We need to Re-define the role of representatives

Prof. Ruth Meena

While presidential candidates list practical solutions for the problems facing the voters, the parliamentary and councillor candidates have followed suit. Our representatives are going to be jack of all traders, meaning that they will be problem solvers, service providers, conflict management experts, donors, financiers and educators. For instance, the CCM candidate for Nkenge constituency promises the voters to offer ten scholarships to young people if elected. An ACT campaign team member is going to make water problem a history through establishing a village water authority, while the CCM Kawe candidate is going to establish a fund which will be used to solve most of the problems in Kawe constituency. A CCM campaign team member urges voters to vote for their candidate as he is aware of their problems and he will solve them if elected. Interestingly, most of these promises do not address women’s specific issues, or address the principles of gender equality. This is because women’s specific concerns will require a combination of practical needs and strategic interests. The latter requires transformation of ideological positioning. Campaign messages that base on practical problems raise questions on the role of representatives whom we are going to elect this year. They claim to be doers; not thinkers; not law makers; and not policy makers.

When problem solvers are not anchored in transformative ideological positions, and when competitors are not divided by ideology, what will determine voter’s choices? For women, who are demanding transformation of a patriarchal ideology, what choices do we have? Fighting corruption per se might target the financial aspects of corruption, but sexual corruptions which demean the dignity of women might continue to be invisible. Promoting growth computed in aggregates statistical measures might not result in inclusive broad based growth with shared benefits.  Contrary, it might perpetuate the ‘benefit gap’. Increased access to educational opportunities if not combined with rise of consciousness might perpetuate norms and values that have created gender hierarchies and legitimatized the subordinate positions women occupy!

As voters approach the dawn of the polling day, and women and human right activists are at crossroads! Are they going to choose candidates who promise to solve problems, or candidates who are going to voice and represent our collective interests so that we find solutions to our problems together? Candidates who are bold enough to say that patriarchal order is no longer sustainable, that the legal framework that legitimatize politics of exclusion can no longer hold; candidate who conceptually understands the dangers of politics of exclusion from human rights perspectives and from economic perspectives. Candidates who are ready to use the mandate we are going to give them in advocating for the transformation of this system which has plunged our country into perpetual poverty which has a woman and rural face?


  1. I like the article by Prof Ruth Meena which in my view is still timely and should be considered as a critical input not only to candidates but much more to the elected representatives so that we make a difference between the doers/managers and leaders. Only visionary and critical thinkers will think and envision strategically and take their communities and the nation to the next level ....Israel Ilunde ,Ag.Vice Chairperson-TACCEO

  2. My Congratulations goes to all who have been elected to various political posts but, I urge them to quickly go beyond celebrating as winners but get organized on how they should run their offices strategically so as to remain successful leaders.
    I say this because I know most of them invested heavily to defeat their opponents and win and so if they are not very careful, they will keep going on with winners ceremonies and testimonies and forget to plan their offices and programs


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