As most of you know, Julius Kambarage Nyerere was the first president of Tanzania and every year on October 14th, all across the country, Tanzanians commemorate the anniversary of his death.
Nyerere worked as a teacher for most of his adult life until 1953 when he became to the president of the Tanganyika African Association. This would be his first foray into politics and the precursor to the fight for independence which he eventually gained in 1961.
In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar united to form Tanzania, and Nyerere became the country's first President. He resigned twenty years later, relinquishing power to his hand-picked successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, and remained chairman of the ruling party for five more years.
Despite the fact that Nyerere's reputation is controversial, he is often regarded as the most popular president of Tanzania and Baba wa Taifa or "Father of the Nation."
The op-ed below describes the effect of Nyerere's beliefs on the role of women in Tanzanian society, and why today's Tanzanian woman might owe him a debt of gratitude....
This week has been the "Mwalimu Julius Nyerere week." As the nation is set to commemorate the 18th anniversary since Mwalimu Julius Nyerere departed on October 14, 1999, a lot has been discussed about him and his legacy.
The Arusha Declaration has been part and parcel of the discussions in radio and television programs and feature articles have been written in local newspapers.
The 1967 declaration, famously known as Azimio la Arusha contained the key features of socialism and Mwalimu Nyerere's philosophical point of view is strongly featured.
Though former Tanzania Assembly Speaker, Pius Msekwa, says there were some weaknesses during the implementation of socialism and self-reliance backed by the Arusha Declaration, he admits that there is a lot to learn and still to be implemented.
Decades have passed since the Arusha Declaration came into effect and the nation is commemorating the 18th anniversary since Mwalimu Nyerere passed away in London Hospital, United Kingdom.
Currently, human rights groups in the country have invested heavily in supporting gender parity movements in the country. Education, economic empowerment, domestic violence, and gender-based budgets have been on top of its agenda.
On the other side, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been very supportive to women on the rights movement geared towards rescuing women from all forms of segregation.
However, did Mwalimu Nyerere's brain child, Azimio la Arusha, lay the foundation for women's rights? Examining the content of the Arusha Declaration, the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) had stipulated principles that entail a lot about the rights of women.
In this article, some of these principles are going to be discussed in relation to gender movements in the country.
It was declared that "all human beings are equal" and the Arusha Declaration believed that there should not be segregation in respect to sex, religion, or tribe affiliation. Hence, in accessing social services, or utilizing available resources available in the country, women were not left behind in the declaration.
Therefore, gender movements aimed at bringing equality should be an ongoing process until all traditional customs which act as obstacles toward eradicating gender inequality in the society are addressed. For many years now, Tanzania has been struggling for women's empowerment in economic, social, and political spheres. As of now, women are seeking a 50-50 percent representation in the Parliament.
It was during Mwalimu Nyerere's tenure that it was declared through the Arusha Declaration of 1967 that "every citizen is an integral part of the nation and has the right to take an equal part in government at local, regional, and national levels." The term "citizen" does not omit women.
Mwalimu Nyerere treated all human beings equally, hence the 50-50 demand of representation in the Parliament or any posts in the public and even private sector can also be traced from the Arusha Declaration.
"Every individual has a right to dignity and respect," is another loaded phrase proclaimed in the 1967's declaration. Everyone needs to be respected regardless of gender, religion, or tribe affiliation. There are some traditions that affect women, causing endless domestic violence in the community.
Stakeholders from both public and private institutions should spearhead initiatives to build a society that treats women with respect and dignity.
The Arusha Declaration stated that all citizens together should own all the natural resources in the country in trust for their descendants. But in this context, land has been a contentious issue for many tribes in the country and left women behind in ownership of it.
Women have mostly been engaged in agricultural activities, but denied the right to own land. Rights' activists have been fighting for this for many years in vain. However, there have been positive outcomes out of the movement seen in some tribes, where women have been allowed to own land for agriculture and other economic activities. In both formal and informal sectors, women are earning little in comparison to their male counterparts.
A CNBC feature titled "Men Still Earn More Than Women with the Same Jobs," published last year states that studies have shown that even when a woman has the same level of education as a man, the latter can be paid higher.
"Even when comparing the sexes with the same job title in the same company and using similar education and experience, the gender pay gap still persists. Men earned 2.4 percent more than women on average, down slightly from last year." Since inequality in pay between men and women has been a global issue, TANU spotted this and insisted on economic justice for all.
It is the role of the leaders and local activists now to team up and make sure that everyone in the society enjoys basic human rights and women's position in the society is recognized, not just as mere observers.