Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Zanzibar Women Now Strive for Involvement in Decision-Making

Zanzibar — THE Zanzibar government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are now seeking to involve women in the planning, implementation and evaluation of development programmes, an indication that cultural norms which make women reluctant to speak out are declining.

At least government authorities now consider that involvement of women in planning has effective and positive impact on development programmes and provides valuable insight into their needs.

"There are still a lot to be done to liberate women, but we have been seeing positive changes in the society and government," says activist Asha Aboud of the Zanzibar Gender Coalition (ZGC).

"Women need to continue advocating for changes until gender equality is achieved in all areas," she says. The achievements so far in women involvement are attributed to the 'Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment (GEWE) project being supported by Denmark through the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).

The project, which ends next year, aims at supporting measures to enhance and promote gender equality and women empowerment. It also includes minimising harmful practices on women such as early and forced marriages, sexual abuse and under representation in the decision- making process.

Aboud says that creating effective women involvement in planning and implementation of programmes, however, is a challenging process that needs commitment from the government and women themselves.

It is a fact that women can provide constructive insights into the effects of various policies and can help an advocacy network better define its goals, she explains. Ms Khadija Juma of West district, where GEWE was implemented, says there have been visible changes even in family level.

"We had in the past and still have difficulty discussing and planning activities on the sensitive topics of reproductive health, sex, and economic planning," she says.

Apart from West District, GEWE has also been implemented in South Unguja District and Wete District in Pemba, where literacy level is higher than Unguja, but women have been inactive.

Men including those holding higher positions in both the private and public institutions had the perception that women's ability was low.

Ms Asha Abdi of the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA), co-coordinator of the project says that women play an important role in development and therefore should participate in decision-making, planning, and implementation of set activities.

"Arguably, the country is facing challenges in fighting gender violence because few women are not involved in decision-making," she says. She said it was high time to involve women in decisionmaking through training to raise their awareness and confidence.

According to UN Fund for Population Activities, one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or abused in some other way - most often by someone she knows, including her husband or another male family member. Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims.

It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices.

Any one of these abuses can leave deep psychological scars, damage the health of women and girls in general, including their reproductive and sexual health and in some instances, results in death. Gender-based violence also serves - by intention or effect - to perpetuate male power and control.

It is sustained by a culture of silence and denial of the seriousness of the health consequences of abuse. In addition to the harm they exact on the individual level, these consequences also exact a social toll and place a heavy and unnecessary burden on health services, UNFPA says.

It recognises that violence against women is inextricably linked to gender-based inequalities.

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