Tanzania: Mwananchi Forum - Tanzania Makes Steady Progress Towards Goal of Gender Equality

Dar es Salaam — Tanzania has seen recent progress in gender equality issues, including girls' access to primary and secondary education.

This follows the abolition of school fees by the government at the primary and secondary level which led to an increase in school enrolment and attendance of both girls and boys across the country.

With the available data showing that school enrolment of female students in secondary schools in Tanzania was reported at 33.26 percent in 2019, compared to five percent in 2000, according to the World Bank.

Women have also seen an improvement in access to employment in the key sectors such as manufacturing, trade, hotels and food services.

Not only that but also, at the family level, as women currently enjoy their representation in decision-making spaces.

The 2010/11 to 2014/15 national data show that the proportion of women in senior leadership positions also increased from 33 percent to 41 percent.

However, the earnings from agriculture, which is one of the country's most important economic drivers are still lower for women than for men, local studies have shown.

Government's handling of gender equality

The government recently (2018/19 budget) announced a tax exemption on sanitary towels to help keep girls in school and cited the Village Land Act, which supports women's right to own land, and the Legal Aid Act, these are amongst several government initiatives designed to move towards the realization of gender equality in the country.

Again, Tanzania has ratified both the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Agenda and the long-term 2063 African Union Agenda, as well as regional development plans, such as the South African Development Community (Sadc) and the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (2005-2020) in its commitment to fully capture gender equality issues and women's empowerment in the country.

To prompt further gender equality progress and the implementation of the SDGs in the country, Head of National Influencing from Oxfam Tanzania, Dr George Mwita, calls for effective participation of local government authorities (LGAs) and stakeholders to define how SDGs on gender should be adapted in the country.

"Achieving gender justice is not a matter of basic rights only. It's also a key way of achieving fairer societies and overcoming poverty. And we all have an equal part to play in making it happen," Dr Mwita told The Citizen in an exclusive interview.

Adding: "It is high time for authorities to define and shape the policies, structures and decisions that affect women's lives and society as a whole."

Dr Mwita is also of the view that financing or allocation of adequate resources is essential for developing a statistical system in order to monitor and evaluate the current gender equality progress and address the key challenges that persist.

"As a country, we believe that transforming gender and power relations, and the structures, norms and values that underpin them, is critical to ending poverty and challenging inequality. Therefore, I would advise the government to take the necessary initiative to support and protect women rights," says Dr Mwita. Adding "I believe that women taking control and taking collective action are the most important drivers of sustained improvements in women's rights, and are a powerful force to end poverty not only for women and girls, but for others too," adds Dr Mwita.

For his part, Mr Nicodemus Shauri, the programme manager from Tanzania Education Network (Tenmet) urges the authorities to put in place comprehensive strategies to address unresolved challenges facing vulnerable women in the country.

"Indeed, progress is made "politically" and not in practical terms. Let's talk about education. A girl becomes pregnant for some reasons beyond her control but she is denied her right to continue with studies especially in public schools which are not private or personal property! No discussion or dialogue about it," says Mr Shauri.

He adds: "We have turned blind eyes to what's happening in Zanzibar. Leave alone Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Sudan who allow their girls to continue with their studies."

Coordinator at the Crisis Resolving Centre (CRC) and a member of Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA) Gladness Munuo appeals to the government to provide free sanitary pads to school girls so as to empower them to attend classes throughout the academic years.

She further asserts that it is a high time for the government to establish a fast track Court for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) disputes.

"I also ask the government to facilitate and support Civil Society Organizations that are working to make sure that our women and children enjoy their lives," says Ms Munuo.

While the executive director of the Children's Dignity Forum (CDF) Koshuma Mtengeti appeals to the government to reform laws and policies such as the Law of Marriage Act-1971 in order to prompt further gender equality in the country and address a number of challenges such as school drop outs due to teenager pregnancy and child marriages.

Given these divergent trends and realities, how do Tanzanians perceive issues of gender equality?

The latest Afrobarometer survey findings show that most Tanzanians support equal rights and opportunities for women. Most also think - or thought before the latest pronouncements on pregnant schoolgirls, birth control, and fake fingernails - that the government is doing a good job of promoting gender equality and that in fact parity has been achieved on key issues of education, work, and land ownership.

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