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As we brace for elections, these minorities need special attention

RECENTLY, President John Magufuli went to the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) offices in Dodoma, the capital city, to pick his forms for contesting in the presidential elections slated for later this year.

There was no pomp or colour as the head of state received his documents and left as silently as he came, ready to defend his position in the General Election.

With that gesture, Tanzanians are now aware that soon the campaigns will hit the road, with all that which goes with it, which signals for contenders in parliamentary seats to fire their engines and brace for it.

In 2019, the country was involved in Local Government Elections, but there were outcries from several quarters, claiming that the government had placed a heavy load on people’s freedoms of association, expression and assembly.

With this sort of accusation, Tanzania Youth Coalition (TYC) under the auspices of the USHIRIKI Coalition and coordination from National Democratic Institute (NDI) and USAID took it upon themselves to conduct a survey and look at the participation of women and Persons With Disabilities.

In their final presentation, the report presents findings of a Post Civic Election Inclusion Analysis of the 2019 Local Government Elections specifically in Ubungo and Kigamboni districts of Dar Es Salaam.

“The conducted analysis revealed that there were no deliberate efforts by Civil Society Organisations, political parties, PO-LARG from the two districts to ensure effective participation of PWDs, women and youth in the Ubungo and Kigamboni civic polls,” says Zatwaa Langeti, who conducted the survey.

She says that the analysis further revealed that political parties, due to lack of skills in gender and political participation of PWDs, women and youth, was evidenced by lack of gender disaggregated information from the political parties in the two districts.

The analysis, Zatwaa says, was first planned to only include a desktop analysis and focused group discussions, but due to unavailability of literature on the 2019 civic polls, TYC included individuals, political parties and CSOs interview component on the survey.

He says that people with disabilities were willing to participate in the elections, but were not effectively included or involved in the election process, which he says needs to be addressed before the coming General Elections.

On communication, Zatwaa says it is one of the key challenges which was experienced by people with disabilities during 2019 local government elections, but which he says they experience during their daily life. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities underscores the equal right of persons with disabilities to participate in political life.

However, in Africa they are often unable to exercise their right to vote. He says that findings showed that although most African countries ratified disability-focused legislation and proclaimed equal opportunities, the implementation of the legislation varies across the continent.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities underscores the equal right of persons with disabilities to participate in political life.

Although participation of people with disabilities in political processes is increasingly recognised as a human rights issue, little is known about how the key UNCRPD principles are translated into day-to-day practice, particularly in low and middle-income countries, including Tanzania.

According to one of the PWDs who was interviewed during the survey, local government officials are not cooperative to them and have turned a cold shoulder when they were approached for clarification or explanations on various issues.

Rose Reuben, the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) Director and USHIRIKI Deputy Chairman says PWDs also claimed that they failed to effectively engage in the 2019 polls for lack of financial resources to run campaigns.

She says that apart from the challenges faced by the PWDs in participating in general elections, women also face similar challenges, which in some most cases includes discrimination.

“The analysis revealed that women across the board in Ubungo and Kigamboni complained that there are still stereotypes among the population in the two districts who still believe that women are incapable to lead,” she says.

She says that women who said they are financially weaker than their male counterparts claimed that money still plays a very crucial role in local politics as was evidenced by men using money to lure voters.

She further says that most African countries continue to lag behind the rest of the world on women’s participation in development, in large part due to deeply entrenched, discriminatory views about the role and position of women and girls in society, which relegate women to an inferior position relative to men and result in unequal power relations between men and women.

She says that these discriminatory views and harmful practices often prevent women from achieving their full potential as productive members of society because they result in their unequal access to education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and participation in governance and politics.

She further says that even in countries where women are playing a greater role in development, governance and politics, women are still treated and judged disparately and more harshly by institutions as well as the public, in comparison to their male counterparts.

“We have a proverb in my tribe that a woman’s place is either at home or in the grave. I was trying to negotiate a space between the two and some people were adamant that it would expedite my journey to the grave. I received a lot of death threats; an experience not shared by the male candidates in the race,” said a woman who attempted to contest in the 2019 local government elections.

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