Regarding transparency in the selection of candidates within the parties, she said, the procedures were unclear especially with regard to the basis of gender equality. The scholar supposed that legislations are silent on holding political parties accountable for violating principles of gender equality in the selection of women to contest on various election posts.

The scholar said in their analysis they as well observed that article 53 (1 and 2) of the Election Act grants candidate for the Office of the President in an election to have the right to utilize the Government broadcasting service and television during the election campaign.

However, she said the provisions are quite about its costs as well as the use of private media. Conversely, the articles demand that the media shall include in their publications information related to the electoral process without bias and such publication shall not tamper with information or discriminate against any candidate.

For Zanzibar, the right to use the public media is given to every candidate.  Article 65 (1) gives every candidate the right to air his or her party's manifesto via the public media.

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.

On February 2020 during the official launch of Tanzania National Chapter of the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN), Vice-President, Samia Suluhu Hassan said although the country was yet to attain 50/50 gender threshold, it had managed to surpass the Southern African Development Community (SADC), target of having at least 30 per cent of women in decision-making organs.

She said in parliament, out of 393 total numbers of lawmakers, 126 an equivalent of 36.7 percent were women and that in the Zanzibar House of Representatives 38 percent were women.

The VP further said in the cabinet there is 18 percent of women ministers and about 33 percent of deputy ministers, she termed it as a great achievement in the bid to ensure gender equality.

At the launching ceremony, the Vice-President asked women to come up in bigger numbers to vie for various political positions in the next General Election so that the country can be able to attain the 50/50 ratio.

She commended the move by UN Women Tanzania to launch the Tanzanian national Chapter which she said would benefit women and ensure their voice is better heard and their issues better addressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mwandishi: HILDA MHAGAMA

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