WHEN the ongoing Constituent Assembly started in Dodoma, little was known of majority of the 201 appointed members.
But it was evident that one thing called 'gender parity' would be a catch word especially during an era where historic patriarchal wrongs, society felt should be collected by a new progressive constitution.
At the same time, under a coalition of women and constitution, those who wanted a corrective change in structural society arrangement in terms of access to opportunities along gender lines vowed to camp at the Constituent Assembly, with a view to guarding their proposals already infused into the Katiba draft.
The move was also aimed at using the opportunity to persuade members of the Constituent Assembly to put in the draft issues they believe have been left out, but touch significantly on gender equality as a foundation for the country's progress.
In their declaration made in Dar es Salaam, the coalition, which consists of over 50 civil society organisations, said they want to put gender equality in issues of principles and framework of public finance, also calling for openness and accountability including public participation.
They want the public financial system to promote an equitable society and come out explicitly that the burden of taxation should be shared fairly, revenue raised nationally will be shared equitably among national and member governments.
They also want the Katiba to explicitly say that expenditure must promote the equitable development of the country, including making a special provision for marginalised groups and areas.
They want to ensure the final constitution highlights the need for affirmative action in respect of disadvantaged areas and groups. ULINGO Coordinator, Dr Ave Maria Semakafu, said the coalition views that there are still some gaps in the draft in the gender perspective.
She said while the Constitutional Review Commission had adopted some of their proposals in the second draft, there were still gaps to show that gender issues should be a foundation for the country's development.
"We believe these proposals should go through so that women in Tanzania are given the choice to either pass or reject them at the referendum vote," she said.
On the rights of women in the second draft, TGNP activist Prof Ruth Meena said while the draft has been categorical that all humans are born equal, all laws that contradict such a pronouncement should therefore be repealed including laws that legitimise gender discrimination.
They also support the draft's call to reject all forms of gender discrimination at all levels of society. They also say the draft has highlighted a Bill of Rights for various groups including children, the old, workers, the accused and prisoners, women and those under arrest.
"This is a great win for those who have been calling for equal rights for all and especially the rights of women. In the appointment of legislators, the draft proposes gender equality from every constituency.
This is a big win for those who agitate for equal rights," she said. Even as the second draft agrees that all human beings are equal, the issue of gender rights is not listed as a central one.
She said the draft in that light does not recognise the AU solemn declaration on 50/50 parity and yet Tanzania has ratified it. They also argue that the Katiba should call for a gender-responsive budget.
For example, with literacy levels among females being at 67 per cent and males - 84 per cent, access to employment opportunities between the two genders is still unbalanced.
Will that give me a hint on how rural life intends to address this imbalance? Also, the country's recent economic growth has been driven by the financial, construction and services industries, all sectors that mostly service the urban areas and relatively little growth has been seen in the agriculture sector, where more than two thirds of the population derive a livelihood.
The irony in-between, is that only 5 per cent of State budget goes to Education and Agriculture, putting some 16.5 million, which is 76.9 per cent of women living in rural areas and 10 million (60 per cent) of women in absolute poverty.
This is important as agriculture is one area of the national political life that affects the vast majority of our citizens.
Government records show that the employment trends between 1991-2006 indicate unemployment rate slightly dropped for both women (by 1.6 per cent) and men (by 0.9 per cent) ,meaning that there was a probable increase in number of women accessing employment.
However, since 1991 more women compared to men were not in formal employment (in Govt, Parastatals and Private Formal).
Yet, majority of women are engaged in Private Informal Sector and TraditionalAgriculture/ Subsistence Farming, and Housework-sectors that are characterized by having poor working conditions, low income gains/ unpaid work.
As such, there have been a marginal increased number of women employed in the formal sector (Govt, Parastatal and Private formal) between 1991 and 2006; thus indicating positive trends in women access to formal employment.
More women compared to men are overrepresented in the agriculture sector, where in 1991 it was 54.1 per cent of the women against 45.9 per cent for men. In 2006, it was 83 per cent for women and 17 per cent for men; a huge difference that works in the females' disadvantage.
More and more rural women are being relegated to the wretched of the earth because their education does not allow them to compete.
The vulnerable but resilient women of rural areas could hit back and it has more to do with their economic condition than the need for changes.