Despite the astonishing progress of women in various cadres, politics is still not one of them. All over the world, women are not given prominent roles in decision-making bodies.
According to UN-Women figures, the percentage of women in parliament worldwide has doubled in the last 20 years.
As of January 2021, 22 out of 193 countries had a female head of state or government, 13 out of 193 countries had at least 50 percent women in the national cabinet and three out of 193 countries had at least 50 percent women in the national legislature. Currently, there are 24 female heads of state or government.
In Zanzibar like other parts of the world, there are still many challenges that prevent women from gaining leadership positions through ballot boxes.
The past October general elections have revealed many challenges facing women that many have failed to realise their dreams.
Access to financial resources to campaign; access to political networks, internal party barriers and voter perceptions of women politicians are some barriers facing women.
Unfortunately, many of these challenges were exacerbated during every general election despite various efforts taken by the women’s rights organizations, including the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA-Zanzibar), media and development partners.
Safia Rashid, one of the women who attempted to run for a parliament seat in last year’s general elections, says the journey is still long for women to overcome obstacles and finally be trusted to run for leadership positions.
“There are still barriers within our political parties, a woman is free to pick nomination form but when it comes to competing, a male is considered first than a woman,” says Safia, who has a bachelor’s degree in business management.Despite the challenge, she hasn’t given up, promising to continue serving her party while focusing on the 2025 general elections.
“Women who shine in major political roles now have gone through similar obstacles, but society has finally come to realise the fact that the world can’t be ruled by men alone,” she said.
Safia noted that women’s empowerment cannot be achieved if women themselves are not included in the rooms on which decisions are made.
“With more women in decision-making positions, it means we are more likely to have laws and policies that benefit women, children and families because women are more understandable of the issues that families and children face. These policies can also have a positive impact on their lives,” she said.
ZuhuraZubeir, who was not nominated, said that women’s right to participate in the decision-making bodies is not a privilege.
“Political participation and women’s representation in decision-making bodies is a right, not a privilege. Women make up more than half of the total population of Zanzibar so it is wise to have them in leadership positions, “she said.
Many other factors hold women back, such as sexual harassment and different cultural views.
“It is this scenario that stopped our fore-parents from thinking on other things than getting married and raising children. This concept killed their political will and made innovations that would make a difference. Now we want to eradicate these behaviours because I believe women can,” said Radhia Suleiman, a member of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
“Now things have changed, women know their rights and are able to fight for them; this is why we are on the fast pace though the progress is still low,” said Saida Mussa from Chama cha DemokrasianaMaendeleo (CHADEMA).
Mohamed Zaidi is not a supporter of feminism but believes that when it comes to women and leadership, society can have always hope for a better prospect because of the natural potential that women have.
He said that having women leaders is a good time for the world to test their creativity in solving social problems.
“There is nothing to fear because Zanzibar is an example of the positive change that women have begun to build. Women being at the forefront of important decision-making positions, adds to the solution of problem of innovation in governance and helps to address specific problems that women face,” he said.
Minister of State in the First Vice President’s Office, Dr.SadaMkuyaSalum, says women have a great opportunity to make the right decisions in the next general elections.
“Women leaders have the potential to bring changes that society wants, and they must be allowed to demonstrate their potential,” says Dr.Mkuya who contested in the CCM inter-partynomination for the Welezo constituency but lost.
However, she was later appointed by the President of Zanzibar (Dr. Hussein Mwinyi) as a House Representative Member and later a Minister.
Dr.Mzuri said when it comes time for a woman to make decisions about her future and that of her children, she should be given a chance instead of being restrained.
Studies show that the big number of women in decision-making bodies, in general, contributes significantly to women’s issues.
Women’s political participation is a prerequisite for gender equality and true democracy and facilitates the direct participation of women in decision-making and is a way of ensuring accountability for women.Moreover, when more women hold high positions in politics, everyone benefits.
An article published on the Women Deliver website, one of the world’s leading voices for gender equality, shows that achieving gender equality in political participation is of great value and importance.
TAMWA-Zanzibar Director, Dr.Mzuri Issa Ali, said that they have invested in ensuring women have a place in decision-making bodies.
However, Dr. Ali Said, a lecturer from the State University of Zanzibar, SUZA, says the responsibility of supporting and helping women overcome barriers remains in the hands of journalists.
“We cannot leave women without support, let us identify the challenges and opportunities they have so that people can understand and later make decisions that are in their favour,” he said.
He added people cannot make the informed decisions about women if they do not have the right information, unfortunately for a long time journalists have ignored to raise issues that affect the community instead they focus on events that do not help to bring positive change.