Female MPs show if empowered, ‘we can do’
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SOME women Members of the Zanzibar House of Representatives stand outside the debating chamber during break.

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THE recent ordinary session of the Zanzibar House of Representatives made history with the participation of women in the decision-making bodies.

The performance of women during the last Zanzibar House of Representatives session was the best in terms of contributions which enriched political debate and led to important reforms. Many women legislators had more chance of airing their views compared. This development indicates good results of the women empowerment project.

Zanzibar House of Representatives Speaker Zubeir Ali Maulid and the head of government business in the legislature, Seif Ali Iddi, were among the the many leaders in the House who praised the performance of women. The 33 women legislators in the male-dominated House proved vocal in their contributions.

The Zanzibar House of Representatives has 86 Members of Parliament. “We were all happy that the debates in the House were dominated by women who made good contributions. Let them keep up,” Speaker Maulid said. Ambassador Iddi also praised women for proving that they can perform better if empowered with education.

Although almost all women legislators had good performance in the House, names such as Zulfa Mmaka Omar (Special Seats), Viwe Khamis Abdalla (Special Seats), Wanu Hafidh Ameir (Special Seats), and Asha Abdalla Mussa (Kiwengwa Constituency) were common throughout the sessions. The women’s voices were higher when the lawmakers discussed issues like corruption, education, health, gender-based violence, drugs abuse and people with disabilities.

Other subjects were politics, agriculture and access to justice, security, human rights, marriage and environment. The illicit drug trade and abuse of children sparked heated debates with many women asking for a chance to speak. Mwantatu Mbaraka Khamis, a disabled, said: “Everyone has a role to play to end drug business.

” “The situation of drug abuse is worse than we can imagine. While the addicts are mentally affected, most parents are psychologically affected by stress,” she said. Some backbenchers such as Viwe Khamis Abdulla think that sober houses are irrelevant as some dishonest persons use the centres to continue selling drugs.

Zanzibar has eleven sober houses established by volunteers to help young people recover from drug addiction. Asha Abdalla Mussa’s private motion on ‘How to stop escalating abuse of children and women’ also turned the House lively with women legislators proposing “life sentences to rapists..”

There were long arguments that women’s ability to make an impact in maledominated institutions would not be possible although they have proved to have a collective voice to achieve their goals.

A study indicates that when empowered, women make constructive ideas that are likely to positively impact the lives of people in the country. Women’s impressing performance in the last session of the House was attributed to recent parliamentary training programmes supported by the UN Women.

The programme focused on building courage. The training was organised by the House of Representatives Women Members Association (HoRWMA) established in January 2002. HoRWMA has more than 30 members led by its chairperson Mgeni Hassan Juma.

Juma also serves as the Deputy Speaker of the House. “The good perforance recorded so far in the past session was because of training. Without women’s empowerment and gender equality, we will not be able to achieve our goals,” she says.

She says education for women, particularly in the House, remains important to make a difference and improve accountability.

She urges the government and the international community to continue supporting the training programmes so that women are encouraged to make fruitful contributions in the House.

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