Appetized by her consistent promises to undertake institutional reforms and increase the number of women in the positions of power, I was quick to find out the composition of men and women in the cabinet reshuffle undertaken by President Samia on 8th January 2022.
After a deep dive into the two lists containing the names of the newly appointed and reappointed ministers, deputy ministers, permanent and deputy permanent secretaries, I saw some changes that made me happy, and some that made me think that the journey to attaining equal gender representation in the decision-making structures in Tanzania is still steep, rocky and thorny.
Let’s start with the happy things first:
The separation of community development, gender, women and special groups from the Ministry of Health is the foundation of the desired transformation in Tanzania’s gender and social inclusion efforts.
The vast and pressing needs of the health sector eclipsed the gender and community development issues from getting the desired attention, technical assistance and financial allocations. President Samia’s intent to pay more attention on gender and social inclusion issues was first demonstrated in March 2021 when she appointed a specific deputy minister for gender issues. The move was later reinforced through the appointment of the specific committee to work on Generation Equality commitments and most recently with the institutionalization of the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups.
The rise in the number of full ministers who are women from seven to nine, making the percentage of women full minister rise from 30% to 36%, is also commendable. This particular increase deserves applauding as President Samia’s first round of appointments back in March 2021 saw only five (21%) women as full ministers, an increase of one full female minister from late President Magufuli’s last cabinet. The continuous increase in the number of women ministers could be an indication of President Samia’s increased confidence in her women in leadership agenda and also in her attempts to forge a different legacy from her predecessor.
I’m inclined to applaud the appointment of Dr Stergomena Tax, the first female Defense Minister, although her appointment happened back in September 2021, and she has been retained in the same position in the recent reshuffle. Her appointment will remain in history books as the post is considered a male domain.
Sadly, six ministries out of 22 are 100% headed by men, and this should be a concern for any gender equality and women advancement believer. In these particular ministries, the minister, deputy minister, permanent secretaries and deputy permanent secretaries are all men. It is disturbing to learn that the appointing authority could not get women to be part of the Ministries of Home Affairs, Energy, Minerals, Communication, Agriculture and Livestock. At this moment, I’m dismissing the urge to bring to your attention plenty of research that demonstrates the myriad gender dynamics in these ministries. It is not about what the ministries are focusing on. It is about the fact that government institutions of any nature, form and focus should both vertically and horizontally be headed by a good mix of men and women. The expectation was that President Samia would try to avoid the oversight in her March 2021 reshuffle where five ministries were as well 100% male-led, but reality poised by the current reshuffle is quite disturbing.
The number of Deputy Ministers has also reduced by one per cent following the promotion of Dr. Angelina Mabula to full Minister of Land and Housing. Now there are 5 (20%) women out of 25 deputy ministers, the same number as the Late President Magufuli’s last cabinet.
The number of women permanent secretaries and deputy permanent secretaries is also disturbingly low. There are only are 4 (15.3%) women among the 26 permanent secretaries, again similar to the Late President Magufuli’s last composition of permanent secretaries. There are also 6 women (20%) among the 30-deputy permanent secretaries, suggesting no difference with President Samia’s appointments in April 2021. It is worth noting that, there were 11 women deputy permanent secretaries and 18 men in the last list of President Magufuli’s deputy permanent secretaries list.
It is often difficult for women to acquire and exercise leadership skills in the political sphere. The role of Deputy Minister, Permanent and Deputy Secretaries are among the opportunities to build up women who will eventually be able to take on the role of full ministers, prime minister, and beyond. The dearth of women in these positions should remind the President to forge a long term and strategic vision for supporting women into political leadership.
When a President has a strong inclusion inclination and extensive powers to deliver on the inclination, the outcomes can be positive and meaningful. In Tanzania however, the gender responsive appointments remain the discretion of the President and thus lacking sustainability. For as long as the Executive retains extensive appointment powers, something which I strongly feel needs changing as a matter of urgency, other checks need to be put into place to ensure that any President, whatever their inclination, appoints inclusively. The checks need to include a clear threshold in the laws to ensure that men and women, including those with disabilities and of different backgrounds, are provided with the legally ring-fenced equal opportunities to be appointed in various positions.
On the new ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups, I am confused on whether issues of youth and persons with disabilities are now placed in this particular ministry. The confusion is caused by the existence of the words ‘special groups’ in the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups and with the retention of the words ‘youth and persons with disabilities’ within the Prime Minister’s Office, Policy, Parliament, Employment, Youth and PWDs. Special groups have been interpreted to mean children, the elderly, youth and persons with disabilities etc. Clarification on this matter is necessary given that the Prime Minister’s Office is also focused on the already extensive issues of Policies, Parliament and Employment.
By Victoria Lihiru