Tanzania set to empower women as it gets its first-ever woman President, Ms Hassan!
With time, more and more women have started coming to the political forefront to assume higher positions. One such woman is Samia Suluhu Hassan, the first woman president of Tanzania in East Africa. She was sworn in as the sixth Tanzanian president on March 17, following the demise of her predecessor, John Magufuli, due to a heart disease as announced by the government. Ms. Hassan has served as a Vice President of the country since 2015. She became the acting president after Magufuli’s death and was sworn in two days later. She will serve in the current position till 2025, the remainder of the late former president’s second term.
In her first address, President Hassan announced a 21-day mourning period for Magufuli and March 22 and 25 to be declared as public holidays, for he was going to be buried on a later date. On the speculations over Magufuli’s death, she said, “This is the time to stand together and get connected. It’s time to bury our differences, show love to one another, and look forward with confidence”. “It is not the time to point fingers at each other but to hold hands and move forward to build the new Tanzania that President Magufuli aspired to,” she added, as reported by Aljazeera.
Ms. Hassan is the only woman running a country as a President in the African continent. Apart from her, Sahle-Work Zewde is Ethiopia’s president, but only in a ceremonial capacity, with the prime minister holding executive authority.
Ms. Hassan is a leader in the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). The 61-year-old president hails from Zanzibar, a former Muslim sultanate. Other than Tanzania, she received her education in Britain and the United States. She started working as a clerk in a government office at 17 and later rose through the ranks to become the development officer in the Zanzibar government. Next, she joined the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) as a project manager and in the 1990s became the executive director of a body that managed the NGOs in the region.
She joined the CCM Zanzibar’s House of Representatives in the 2000s. She later served as a local government minister starting from the youth, women, and children and then in tourism and trade investment fields. In 2010, she was elected to the National Assembly on mainland Tanzania. She also served as Minister of State for Union Affairs in former President Jakaya Kikwete’s term back then. Ms. Hassan became the running mate with Magufuli in 2015, and they both secured a second term in October last year. She has often spoken publicly to encourage Tanzanian women and girls to pursue their dreams.
Tanzania made headlines last year with its COVID denial stance. Late president Magufuli denied any COVID cases in the country and refused to share the virus-related information with the World Health Organization (WHO). It strained their ties with foreign investors and international isolation. After Magufuli’s death, there were suspicions that he died of the virus and the government is trying to hide it, given his stance on the matter.
But in the most recent news, President Hassan’s office suggested a policy shift from Magufuli’s adamant denial of the virus, as per The Wall Street Journal. She plans to set up a committee of experts to evaluate the situation and has said that it’s “not proper to ignore” the pandemic. This is a move to win back the investors and regain international trust. She also eased the restrictions on the media that were put in Magufuli’s term. Ms. Hassan’s rational decisions are slowly but gradually assisting Tanzania in regaining its footing. We can hope that her strong decisions will be in the favor of the people of Tanzania who have so long been silently fighting with the virus.
As the only female head of a country on the continent, Ms. Hassan is a source of inspiration for several women across the world. Although the conditions of her election were not favorable, it could pave a way for many women leaders in Tanzania. It’s been less than a month since she assumed office, but her initial decisions are hinting towards a positive change in the country.
Originally published at https://www.fuzia.com.