No woman for president in Tanzania

Date: January 1, 1970
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The Tanzanian government has gone to great lengths to ensure an increase in the number of women in parliament and that more women contest the elections. Despite this, chances are slim that the countries’ next president will be a woman.

As Tanzania shifts into top gear in preparation for the scheduled October general elections, fears abound that well placed potential women candidates are shying away contesting the elections.
This fear holds water, especially in the ruling political party – the Revolutionary Party of Tanzania (CCM), which, despite its zeal to get a woman presidential candidate failed to field a single female candidate. Efforts to identify and persuade women presidential hopefuls to vie for the highest position in the country were not successful.
While there are a few women candidates who are contesting various positions in opposition political parties, fears amongst activists are that the trend may continue in the other political ballot-based positions such as parliamentary seats etc.
There are many hindrances that discourage women for standing for office. These range from a traditional aversion to public office to their comparatively weak economic base.
One school of thought in Tanzania is that many of the potential women candidates lack confidence in themselves, and as such dare not contest a seat being vied for by a man. Others say women’s greatest enemy is themselves as, despite what gender activists say, women prefer being led by men.
But whatever the reason, the truth is that unless something is done to address the deep seated obstacles towards women’s full and equal participation, Tanzania’s impressive track record regarding women in government will be tarnished.
What confounds me is that the Tanzanian government has gone to great lengths to ensure an increase in the number of women in parliament and that more women contest the elections. The country’s constitutional quota – now increased to 30 percent – distributes a portion of seats in the house reserved for women on a proportional representation basis, after constituency based elections. It is because of this that the country is likely to meet the SADC target of 30 percent of women in decision in the October elections.
Currently Tanzania has a total of 63 female Members of Parliament out of a total of 291 MPs (22 percent).  Neither the four women ministers in the Tanzania Cabinet nor the five women deputy ministers have contested the presidential seat. And if these highly placed women are unwilling to vie for the presidential seat, how can we expect ordinary urban and rural based women to come forward and vie for positions?
Shining stars such as The United Nations Under Secretary General Anna Tibaijuka and Executive Director of HABITAT, and Gertrude Mongella, President of the African Union Parliament gave us hope. We had expected one of these heavyweights to come forward, but to our disappointment, they never did.
But it would be shortsighted to lay blame at the feet of Tanzanian women politicians alone. Almost half of the Tanzanian population is Moslem, and most Tanzanians, whatever their religion have been raised in a patriarchal culture. The cultural ideologies that inform the majority Tanzanians outlook means that the environment is not particularly supportive of women’s aspirations as leaders. The double shift worked by the majority of women also implies a more difficult path for women presidential candidates than for their male counterparts. 
But ultimately, only a large scale opinion poll in Tanzania would reveal the position of ordinary people. For now we are left with our disappointment, cushioned perhaps by some hope for the situation to change in the future.
A positive sign is the appointment of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as Deputy President in South Africa. Who knows, perhaps Tanzania could still become the first country in Africa to have a woman President.
Adolph S Kivamwo a Tanzanian journalist based in Dar es Salaam. This article is part of the Gender Links Gender and Media Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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