Traditionally the position of women in Tanzania has been low compared to men. Women were not expected to influence the decision-making processes from domestic level to the national level. In the family attitudes, which consider men as heads of households, exists. These attitudes are rigidly based on patriarchal structures, which limit women voices from influencing allocation of domestic resources. At national level, the existing attitudes influence the election and appointment of women to high profile positions and hence limit women’s voices from impacting decision making and the planning process.
The Government of Tanzania recognises that women’s advancement and achievement of gender equality are a matter of human rights and a condition to social justice. The Government of Tanzania reaffirms its commitment to enhancement of women’s rights for national and world progress. The Government has ractified the convention on the elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Furthermore, the Government of Tanzania reaffirms its commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action that upholds the Convention for total elimination of all kinds of discrimination against women and all other international human rights instruments calling for gender equality. Promotion of women participation in politics and decision making is among the four critical areas of concern for Tanzania.
The Government has changed regulations and taken affirmative action to include women in decision making. The Pariament passed a Bill in 200 to increase the seats. In the local Government councils wehre women are assured of 33 percent of seats while in the Union Parliament women are assured of 20 percent of the seats.
The Government has planned to increase the participation of women in politics to 30 percent by the year 2005.In the 2000 elections women were mobilised to contest for both constituency seats and special seats for women within the 30 percent set aside in parliament. Extra efforts were to be made to ensure that as large as possible proportion of women register for the elections both as voters and candidates. Media campaigns and public meetings for awareness creation were part of the strategy to achieve this.
The second thrust was on increasing the number of women in decision making positions and this was to be achieved through Government appointments and other public structures. The Cabinet Decision no 23 of 1996 among other issues endorsed for implementation the increase of women in all decision making levels such as Board of Directors, Heads of Institutions, Commissioners and in national delegations. The other strategy was gender mainstreaming the civil service and creation of a database on women and their qualifications for use by appointing authorities.
Several activities were embarked on in order to make 30 percent of leadership women. Activities included conducting mass media campaigns, workshops and seminars to motivate women to contest for leadership positions; development of women’s database and directorate of women advancement in key ministries and women units in the regions and districts within Government structure. Also monitoring implementation of the 1996 Cabinet decision on appointment of women into political and public services
Gender mainstreaming the civil service; and review the civic subject syllabus at all levels of education to incorporate skill development in leadership.
The multiparty democracy existing in Tanzania in the period of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action also strengthened the conducive environment for establishment of civil organisations. Numerous women NGOs and CBOs have been established alongside women wings in all political parties registered in the country. These women NGOs and women wings in the political parties provide for a forum to women to address not only social and economic issues but also political issues. The constitutional reform exercise going on in the country provides yet another opportunity to include women‘s rights in the supreme law of the land.
The advent of political pluralism in Tanzania increased in the political arena in line with the provisions of the constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania as amended from time to time. The constitution recognises women‘s capacity and the right to participate in politics, social and economic life of the country. The right to vote and the right to stand for election are provided equally for men and women. This was practised successfully in the 2000 general elections. This is a clear indication that there is a conducive environment for women to participate freely and equally with men in politics and decision making in Tanzania.