Tanzania’s first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, this week named a woman as defense minister — the latest in a number of appointments of women to top government posts.
The appointment came as part of the second Cabinet reshuffle Hassan has made since the death of her predecessor, John Magufuli, earlier this year.
At the swearing-in of Stergomena Tax as Tanzania’s first female defense and national service minister, Hassan said she made the choice to shatter the myth that women cannot serve in such a position.
“I have decided to break the longtime myth that in the Defense Ministry there should be a man with muscles. The minister’s job in that office is not to carry guns or artillery,” Hassan said, adding that Tax’s main duty will be to coordinate and manage the administration of policies at the ministry.
Gender activists have welcomed the appointment but said more needs to be done to address the country’s gender equality gap.
Anna Henga, who heads the Legal and Human Rights Center, says there must be an amendment of laws such as the marriage act and the education act, laws that put women in low decision positions. She added that the government should also allocate money through the Health Ministry to educate people that women can also be leaders.
Analysts say an increase in the political representation of women at the national level does not automatically lead to women having more power in daily life, especially in highly stratified societies.
Sociologist Nasor Kitunda says gender should be irrelevant.
“I think this tries to show that there is a direction in gender equality though I’m not a believer in gender. The primary criteria should be someone’s performance and their ability to implement those responsibilities,” Kitunda said.
For Tanzanian human rights activist Aika Peter, appointing more women leaders is positive but there must be a rotation to allow others to show their leadership skills.
“We really need to see new faces in these positions — when you see the same people being recycled every day it gives the impression there are people who are so good at this job, there are no others who can be good at it,” Peters said.
Tax’s appointment brings the number of women who hold ministerial positions in Hassan’s government to eight.