When Anna Margareth Abdallah entered the Tanzanian parliament in 1975, she was one of only five female MPs. Today, she is one of 126 – more than a third of the total – and the first woman to chair the standing committee on defence and security. But it has been a long journey that is far from complete.
“It’s quite hard, especially because of African traditional culture where a woman’s place is in the kitchen,” she says.
"Women have a tough time contesting elections and they have to show exemplary proficiency to get recognised. They work hard to be extra diligent. But we are trying and we have been doing it for the last 50 years. At least now women are recognised."
Now 73 and a great-grandmother, Abdallah began her political career as a provincial governor and had to juggle work with a young family.
“I was travelling with my youngest children; sometimes they wanted just to know what their mother was doing so they would come with me. When I came back, they would tell the whole family – and everybody was interested – and they encouraged me through. Because we wanted to show that women can do it, it took a lot of sacrifices.”
She had to challenge the expectations of a patriarchal culture each step of the way.
"People were not used to seeing women in public meetings talking just like male politicians do. They realised that women can talk back."