Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lady Leaders

Not too long after we enacted the Toa Nafasi leadership intervention for our teaching staff (, this article was posted in The Tanzania Daily News.

Lots of interesting stuff to digest here: Can a woman only be a leader if she is first a mother?  Do all mothers provide for their families in the way described below?  Will Kiswahili-based debates produce better leaders than English ones?  Are men inherently more given to corruption than women?  This article makes a lot of assumptions!

However, it also contains this one sentence I love: "Debate as a skill is essential in nurturing talkative citizens who understand logic as their first tool of analysis and the art of embracing dissent."


Women in Leadership - Why Gap Is Still Wide 

All women have in-born leadership character.  What needs to be added is talent promotion, and this mostly should be done to African women, who work hard but earn very little," says political scientist and human rights activist, Professor Ruth Meena, also Chairperson of the Coalition of Women and Constitution Tanzania. 

Prof. Meena also emphasizes that women have in-born listening skills, an important leadership element which serves in maintaining flexibility, among other qualities.  The only hurdle that women have to grapple with is the 'outdated' patriarchal system which has thrived for ages and is maintained by men for fear of being conquered.

"There is nothing to fear, women are naturally powerful in leadership and have been so in their own right ever since they became mothers.  Almost all poor families' survival depends much on the struggles of the mothers."

According to Prof. Meena, there are many cases involving men who abandoned their families, leaving women and children to suffer on their own.  However, mothers finally come up with solutions to make sure the children and other members of the family lead a normal life.

"Is there any other leadership technique that is worth the word than providing food to family members, sending children to school, and providing them with all necessary educational materials and even making sure they have access to health services any time?" she queries.  Yet, it is the same women whom society has denied their rights to take up leadership positions, including those in the political and economic arena.

"I believe it is time that the relevant appointing authorities including President John Magufuli see that more and more women get leadership positions and that they are capable enough to bring about quick family and national positive changes."

According to Prof. Meena, it is this kind of denial to get sufficient leadership positions which compelled women activists to form various organizations, including the Coalition of Women and Constitution Tanzania, to lobby for these opportunities.

The Coalition is getting set to revive the debate on the availability of a new Constitution which promotes the "Women's Bill of Rights," according to Prof. Meena, who also chaired the Coalition.

Apart from the efforts seeking to raise the issue of women in leadership, Prof. Meena also mentions the right of education to female children and proposed the inclusion of Leadership as a subject in the public primary school education curricula.

"This move will help produce not only more fighters but also create competent female leaders to spearhead sustainable positive changes in the society."  The Feza schools organization supported Prof. Meena's point, saying there also should be regular debate sessions in schools to help create confidence and promote talent, especially in female students, many of whom have exhibited a natural inferiority complex, when compared to their male counterparts.

The director of the Feza schools organization, Ibrahim Yunus, insisted that as per the saying "charity begins at home," good leaders should be created from childhood.  Last week, Feza conducted a debate which brought together over 153 students from 10 public and private schools, spread across 4 regions in the country, namely Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Pwani, and Zanzibar.

The debate, dubbed "The Future of Tanzania" was conceptualized on the theme, "Assertive Youth for a Better Africa."

"Debate as a skill is essential in nurturing talkative citizens who understand logic as their first tool of analysis and the art of embracing dissent," he said.

Commenting on what should be done to make sure there is equality in leadership matters, unlike currently where men seemed to overturn women, the director said, "Let us first create the well-educated and confident professionals with enough leadership skills in regard with gender balance."

"Then, time will tell what is next."  The debate female finalist Shally Jackson, from Tusiime Secondary School supported the motion, saying she was not sure as there were enough well-educated females to compete with men in leadership sphere.

She predicted that even if there were skilled women, most seemed to have been lacking confidence, and she proposed regular self-confidence workshops to those already in jobs.  For schoolchildren, continuous debate would play a significant role but she forecast that if the English language is used as a medium of communication, it might be a barrier especially in public learning institutions.

"I would like to propose Kiswahili-based dialogues in these competitions so as to draw many participants.  Only private and public schools' intermingling can serve in promoting participants' self-confidence, among others," she opined.

On her part, Executive Director of Women Fund Tanzania (WFT), Ms. Mary Rusimbi said that Tanzanian women have been politically denied their constitutional rights for too long.  She said it was time for Tanzania to practically implement women rights' in the regional and international agreements it has been signing, adding that if the question was level of education, there are so many elite female from various fields.

"Generally, there are lots of claims and charted strategies on the issue of women's leadership, but the government should first address this gender balance in politically related issues.  The findings show that there are enormous achievements in most institutions led by women simply because they are not getting bribed in any way," she said.

"People should think about the number of male public servants who have been experiencing demotions in association with corruption, negligence, theft etc.  I have never heard of a woman falling into this trap, if my memory serves me right, " says Ms Rusimbi.

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