Why JPM lags behind on 50-50 gender issue

Wednesday March 8 2017


By Esther Karin Mngodo @es_taa ekmngodo@tz.nationmedia.com

Dar es Salaam.The number of women in senior leadership positions is diminishing in the fifth phase government except for judges, government statistics show.

As the world marks International Women’s Day today, data from the government shows that the number of women holding key decision making positions has fallen compared with the previous government under Mr Jakaya Kikwete, and there are calls for more political will in the endeavour to attain gender balance.

President Magufuli promised during his campaign ahead of the 2015 General Election to support the 50-50 agenda but gender activists are now worried that his appointments have not reflected his pledge.

His picking of a woman for vice president was applauded, but two years into his presidency questions linger about his administration’s commitment to gender parity.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”, but analysts contend that Tanzania is dragging its feet as far as attaining this goal is concerned.

Data released by the President’s Office, Public Service Management, reveals that the country still has a long way to go. The statistics, which were published in 2016, indicate that the women-to-men ratio in government is 28:72 where 2,573 women hold various positions compared with 6,674 men. The top five cadres for gender parity in government are judges (41 per cent), assistant directors (40 per cent), deputy permanent secretaries (38 per cent), deputy ministers (31 per cent), and MPs (37 per cent).


Women in Parliament

There are currently 141 female MPs in Parliament and 236 men, making a total of 378 lawmakers. This is represented by a ratio of 37:63. However, taking a closer look at the numbers would reveal that the number of women representatives is relatively high because 80 per cent of the women (113 lawmakers) hold special seats. There are also four women MPs nominated by the President. Only 26 women were elected to Parliament in 2015. However, this number is marginally higher than the 21 elected women MPs in the previous parliament.

But an overall comparison with the Kikwete administration shows that there are much less women in government today.

As Mr Kikwete was leaving, most government departments had more women in leadership than is the case today. For instance, 40 per cent of district administrative secretaries were women compared with 16 per cent currently. Women comprised 36 per cent of ambassadors compared with 21 per cent presently.

Mr Kikwete’s final Cabinet comprised 57 members (32 ministers and 25 deputy ministers). Only 16 of them were women, equivalent to 28 per cent. Ten ministers were women while six were deputy ministers.

Dr Magufuli, on the other hand, slashed the Cabinet to only 35 members, 19 of them being ministers and 16 deputy ministers. Among these, nine were women, equivalent to 25 per cent. The number of women ministers and deputy ministers is four and five, respectively.

Attaining 50:50

Article 12 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (2008) says, “States Parties shall endeavour that, by 2015, at least fifty per cent of decision-making positions in the public and private sectors are held by women including the use of affirmative action measures as provided for in Article 5.” Tanzania has ratified the Protocol.

However, Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP) Board Director Vicensia Shule says it is currently virtually impossible to attain the 50:50 goal.

“We are moving backwards. The mishap we saw in January when the President almost forgot that the law requires a 50/50 ratio among nominated MPs is proof of how blind he is to gender issues and how insensitive he is,” she said.

She adds that the President’s apparent criteria on who deserves to be a leader leaves many women out.

“The government is now male-dominated. Women are afraid to come out because of sexist remarks we hear being directed at us. Those who are in leadership have to sacrifice a great deal,” Dr Shule says.

However, Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) Deputy National Coordinator Anna Kulaya is optimistic. She is of the view that the current state of affairs can be changed.

“It must start at the grassroot level. Do we see women taking part in matters that concern them? Do they participate in village land councils? It is more than having it on paper as policy. It should start with including women at that level,” she says, adding that political will is paramount.

Some positions in which women are not well represented include regional commissioners, whereby among the 26 RCs appointed by Dr Magufuli only five are women (19 per cent).

There are currently 42 ambassadors, of whom 33 are men and nine women (21 per cent).

There is, however, improvement in some areas. According to data released by the President’s Office, Public Service Management, the Judiciary is exemplary with 41 per cent of judges being women, up from 39 per cent in 2015.

The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, says the President has shown willingness to include more women in key decision making positions.

“I believe that we can attain the 50:50 ratio by 2030 if we invest in education and enable women to also contest leadership positions. I think the President has shown his desire to include more women in his government by picking Samia Suluhu as the vice president.”