Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

"Whose Affirmative Action Is Affirmative?" Lessons from Tanzania

Academic journal article CEU Political Science Journal

"Whose Affirmative Action Is Affirmative?" Lessons from Tanzania

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The invisibility of women in politics is a worldwide historical phenomenon. Such exclusion traces back to the first democracy of the Athenian society in Greece. Lakof (1) observes that not only women but also slaves and metics were barred from participating in the Greek democracy. Indeed, Athenian democracy was by and large a democracy for slave-owners. As such Nzomo (2) contends that "... democracy in a class society is an ideological weapon that serves the interests of the dominant class, that the dominated class have, through history, been subjected to varying degrees of exploitation and oppression, depending on such intervening factors as the historical period, sex and cultural identity. It is argued that women, as an intra-class sexual category, have historically suffered and continue to experience the worst forms of oppression and exploitation, despite the central position they occupy in the production process of current and future wealth and labour." It should be noted that the invisibility of women in politics is also a common phenomenon in classless societies since patriarchal culture predated classes. Yet Ferree (3) sees the invisibility of women in politics to be neither natural nor inevitable. To address the invisibility problem, most governments adopted affirmative action. The centrality of that action is to affect inclusion of the marginalised groups into the major decision making organs, employment, and education to mention a few.

Thus, Brest and Oshige (4) define an affirmative action as a program initiated to seek remedy of the significant underrepresentation of members of certain racial, ethnic or other groups through measures that take group membership or identity into account. This definition emphasizes on descriptive representation where inclusion of the underrepresented group is assumed to cure exclusion. It does not focus on substantive representation of the agenda and interests of the members to be represented. However, critics of affirmative action pose one fundamental question: Is affirmative action inherently preferential, discriminatory, and thus inconsistent with the constitution's guarantee of equal protection? (5). Collier responds to this question in the affirmative. Similarly, Farber (6) sees affirmative action as the reverse discrimination. To them if the constitution stipulates the equality of opportunity and avoids in any way mentioning any sort of discrimination, that alone is sufficient to protect every individual. The underlying emphasis of this view is "equality of opportunity" and not "equality of outcome". Writing on the American political system, Jeffrey (7) puts that "No matter how hard politicians run from it, this issue is not going away. The Declaration of Independence, for example, does not say that because of past discrimination some are more equal than others. It does not say that for some pursuit of happiness needs to be constrained because of past privileges; no, it insists, boldly, that here in America, we are all equal under the law". While this argument is convincing, it is narrow and too legalistic. For one thing, it fails to point out important issues like who enacted that Declaration and for whose interests. It is ridiculous to argue that all people are equal before the law without looking deeper into those laws themselves. One may raise questions, for example, were women in the process of enacting that Declaration? How are their concerns taken care into account? The fact that women in America won the voting franchise around 1920 raises doubt on the fairness of the laws themselves.

In Tanzania women constitute the majority of the population (8) and the most voters (9) countrywide. They also provide 80 percent of labour force in rural areas and 60 percent of food production (10). However, they are often not motivated to invest on land protection or management because they are prevented from receiving bank credits or support. …

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