Women in politics and the public sector in Tanzania


Provide a literature review on the engagement of women in politics and the public sector in Tanzania.


The body of literature on women’s engagement in politics in Tanzania is relatively small, consisting of journal articles and government and NGO reports. Key topics covered by the literature include:

  • Special seats for women: A quota system was introduced in 1985 to increase the number of women in parliament. Two journal articles by the same author look at this system in detail, noting that it has resulted in the proportion of female MPs being greater than the Southern African Development Community (SADC) target of 30 per cent. It is argued that the greater representation of women in parliaments has led to improved articulation of women’s issues and in positive legislative changes for women. Despite this, there have been some calls for special seats for women to be abolished as some believe that they have served their purpose. However, a recent NGO report states there have been calls for the quota for female representation in parliament to be increased from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.
  • Women’s roles within political parties: A number of papers argue that while political parties make provisions for women’s representation in parliament in their constitutions and manifestos, there is often little mention of women’s roles within the parties themselves. Women do not tend to occupy leadership positions within political parties in Tanzania.
  • Women in local governance: One empirical study finds that women’s participation in local governance is determined by incentives, access to information, power relations, knowledge of Kiswahili and women’s interest in local governance. It also finds that women’s political participation at this level has no impact on policy changes. Another study argues that women landowners tend to have greater power in their marital relationships and that this in turn leads to an increase in their level of political participation.
  • Women’s limited opportunities in the public sector: Two reports state that women continue to be underrepresented in top-level positions in the public sector. However, they note that some progress has been made in this regard. One study finds that women are better represented in public education than they are in other parts of the public sector. However, the data used in this study dates back to 2006.


Suggested citation

Strachan, A.L. (2015). Women in politics and the public sector in Tanzania (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1286). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.