IWD has been observed since the early 1900s and is now recognised each year on March 8. The first International Women’s Day celebrations took place over 100 years ago.
It is not affiliated with any one group, but brings together governments, women's organisations, corporations and charities.
The day is marked around the world with arts performances, talks, rallies, networking events, conferences and marches.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with this paper this week TGNP's programme officer mobilisation and outreach Deogratias Temba said that when celebrating the Women International Day this year, despite some challenges
Tanzania has made great achievements on women nearly 25 years after the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Temba said that immediately after the Beijing Conference, the government convinced the integration and mainstreaming of gender issues into the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Programme of Action and Community Building Initiatives…of the SADC region.
He said that many changes in its laws, regulations and budgets which were not in favour of a woman were reviewed and amended to ensure women benefit the most.
For instance, he said after the Beijing Conference, Tanzania amended the Land Act No. 4 and Village Land Act No. 5 both of 1999. That was purposely done to ensure women also own land.
He noted that, in 1998 TGNP through a coalition known as SEMATIC through which the Parliament enacted the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act (SOSPA), which among other things addresses sexual exploitation of women and children, incest, procuration for prostitution, trafficking of persons, cruelty to children and child prostitution.
It also addresses forms of sexual abuse such as sexual harassment, rape, molestation, indecent assault and sodomy, most of which are committed against women and children. The Act criminalized female genital mutilation.
The SOSPA is an Act to amend several written laws, making special provisions in those laws with regard to sexual and other offences to further safeguard the personal integrity, dignity, liberty and security of women and children.
The amendment of Law of the Child Act No. 21 of 2009 was another achievement reached by the government after the Beijing Conference.
The Tanzania Law of the Child Act 2009 brings together child specific provisions from a range of national laws into one document. ... It establishes a framework for protection of children from abuse, violence and neglect at local and national levels, and sets standards for juvenile justice.
On women economic empowerment, Mr Temba said that the government has taken various recommendable measures including women policy development through which different women development funds have been established aiming at helping, supporting women, children and the disabled.
The government has directed each district council across the country, to allocate at least 10 per cent from its local revenue so as to support women, youth and people with disabilities. This being one of the measures taken by the government as a way of implementing the Beijing Conference.
Commenting on leadership, Mr Temba said “the government has achieved a lot although we haven’t reached at least fifty percent of decision-making, but positions in the public and private sectors are held by women.
He said “According to SADC Protocol our current women representation in parliament stands at 36 per cent. The number of women voted in their constituencies has continued to increase to 25 in 2015, from 18 women in 2005.”Commenting on gender budgeting, he said that TGNP through the various training and interventions in collaboration with various public sectors they have been carrying out, have managed to influence the local and central governments to allocate funds for girls so as to ensure they attend classes efficiently.
He further revealed that importantly, district councils across the country have invested heavily maternal and child health (MCH) programmes support activities, which goes in line with the ending preventable child and maternal mortality (EPCMD) initiative, which prioritizes improved health for the most vulnerable women, girls, newborns, and children under five.
Other findings have indicated that while Tanzania has made gains in reducing under-five mortality, progress has been slower for reducing maternal and neonatal deaths.
Maternal mortality rates remain high at 556 deaths per 100,000 live births due to challenges such as inadequate quality of services, lack of access to emergency obstetric care, limited ability of women to independently access health services, and direct causes such as postpartum hemorrhage.
Neonatal deaths, which continue to comprise a significant proportion of under-five deaths.
Temba mentioned some of the district councils that have been collaborating closely with TGNP include: Kishapu DC, Mbeya DC, Kisarawe DC, Morogoro DC, and Ilala Municipal Council.
For her part, Flora Mlowezi Mbeya’s TGNP leader and ardent member concurred with Temba by commending the government the efforts it has been doing to empower women in all sectors despite some challenges.
She said “It was during former President Benjamin Mkapa’s government many laws and regulations were reviewed and amended in favour the women. Adding:
The Beijing Conference was the beginning of the liberation of a woman.”
She however, warned that having a big number of illiterate women in society could halt national development.According to the World Bank, limited educational opportunities for girls are robbing the world of between 15 and 30 trillion dollars in lost productivity.
Addressing during the IWD event early this month, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the UN General Assembly, says “We desperately need to close the gender education gap and get more women into science and technology.”
Supporting innovation, ensuring that the needs and experiences of women and girls are embedded in urban planning, in new technologies – these are practical steps that UN agencies, governments and communities can take.
But clearly, we need to look beyond policies. Several countries have had decades of equal pay legislation. But the gender pay gap will only close in 2086 at the current rate of progress.
Every woman and girl knows that her lived reality is very different to that of her father or brother. For us, simple things – going to school, deciding what to wear, using the toilet, meeting a male friend – can be matters of life and death.
She further notes “I believe that there are two things we should prioritize:
First, boosting the number and diversity of women in leadership positions. Just 20 countries have female leaders. Less than a quarter of parliamentarians are women. Just five percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs.
Second, increasing our support to grassroots organizations. Time and again, we have seen that bold action by leaders requires pressure from below. That was the case with women’s suffrage, with the landmine ban, with the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons adopted just two years ago.
We need to make sure that funding goes to those who really know what is needed on the ground; and whose actions guarantee enduring transformation.
Next year, the international community will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. And rightly so.
But we should also feel a sense of shame. For too many women, the vision of Beijing remains a distant dream. And the gains we have made are under threat, from factors such as discrimination, violence and soaring inequality.
So, I hope that the coming months will see the global movement for gender equality grow stronger. We must show our impatience and anger. We must take the fight into our communities, and into the corridors of power.
Let us not forget Audre Lorde’s powerful words: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”