by Saul Giliard Daily (News reporter)
KAHAMA District in Shinyanga Region is divided into three councils; namely Ushetu, Kahama Town, and Msalala. Out of three councils, only four women managed to make it in the 2015 General Election to become councilors.
Flora Sagasaga is among lucky women who were elected as councilors in the previous General Election, 2015. She emerged as the winner at Mwaluguru ward in Msalala in Kahama District. For five years, she has been representing men and women, girls and boys at Msalala Council from six villages namely; Mwaluguru, Sungamile, Kilimbu, Bani, Mwankima, and Igundu.
Mwaluguru ward residents decided to elect female candidates over male contestants who took part in the election, thanks to Flora Sagasaga’s agendas geared to address challenges facing marginalized groups including women, girls, and other economically disadvantaged groups.
Due to the male-dominated system in all spheres of life including politics and economy, the chances of women in leadership posts are very minimal in the Lake Zone. The likes of Flora have unique stories on the challenges they encountered when they were seeking the chance to be nominated by their respective political parties and subsequently elected by wananchi.
The story of Flora in active politics goes back to 2000 when she contested for a councilor post under the Special Seat category. Since most women prefer to contest through the Special Seat Category, due to unfavorable environments resulting from stigma in some African cultures, Flora was not alone in the competition. She had a task to convince her CCM Party members that she was the right candidate for the post.
However, she emerged the winner, trailing the other 85 contestants. She represented wananchi of Mwaluguru for ten years. After gaining experience in politics, challenging men, and pushing women agendas in the Msalala Council, the woman thought it was the right time to leave a Special Seat for young female politicians. In 205, she picked a form to vie for Mwaluguru ward Councillorship.
What pushed her to contest were poor water and education services in Mwaluguru ward since she thought that the dual had jointly affected women’s development adversely.
She says, women and girls were wasting a lot of time searching for water while their counterparts, men and boys, were busy in income-generating activities while boys were in classes.
Looking more confident as she tries to make a point, the woman says she battled against male candidates to send a message that women can compete with men and win in free and fair elections. In 2015 she won by 50 percent of all votes cast ahead of the other five contested in the election.
Describing the roles she has played since she was elected through the ballot box, Ms. Sagasaga says, two primary schools and award secondary schools have been built at Bani and Igundu villages, thanks to good cooperation from Mwaluguru ward residents.
Linking the development with gender empowerment strategies, the councilor says, two newly constructed schools have reduced the walking distance to get an education.
Girls, according to her, are one of the beneficiaries. Some teenage girls who desperately want to finish their education live far from the safety of their villages and parents. Raping has been highlighted by gender activists as one of the major challenges facing girls who stay far away from schools.
“Our plan is to build dormitories at schools to enable students to stay in safe places, especially those who are at high risk of being impregnated due to the long walking distance to and from schools. Right now, some students at Bani village are being forced to walk up to 16 kilometers from home to school and vice versa,” says the politician.
Before 2015, women residing in Mwaluguru ward were supposed to walk up to eight-kilometers to Isaka to test for various diseases since their health facility had no laboratory. Some didn’t afford to go there to get the service.
After the election, she started fulfilling the promise to Mwaluguru residents by championing the idea of constructing laboratories and dispensaries at other five villages.
Mwakaluguru ward has modern health centers that provide quality services to residents including mothers and children. Water projects at four villages are in pipeline. She is optimistic that the completion of the water project will have a trickle-down.
Flora Sagasaga is one of few women politicians who gambled to leave a Special Seat position to convince men and women to elect her. She managed but it wasn’t simple.
Geoffrey J. Leonardelli studied cultural constraints on the emergence of women as leaders and wrote in the Journal of World Business as follows;
“Women, who have historically been less represented than men in leadership positions, emerge as leaders in some societies more than others. Unlike previous cultural explanations for this effect (rooted indifferences in values, practices, or gender roles), we argue that a culture’s tightness – its strength of norms and social sanctions – can provoke resistance to change practices that historically placed men in leadership positions. Tighter cultures will yield fewer women represented among top leadership positions.”
This is exactly what Ms. Sagasaga explains when she remembers the challenges she encountered when she declared that she wanted to lead her fellow wananchi to address various problems that were facing people at the ward.
She says her community’s tradition acts as an obstacle for women to lead because of the male-dominated system. As stated in the Journal of World Business, the tighter cultures in the community have resulted in fewer women in the leadership.
Shida Masunga is a resident of Mwaluguru Village. She says in her five years in power, Ms. Sagasaga has helped women to access loans amounting to 30m/-through their respective 20 groups. After being able to access loans, Shida says, women ventured into various small businesses and now they can sustain their family needs.
A Ban village resident Rehema Shija goes further to disclose that conflicts with their husbands have been reduced in many families because women are engaging in various economic activities to contribute to their families’ bread.
Generally, women have been transformed economically, thanks to Flora who was given a green light to articulate for women’s challenges they were passing through. Some women say their status in their respective family has changed to become bread earners.