The sun was just starting its daily journey from the east to the west to mark the dawn of a new day.
Kijakazi Ali is at the Jumbi whole sale and retail market to buy some fruits and vegetables which she sells at her shop at the Mwanakwerekwe, just a few kilometers from the city centre.
Like many Zanzibaris, Kijakazi voted in the last year’s general elections to elect the President, Members of the House of Representative, Parliamentarians and Councillors.
She is very open and sometimes bitter, but hopeful for better days ahead when she talks about her needs as a woman.
She wants the government of the President of Zanzibar, Dr. Hussein Mwinyi, to improve working environments for women so that they can fully participate in the economic growth of their families and the country.
One of her dreams is create an economy that works for women. She wants to access enough capital to build the business of her dreams.
But she finds the road towards reaching her destination is tough and rough because of the daily of price of goods and service.
“Every morning I invest Sh70,000 to buy products at the market, but sometimes there is no profit because the prices are very high. Sometimes, I end up buying the products on credit,” she lamented.
“There is no leader who can give me employment, but they can help me and other women by reducing tariffs on goods to enable petty traders to make profit,” she said.
For seven years now she has run her shop with a small amount of cash in hand and it has been a herculean task to increase it, despite spending some hours every daily doing one of the oldest of the textile arts, sewing.
She takes sewing orders from different people so as to earn extra money to supplement costs of taking care of her family.
The 40-year-old entrepreneur takes care of her six children and do all that she can to ensure that they get meals and is able to pay costs for their education and medical care.
In the last general elections on October 28, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) recorded 566,352 voters, of whom 294,237 were females.
But for many women in Zanzibar, as in many other countries and especially in Africa, Asia, the Arab world and Latin America their voices are not listened, as a result getting their daily requirements is tougher compared to that of men.
Many of them carry the toughest burden of caring for a family – looking for firewood, fetching water, cooking and washing.
“For long they have complained about the hard work and continue asking for a relief,” commented
Husna Issa, an independent economist.
Husna was impressed with promises of candidates of reducing the burden now hanging on the shoulders of women and is waiting to see those promises come true.
A popular Isles activists on human and women rights, Dr. Mzuri Ali Issa wants to see leaders to be more accountable.
“Without the rule of law and the fight against corruption, a good life is not guaranteed and none of us can run business. Women will continue to be vulnerable although more than 52% were registered to vote in the last year’s general elections,” she pointed out.
She said the informal sector is largely run by women and as commodity prices rise, they are the ones most affected.
The government encourages everyone to be able to read and write and to ensure that no one is left behind it has set up adult classes, but the 2016/2017 Zanzibar household survey shows that 23% of households are headed by women.
The same survey shows lower literacy rates among women than men, but it is these illiterate women who are the heads of these households.
Poverty and ignorance
Maua Ame who came forward to contest a Parliamentary seat in the last year’s elections, but lost to another aspirant, said she was upset with the poverty and ignorance she saw when she walked around the constituency during the campaign.
She said she was determined to bring changes if she was elected and hoped that those who managed to get leadership posts would do all they can to help women become economically independent and improve the status of women.
“There are households without toilets or access to clean water and experience drop-out school children. We need better infrastructure and educating the people about the importance of education and health care,” she said.
Candidates from all political parties in the elections committed themselves to be in the fore front in protecting women from sexual harassment, increase employment opportunities for youth, support marginalised people, transform the economy, expand social services, increase women’s opportunities in leadership positions and raise the salaries of public servants.
But Kijakazi said efforts to bring a change for the better, but the pace is still slow and most of the problems which women face have not been gives special attention.
Dr. Mzee Ali, a lecturer at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA), says Zanzibar needs leaders who will be responsible and seriously committed to the needs of the people.
“We want leaders who will stand firm to stop the misuse of public funds and ensure that the taxpayers’ money benefits the people rather than ending up in the leaders’ pockets,” he added.
Jamila Massoud, the Coordinator of Jenga Amani Yetu, a European Union-funded project, reiterated the need to always ensure that there is peace and stability because women and their children suffer most when there is conflict because when peace is lost, men flee and leave women and children at homes.
Women and leadership position
Salma Lusangi, an official from the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA-Zanzibar), said it was high time to think of having an inclusive government in which women will be trusted and given top leadership positions.
“Women have not yet been given major leadership roles and in some offices all top executives are men, although there are many capable women for those positions,” she explained.
Gender stereotypes perhaps convince leaders that men have the attributes and competence required to take the helm of offices and corporations,
Fatma Massoud appealed to the President of Zanzibar to create an enabling business environment and this will help women to be economically stronger.
Beatrice John said the state of corruption in the country is alarming and hoped Dr. Mwinyi will take it more seriously so as to end this disgusting practice once and for all.
“I would be happy if the President would reduce taxes. We need laws that protect us and an innovative economy. In this age, a creative economy needs good strategies,” she added.