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Festival seeks to turn governments' gender policy into action

A four-day gender festival opened on Tuesday in Dar es Salam, Tanzania's commercial capital, with participants calling for regional leaders to follow through on their policies to increase the number of women in government.

"Though policies and laws underscore gender equality, the reality is different," Joseph Warioba, Tanzania's former prime minister, said at the opening of the festival organised jointly by the Tanzania Gender Network Programme and the Feminist Activism Coalition.

"Today in Tanzania, like elsewhere in Africa, most leadership positions are occupied by men," he said.

The African Union (AU) has passed a resolution calling for 50 percent of parliamentary seats in African to be occupied by women. Similarly, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has called for women to occupy 30 percent of parliamentary seats in that subregion.

"We [in Tanzania] have many women with enough education, skill and experience to take up any leadership position," Warioba, who is a judge in the East African Court of Justice, said.

The AU and SADC positions, he added, constituted a progressive policy aimed at making women participate in the decision making process, rather than being regarded as tools or second class human.

The festival brings together civil society organisations and gender activists. The discussions, according to the organisers, would take into account issues like corporate-led globalisation, free market ideology and democracy in Africa and its impact on women. The theme of this year's festival, the seventh, is "Gender, Democracy, and Development: Popular Struggles for An Alternative and Better World."

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