Tanzania: ‘New Constitution Honours Gender Equality’
Published by: AllAfrica.com
THERE is jubilation among women in different regions, after the Draft constitution decided to include a section that gives women the power to own and inherit land, just like their male counterparts.
Women activists associations are among the groups which support the idea, with optimism that lives of women in rural area shall now improve, simply because women can use the land economically, cultivating different crops in their specific locations.
For years now, some traditional beliefs and cultures have denied women the right to own land, and to some tribes, women are even denied the right to be buried owned by a certain clan.
Some cultures also state that women should not be buried in the family land, and as a result they are buried in the bush just like animals when they die. Speaking in Dodoma recently, the long serving politician Mrs Anna Abdallah has sounded optimistic that the true liberation for women has come, insisting that the Constitution Assembly should go into Tanzania’s history for giving women due rights in land ownership.
“The Draft constitution has well defined the word ‘person’ because in some communities people believe a person is a man and not a woman. This is the gender equality we have been fighting for” she says. Mama Anna observes that article 46 of the draft constitution now guarantees some women’s rights to enable them assume their right roles in society.
“We are glad that the article does not just explain everything about gender, but it has been covered broadly in the proposed draft constitution,” she says. Women’s rights’ activists among other things, have won the 50-50 representation in the new proposed Katiba, the right to own land and widow’s right to inherit property and protection against gender-based violence.
Ms. Ruth Meena from Women Fund Tanzania (WFT) strongly says that gender equality is now an important issue in the new proposed constitution, because without it women would still be oppressed.
She insists that the proposed draft has considered gender since it obliges the president to appoint an equal number of men and women where the constitution may require him to do so. Analysts said that although the current constitution guarantees equality between men and women, it does not address many challenges that women face in their lives.
“Women still face a lot of problems in economic empowerment and lack of access to decision- making organs, there are many laws and customary practices that remain discriminatory against women. I am confidently sure that the proposed constitution shall solve a lot of problems associated with this matter,” says Usu Mallya, former Executive director of Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP).
She adds that using the proposed draft Katiba, the government can put in place legal and policy arrangements that facilitate equal participation of women in top leadership positions. “A democratic constitution must acknowledge substantive gender equality and collective voices of men and women,” she says.
Mallya observes that the proposed constitution can make Tanzania establish a sustainable way of implementing the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) on gender, high school dropout rates for girls and gender parity in primary and secondary schools.
The activists is contented that some shortfalls, especially setting a minimum age for girls’ marriage have been dealt with in the Draft Constitution, also insisting that women’s dignity must be respected and protected regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or disability.
“We are sure that we now have a new constitution that gives women the right and access to ownership of land and benefit from the natural resources that the country is endowed with,” she proudly says. Women groups should support the Draft Constitution, because it has specified basic education as both primary and secondary education, since most girls are often denied the right to education.
Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) Crisis Resolving Centre (CRC) Coordinator Ms Gladness Munuo says that the proposed draft is set to to assist women and vulnerable grass root groups to demanding for positive policy, structural change and accountability.
“Groups like TAMWA and TGNP have achieved and learned a lot and are proud to be a leading member of the transformative feminist movement for social transformation and women empowerment within the Tanzanian society. With the proposed constitution at hand we can achieve a lot,” she says.
She adds that if well implemented the draft can stand and enable women to actively speak about opportunities that will improve their position in society, such as during election processes.
In the recent past, women activist groups have focused on influencing the interpretation of gender equality in development process, policy and budgeting, demanding as well as facilitating organising and networking by marginalised women at the grass-roots and national levels.
“Learning from the past it is evident that the forces that established women associations like TAMWA and TGNP have not changed significantly and a three-tier action strategy which was meant to stimulate the formation of a popular movement for social transformation and women empowerment is still needed, and what is proposed in the draft can well address such issues,” Ms Munuo says.
Such strategies included generating and disseminating empowering knowledge and information, capacity building and training on gender, animation and organising skills among women and using that capacity, knowledge and skills for policy engagement, advocacy, activism, networking and movement building at all levels of society.
In educating the public about rights of women in the new Katiba, TGNP’s acting Executive Director Ms Lilian Liundi, calls upon the media to report issues that will liberate women and marginalised groups from oppression.
“News that shows how women can access social services like water and health may transform the society for the better. What is contained in the Draft Constitution should as well be reported coherently,” she adds.