Reasons why mending gender gap in political leadership is key

By Saul Gilliard (Daily News reporter)

According to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report (2018), which measures gaps in four thematic areas; Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment, the gender gap remains wide.

The report entails that in the area of political empowerment, the gender gap remains at 77.1% while economic and opportunity gaps stand at 41.9%. The WEF through its 2018 report warns that; if measures are not taken to address these gaps, it will take countries in Sub-Saharan Africa 135 years to close them in all the four dimensions.

It was stated that the gender gap “is the wealth gap within and among nations, posing yet another challenge to the women’s rights movement. For example, the 2018 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report shows that the top 10% of adults own 85% of global wealth while 64% of adults own only 1.9% of global wealth and that more than 90% of adults in India and Africa belong to this latter category.”

This is why rights groups are calling for inequality in accessing resources and basic services such as education. They believe that contradictions within the global system seem to have stimulated a consciousness among human rights activists generally and feminist/women’s rights activists, in particular, to demand a transformed world with an alternative global system which is fairer, more just and more equitable.

As the World Economic Report details how women have been left behind on all spheres of lives, outgoing Special Seat Councilor at Malunga Ward in Kahama Town Council in Shinyanga Region, Bernadetha Mbagale discloses what is behind the problem.

She says for a couple of years back, her community’s tradition has been holding back women when they tried to contest for the leadership posts. She opined that the impact of gender blind traditions has vividly seen in the decision making bodies whereby women, who play an important role in society, are less represented.

Focusing on the roles of councilors in local governments, marginalized groups like women, girls, and people living with disabilities will not be lagging if not well presented.  Ruth Carlitz whose study “Councillors’ oversight role and promotion of local-level accountability: Experiences and Emerging Lessons” published by Accountability in Tanzania Programme (AcT) explains clearly the roles of councilors and reflection of it is, it is a must; everyone should be represented in the decision making bodies.

Among other roles, Ruth Carlitz writes: “Over the past two decades, Tanzania has undergone a series of reforms meant to devolve power and resources to the local government level. These reforms confer additional powers upon the district council1 – the decision-making political body at the district level, composed of members elected from each ward within the district2 – in terms of planning, budgeting, and oversight at the local level.”

She explains that district councilors represent “a potentially important part of Tanzania’s accountability landscape.” This means, if they are gender blind policymakers and implementers, women will not be liberated as it has articulated echoed by Bernadetha Mbagale.

On the other side, the Global Gender Gap Report (2018), can be vividly verified in Kahama District whereby out of 58 councilors who were elected in 2015 by wananchi through polls, only four were women and the rest were men. If the Constitution of Tanzania was blind on the matter, it means that that additional 21 women obtained through Special Seats would not get in the councils.

Explaining how she managed to make it in such an unfavorable environment, Bernadetha says she was lucky enough to get an opportunity to be in class despite the notion that educating females is a waste of resources.

After she completed her Secondary School education in 1994 at Wigehe, Bernadetha ventured into active politics. By the time, her role model in politics was her father who was Malunga Village Chairman.

After the reintroduction of the multiparty system in 1992, she joined Chama Cha Mapinduzi- Youth Wing (UV-CCM). From 1997 to 2002, she served as a wing secretary at Malunga.

“Most of my classmates’ political journey ended midway. The reason is that they didn’t get support from their respective families. My case is different. My father was my role modal…I dreamed that one day I would lead like him. My marriage didn’t dwarf my political aspiration…I put more effort,” she says.

Her persistence in political movements in male-dominated politics ended up getting various political posts from the ward to the district level. She anticipated expanding her scope in politics to serve more women and girls by contesting for Special Seat MP.

Strategies

Ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) Women’s Wing in Kahama District, Thelesphora Saria says she has been encouraging fellow women to contest for various posts during the General Election.

The politician is not happy with the few numbers of females in the decision making bodies in Kahama amid the positive testimonies from the field that they are good performers when given opportunities to lead. According to the chairman, women have proved to be capable of solving various problems in society specifically in education, water, and health sectors.

She advises women who got various posts under the Special Seat category to ‘graduate’ to give room for younger politicians an opportunity to generate leadership experience before contesting in the wards and constituencies.