Roughly 24 years after the Beijing declaration, women are yet to enjoy equal rights as men.
On the week of the International Women’s Day, the Tanzania National Engagement Strategy (NES) in collaboration with non-NES members organised a series of events to advocate for gender equality and justice.
With the theme:“Badili fikra kufikia usawa wa kijinsia kwa maendeleo endelevu” in Swahili meaning (change the perception to attain gender equality for sustainable development), the week involved several dialogue meetings, which brought together various community representatives, decision makers and actors to discuss gender equality.
Roadmap to Beijing 25 years later, where are we?
On 1-6 March 2019, 130 women met in Dodoma to reflect on the achievements met in Tanzania, 24 years after the Beijing conference. The reflection was guided by the above theme. The meeting was an opportunity to explore how to best campaign for the implementation of the 1995 Beijing commitments.
In September 1995 during the fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, a declaration was made which commits to advancing the goal of equity, development and peace for all.
During this conference, the Tanzanian government committed to four obligations. They include:
- Equal participation between men and women in politics and leadership;
- Availability of employment and education for women;
- The respect and adequate protection of the human rights of women; and
- Economic empowerment and poverty eradication.
Increased women in decision-making bodies
The meeting equally evaluated women in key public positions in Tanzania. It noticed for example, that the current vice president and deputy speaker of the national assembly are women. Other senior positions such as ministers and deputy ministers, permanent secretaries, regional commissioners, district commissioners are equally held by women. In The grassroots, women are increasingly recognised, with some holding leadership positions.
On government commitments, delegates realised that it rolled out policies and plans, which promotes women’s rights. For instance, it established the Tanzania Women’s Bank (TWB), the Women Development Fund, Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) and Village Community Banks (VICOBA). Other plans include the Tanzania Development Vision 2025, which focuses on gender equality and inclusiveness.
Hon. Antony Mavunde, the Deputy Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office responsible for Policy, Parliamentary Affairs, Labour, Employment, Youth and the Disabled delivering a speech to thousands of women gathered at the Mashujaa grounds in Dodoma appreciated the efforts taken by the government to ensure equal rights to men and women in economic, social and political affairs. He also said the government is committed to improving its service delivery for the benefit of women and community at large.
Delegates also noted that though Tanzania has made a lot of progress in recent times, there are still gaps to cover. For example, the Beijing Conference declaration is not known to women at the local level.
To change this, participants agreed to form a mini task-force of five people to coordinate engagements and meetings to reflect on the agenda and focus on the struggle for women’s rights to ensure effective flow of information.
Women and land as an economic and social opportunities
On March 7, 2019, community groups, civil society organisations, international and governmental institutions met at the Royal village hotel in Dodoma to reflect on women and land as an economic and social opportunity.
This involved revisiting the legal framework on women land rights and actual realities. Local women shared their struggles and experiences on social and economic liberations from the state and social exclusions.
Decision makers, including the commissioner for lands, also discussed government-led initiatives aimed at ensuring the security of tenure for women. Pastoralists and women also shared their journey, struggles and successes. They encouraged each other to continue fighting for their social, political and economic rights.
Legal aid clinic
Many good legislation protecting women’s land rights in Tanzania exist, yet rural women don’t master how to exploit them to secure their land rights, especially after their husbands die. During the international women’s week, advocates of the High Court of Tanzania from different organisations (NES and Non- NES members) including TNRF, Women’s Legal Aid Centre (WLAC), Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) and the Tanzania Land Alliance (TALA) provided legal aid to men and women on 5-8 March 2019. The clinic equipped women with tools to fight for their land rights. For example, it helped women to understand procedures to secure inherited lands. The clinic’s data showed that most land conflicts cases resulted from inheritance, farming and pastoralism.
Supporters of the Women’s Day events
NES Tanzania members including International organisations like Care, Oxfam and Landesa and local partners like the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum (TNRF), HakiArdhi, the Tanzania Land Alliance (TALA), Parakuyo Indigenous Community Organization (PAICODEO), the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA),) and other non-NES members supported the events.
Researchers, activists, representatives from the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements, Ministry of Health Community Development Gender Elderly and Children (MoHCDGEC) and the Ministry of Constitutional and legal affairs also helped in planning the International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration week in Tanzania.
The week came to an end with various activities including a peaceful demonstration of women demanding for gender equity.