25 October 2012

Tanzania: Speaker Calls for Gender Equality in Parliament

Quebec — INCREASING representation for women in parliament is important, but the legislative body should also mold its codes, ethics and practices to truly ensure equitable treatment of women, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Tanzania, Ms Anna Makinda, has said.

She made the remarks during a panel discussion on Special Gender Partnership debate session.

Ms Makinda noted that achieving equality without a legal framework was difficult and that parliaments have to be made a 'comfortable workplace' for women.

She was sharing her experience of Tanzania with the delegates of the 127 - Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conference which is taking place in the city of Quebec, Canada The IPU, 162 member-countries, has been stressing on the need to have more women in parliaments and they both agreed that this will not be possible unless some kind of affirmative action is put in place among their August House.

Tanzania, a country of more than 45 million people, has a dismal 36 per cent of women in the 367 member parliament. "We have to make our parliaments a workplace where women can be comfortable and even if they are overwhelmed by their domestic issues, the rules and regulations should let them be flexible.

"Things like the time to feed their children; the facilities that are provided - should all be suitable for them. The codes, ethics, resources, staff of Parliament... all have to be moulded accordingly, because politics and parliaments have primarily been men's business," Ms Makinda told IPU delegates.

She also said that equitable treatment in parliament was also important, and women should not be sidelined in various parliamentary panels. "There should be equal representation of both genders in every committee. So they can perhaps make a rule that any committee cannot have a bigger percentage of one gender," she noted.

The Speaker said that across the world, the level of representation of women "is not very brilliant as you can see." "Less than 20 per cent of parliamentarians in the world are women. And it took us many years to reach here from the time when it was a mere 10 per cent, but Rwanda has now exceeded more than 50 per cent and that is our aim now," she said.

As per data compiled by the IPU, 20 per cent of members of parliament across the world are women. Region-wise, Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) have the highest representation of 42 per cent, Asia has 18.5 per cent women in parliament.

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