by Saul Gilliard (Daily News reporter)
“When I decided to contest for a post of chairperson at Majengo Mapya Local Government in Kihonda, Morogoro, last year, I faced a lot of challenges. The situation was even worse when I was going to pick up a form,” says Margret Kigodi who is currently leading the area.
Some challenges she encountered during the democratic process that gives men and women equal opportunities to contest, were harassment, threats, and being named after various embarrassing names from sections of her fellow women as well as men.
Since she was a strong woman, she managed to face all blocks set on her way and subsequently won the post. This is a reason why she argues with her fellow women: We shouldn’t let down each other….we ought to work together in getting rid of the male-dominated system that has been here for ages.
The Majengo Mapya chairperson opines that women should reverse the notion that they are not fit in various leadership posts by working hard to prove that they can lead as men do.
As campaigns set to kick off till general election where Tanzanians will get the opportunity to elect councilors, members of parliament, and president from both Mainland and Isles, Ms. Kigodi asks women who were put off by such segregation in previous elections to come back to contest.
Since the majority of people who turn out in the Election Day are women, she says, the group should use the opportunity to decide wisely by electing leaders who can address their challenges as she insists “If women are contesting various post seem to be able to represent us in various decision-making bodies, let’s vote them.”
The move will encourage and give more rooms to other women to participate in the process. This will reverse the preconceived ideas by members of the community that women are weak to lead since they have no self-confidence in decision making.
Though she admits that she is among women who succumbed to gender segregation when she decided to contest in the 2019 Local Government Election in the Morogoro region, there are positive changes that have been recorded in recent years.
“Few women who have been given opportunities to lead have proved beyond the reasonable doubt that they can lead the society to achieve people-centered development,” she assures.
Various political party election manifestos are not mum in articulating women’s and girls’ position in bringing development. This entails that these groups shouldn’t wait to be engaged but to be in the front line in seeking various posts in any election process.
This comes amid the fact that women are mostly used in election campaigns as entertainers. After the end process of getting leaders for a specified period, women and girls go back to ‘business as usual’ with no tangible agenda aiming at emancipating them from extreme poverty.
However, of chairperson at Majengo Mapya, Local Government calls for unity between men and women to address addressing male-dominated systems should they want to get rid of economic exploitative systems and bring development to all regardless of age, sex and tribe boundaries.
Kibena Kingo is another woman who managed to fight against the status quo. In 2015, she emerged the winner to become councilor of the Ngengere ward in Morogoro District in the Morogoro Region. She even climbed another ladder after being elected by fellow councilors as the Chairperson of the Morogoro District Council.
She narrates; it wasn’t simple to convince ordinary people and male councilors to elect her. The secret behind the success is her persistence fighting to prove to her doubters that female politicians can lead people in eradicating poverty and bring development.
After gaining leadership experience, she discloses to her fellow female aspirants and the general public that women can contest and win any political post since they can lead.
“We (women and girls) throw away these opportunities ….like men, we can vie for any post at ward and constituency levels. What we ought to do is to present women emancipation agendas fearlessly when we are running for various political posts,” she says.
Still, most men do not trust women in leadership posts, she adds as she singles out stigma as one of the challenges women leaders face in the council meeting; whereby female leaders are being compared with children.
As rights groups are fighting for 50-50 in all political posts, the politician is encouraging fellow women to contest for any political posts in this 2020 General election with agendas that gear to alleviate poverty among men and women.
Ms. Kingo says, when she picked a form for the first time, she expected stiff competition from both men and women but it was vice versa was. She explains that her agenda was everything in her entire campaigning time.
Before high posts she held before the dissolution of the Council, Ms. Kingo worked as a Village Executive Officer and later as Ward secretary of Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM). This, however, can be a good experience to share with young female politicians who intend to contest for various posts this year and beyond.
In 2010, she contested for councillorship post. According to her, she got a landslide win, thanks to support from both men and women in Ngerengere. Since she worked on her promises and in the following election, 2015, her supporters picked a form for her to contest again. She won again. After gaining practical experience in politics, she encourages her fellow women to focus beyond limited Special seat posts.
Halima Langeni who was a Special Seat Councilor in Kilosa District says, majority of women, especially those who live in a rural setting, are uneducated. Men take this advantage to contest various posts, leaving their counterparts behind.
She is of opinion that, education is a maiden tool that can be used to emancipate women from the male-dominated system.
“Most women in rural areas engage themselves in agriculture and other domestic works….not in politics. They don’t want to lead others. If you find a woman in Kilosa vying for any political post, two things are involved…education and exposure,” the former council discloses.
On the other side, Halima implicates some men behind the failure of female politicians. They have made others believe that, for women, leadership is directly linked to prostitution. This, according to Halima, discourages most women from seeking such posts since they are being branded ‘bad names.’
In addressing the situation, local Non-Governmental Organisation, Save the Future Foundation Director, Khan Halfa says there is a plan to raise awareness on good governance and qualities of leaders whereby women groups and girls in schools are the main targets.