Gender equality and women’s empowerment

On March 8, the world celebrated Women’s Day. Once again for Tanzania, The Citizen’s Rising Woman Initiative made the day even more exciting.

The initiative, a brainchild of Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL), which kicked off last year, attracted women and men from different organisations who gathered at the Dar es Salaam Serena Hotel and deliberated various issues including the importance of women holding top positions for inclusive societal growth.

Starting in the morning with a special occasion of “Women in Energy Breakfast” the day culminated in the evening during the main event with panellists expressing their views on how the bias can be broken.

Some recounted the ordeal they had to go through before reaching the current level of being recognised in their communities. One such story that made this year’s initiative so unique, is that of Ms Rose Njilo from Ngorongoro who was married when she was just 12 years old. Hailing from the Maasai community, Ms Njilo, who was one of the panellists and director of the Mimutie Women Organization (Mwo), a watchdog for specialist groups (children and women) in pastoralist communities, says it is her courage and diligence that brought her to where she is today.

She says she got married shortly after finishing standard seven in 1997 as the third wife amidst many challenges that forced her not to tolerate the marriage.

“I was married off when I was 12, as a third wife to a 59 year old man, I went through several gender violence before I decided to run away from that marriage. In Maasai society, girls are booked to get married before they are even born,” she shares her story. Despite her lack of education, Ms Njilo says the idea of starting Mimutie came to her in 2011 after she successfully left the family with four children.

“I my children to my friends. Then I began to see that there was a reason to fight for the liberation of Maasai women from slavery,” she explained.

“Then I started an institution that is now a tool that helps those Maasai women and children who are in rural areas. I did not care that I did not know how to speak English, but I was still able to convey a message to people who understood my idea and supported it,” she added.

Other panellists were; the Regional Director for East and Central Africa at TradeMark East Africa, John Ulanga; CEO at the Legal Services Facility (LSF), Lulu Ng’wanakilala; Former Executive Director FSDT, Irene Mlola; Ms Rose Njilo, activists; Vodacom Tanzania Corporate Affairs Director, Rosalynn Mworia. Chief Executive Officer at the Legal Services Facility (LSF), Lulu Ng’wanakilala says, “I don’t think anyone should be like anybody else. I think everybody should be a better version of themselves.” 

“But we should strive to support each other wherever we can by identifying potentials and people who can grow; help and guide them to grow, give opportunities as well as full support. What is missing sometimes is the support,” she notes.

She believes that leadership is within everyone, “that’s why I always say leadership is not about a title, a title doesn’t make you a leader.”

Ms Irene Mlola, former executive director FSDT says her family, especially her parents are one of the key people who led her to reach higher levels of leadership but also to be among the women who have been able to fulfil their dreams.

“Putting a goal and believing in it is beyond physical limitations. For me that is my humble beginning that comes from the family where they allow you to become an open minded and quiet purpose in your life,” she reveals. Vodacom Corporate Affairs Director, Rosalynn Mworia said, “There is a business and economic case for gender equality, it’s not news we all know this, we have heard of numerous studies and position papers as companies and countries doing a lot of work to embrace gender equality.”

“As women, we have a greater responsibility to think on what else we can do to empower other women similar to how we were empowered. We have to be deliberate, intentional to raise and nurture them to rise,” she advises, calling upon women to be more creative and proactive in grabbing opportunities.

MCL board member John Ulanga says that Tanzania is on the right track with more women in senior leadership positions, citing the fact that Tanzania was the first to produce the first female secretary general during the Beijing conference in 1995.

“Ever since we have seen quite a number of women holding very senior positions internationally, but also at the national level. I think we are on the right track…” he exudes.

He says that Mwananchi Communications Limited values women, because without them it would not have existed and most of its leaders are women and quite a huge percentage of the company’s workforce are women.

Mr Ulanga, who doubles as regional Director for East and Central Africa at TradeMark, said: “We are proud to have the first female President in the country, I might be controversial but I’m sure the room that made a decision to make her the running mate was probably full of men and fewer women.”

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