Monday, August 26, 2013

TWCN: Include high leadership roles for women in constitution

MEMBERS of a coalition group, the Tanzania Women Constitutional Networking (TWCN) have analyzed various shortcomings in relation to women’s rights evident in the new constitutional draft. About 25 women groups with their representatives from various parts of the country gathered last week in Dar es Salaam in a two day seminar that aimed to deliberate various matters together with how the new constitution will help protect women’s rights in the country. The group members also had time to register their views pertaining to basic rights of women, demanding epoch making changes in key elements, apparently skipped in the draft for a new constitution. The seminar organized by the Women Fund of Tanzania (WFT) in collaboration with the Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP) came up with some recommendations for consideration in finalizing the process for enacting a new constitution. One such proposal is that women should hold one of the highest ranking government positions such as president, vice-president or prime minister, by placing it in the constitution that it is part of women’s basic rights of leadership functions. Prof. Ruth Meena of the Dar es Salaam based Institute of Diplomacy, who represented WFT group, said in an interview that gender balance consideration is non-existent in the selection of high ranking government officials. This aspect of gender balance should be included in the new constitution so that it opens an avenue for women capable of holding top most positions to do so, similar to what is being done in other countries. Women’s rights on breastfeeding after child birth are not highlighted in the constitutional draft as earlier recommended by most women groups, she said. As this is a most sensitive issue for child growth, the constitutional draft should make it clear that employees (women) who are breast feeding obtain a proper   time frame to feed their babies, recommending that the time frame should be   six months instead of three as it is now, the don underlined.  There are no basic gender rights in national values, which should be introduced to value leadership ethics, she said, noting that this would lessen discrimination. 

Professor Ruth Meena analyzing a point during her presentation.

According to her, women’s rights should be made clear and with transparency embedded in the manner of implementation, such that the government’s obligations of protecting women’s rights are raised to a higher level. A regulatory tasked with following up on women’s complaints or technical inquiries is needed, to make the legal implementation process adequate, the don specified. Usu Mallya, executive director for the Tanzania Gender Network Program (TGNP), said that concern about women agenda had been raised at all levels so that they are given rights as deserved. There are still some challenges that need to be addressed in this quest, she stated. Government needs to put in place legal and policy arrangements that will facilitate equal participation of women in top level leadership, she said, underlining that a democratic constitution must acknowledge substantive gender equality.  It must include collective voices of both genders, “highlighting shared values and key principles,” she further asserted.  A Gender and Development Seminar Series (GDSS) bringing together people with disabilities, youths, entrepreneurs, small scale farmers and marginalized groups is being organized to chart the way forward in building a gender balanced society, the director noted. Susan Lyimo, the deputy chairperson of the Tanzania Women Parliamentary Group (TWPG) affirmed the vital inputs of women in attaining a democratic constitution accepted by all. Women MPs were delighted with the draft as most issues they proposed had been taken up but a few issues relating to essential expectations of women constitutionally, she said. It is vital to have a constitution which caters for the needs of all and throughout recognizes the positive contribution of women in society, she said, informing seminar participants that the deliberations and views would be tabled in the forthcoming session of the National Assembly. 

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