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Playing on the minds of women

But come election time every politician worth his salt knows that you have to strive to get women's votes and their goodwill or kiss your ambitions goodbye.

Politicians who participated in the just ended Arumeru East by-election, whose campaigns lasted three weeks here, were quick in coming up with various agenda that would put them in good books of the female population.

It is estimated that 60 per cent of Meru's 500,000 plus population constitutes of women and many of these have voters' identity cards. There were six contesting parties in Meru but the two most prominent ones jostled each other to get the women's attention.

Ms Rose Kamili, the Special-Seat Member of Parliament for Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA)  should be credited for setting the 'woman' agenda on the just ended political campaigns for Arumeru East by-elections.

Having set camp in Meru District a week before her party launched the first campaign meeting on March 10, Ms Kamili who hails from Hanang District of Manyara region, said she knows very well that women in the area suffer so many problems.

She mentioned some of these problems include the long distances to nearest health centres, "With many expectant mothers delivering their babies on their way to hospitals or walking miles in search of water, firewood or the nearest mill continues to wreak havoc on their lives," she said.

Picking up the cue, the CHADEMA's Arumeru East candidate Mr Joshua Nassari sided with the Tengeru Women Market and took on the market authorities whom he stated over taxed the market women who sell their produce at the outlet built by the Rotary Club of Arusha.

Former President Benjamin Mkapa took on a different strategy, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) campaigns took off two days later in Ngaresero and during his speech he set what was going to dominate campaign agenda for the following three weeks and that was the issue of land.

But land or the lack of it, reverted back to women issues and according to the Meru culture women take care of the family and for them to execute their maternal, domestic and parental duties properly they needed assurance of permanent places to live and raise their families.

CCM candidate, Mr Sioi Sumari pulled a fast one stepping on stage at the inaugural campaign rally before saying anything he welcomed his wife, Pamela to address the audience.

 His campaign managers during consequent meetings hit at CHADEMA's Mr Joshua Nassari's single status, arguing that a good member of parliament must have a family maintaining that bachelors are not trusted people.

"Behind every successful man there is a woman," chorused CCM partisan at every campaign rally in which Mrs Pamela Sioi Sumari made an appearance.

Without a lady in tow, the CHADEMA candidate, Mr Nassari single status was becoming a burden to his campaign to the extent he declared at a public rally held at the Kwa-Poli's Banana market that he was contemplating getting engaged to one of the lady parliamentarians.
 
"Okay, if being bachelor is the problem then as soon as you vote me to be your MP I promise to marry the Kawe (Dar es Salaam) Member of Parliament Ms Halima Mdee who is also single," he stated.

Ms Halima Mdee, who is a CHADEMA MP jetted into Arumeru two days after Mr Nassari's announcement and joined the campaigns.
The Kawe MP, however, came up with a different line of logic marital status debate; "Mr Nassari should not worry because he is going to be a member of parliament in a house whose Speaker, Ms Anna Makinda is also very single," she stated.

Besides, added Joshua's father, Pastor Samuel Nassari, "A good wife comes from God, a person should not be forced to marry earlier just because he is vying for a political office."  And when Mr Sioi continued to parade his wife at the political rallies, it suddenly occurred to Mr Nassari aged 26, to start bringing his mother along at the campaign platforms.

"I was raised by my mother who is a humble vegetable vendor and that is why I feel the pain of all women who are forced to pay taxes to Tengeru vegetable market," said Mr Nassari. With his emotional rhetoric some women at the rallies were seeing shedding a tear or two.
 
It all went well until during one of the closing campaign rallies by the CHADEMA nemesis, CCM when one of the speakers, Mr Elirehema Kaaya grabbed the microphone and reminded the multitude that CHADEMA was founded by Mr Edwin Mtei.

"And you know what Mr Mtei is doing at the moment? Well he sells firewood to women,"  Mr Kaaya said answering the question himself. He explained that the CHADEMA founder runs a coffee estate in Meru and demands money from the women who collect the dried twigs that were pruned from the trees.

"Selling firewood or water to women is not accepted in our Meru culture," Mr Kaaya claimed. There are many things done to women in Tanzania and which are not exactly acceptable and are ignored until elections time. This time next week, the women in Meru may just be back to square one.

HAVE you ever thought of the risks facing ...

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Mwandishi: MARC NKWAME in Arusha

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