The year 2020 which marks the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, was intended to be ground-breaking for gender equality.
Instead, with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, even the limited gains made in the past decades were rolled back.
The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic.
Across every sphere, from health to the political, the impacts of Covid-19 are exacerbated for women simply by virtue of their sex.
Zanzibar, like other African countries, the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic didn’t stop causing harm to women because, by the time, the inter party’s preliminary process to the past October General Elections had begun.
Tatu Abdalla, one of the women who picked the nomination forms to get the consent at the Ole constituency in Pemba south region, says the coronavirus pandemic thwarted her plans.
“I planned to meet the voters but because of the fear of contracting the coronavirus, I couldn’t reach them. Covid-19 affected women’s programs because most of us stayed at homes,” she said.
However, Tatu lauded the resilience of other women during uncertain times and called for the advancement of the gains and prioritisation of women’s rights during and post-pandemic.
“I commend all successful women who overcome the barriers caused by the pandemic, we should all become the voice against inequality,” she said.
Khadija Henoick, the retired Ole ward councilor, stated that ‘lockdowns’ have put more women at high risk.
However, she said women must remain vigilant that Covid-19 is not used as an excuse to restructure and under-prioritize the programs and projects earmarked for women, now and post-crisis.
She said the pandemic has exposed how inequalities do not just harm women but the communities as a whole.
“Many women including myself, showed up to pick nomination forms in our respective political parties, but we were unable to fulfill our dreams because the virus separated us from the voters,” she said.
“Let us have our eyes on the 2025 general elections to ensure we overcome all the obstacles and eventually win,” she said.
Hafidh Abdi Said, a member of the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) at Chake Chake constituency, told Zanzibar Mail that he spent his time persuading voters to nominate women candidates, but failed to reach all of them because the government banned social gatherings as a precaution measure to contained the Covid-19.
“If it weren’t for this disease, we would have more women vying for different leadership positions because most of us (men) volunteered to support them,” he said.
He emphasised that men had responded to a call from the Tanzania Women Media Association (TAMWA-Zanzibar) to support more women to run for leadership posts in the next month’s general elections.
Isack Maganzo Nzilamoshi, from the RGS church at Makangale village in Pemba Micheweni District, said despite the Covid-19 challenge, women still have a big role to play.
“Everyone is aware that coronavirus has had an impact not only on women but on society as a whole, but this is not the end of perpetuating the struggle for gender equality in leadership positions,” he said.
Ali Mohammed, Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA-Zanzibar), Program Manager, said they have much invested to support women aspirants in the October General Elections.
He said TAMWA had launched a special campaign known as the ‘Male Change Agent Team’ (MCAT) that was intended to change the mindset of the community towards women’s full participation in political leadership.
He said more than 1,000 women were empowered on how to participate in politics and most of them responded positively.
However, he acknowledged that many were not supported due to many reasons including the Covid-19 outbreak.