Samia Suluhu, born on January 27, 1960, in Zanzibar, became the first female president of Tanzania on March 19, 2021. Her remarkable journey led her from school benches to the highest office in the state, breaking several glass ceilings in a country where politics remains largely dominated by men.

Originally from Zanzibar, then a British protectorate, Samia Suluhu grew up in an environment that pushed her to pursue her education. After her secondary studies, she worked at the Ministry of Planning and Development while continuing her training. Her impressive academic background includes a degree in public administration, training in economics at the University of Manchester, and later a master’s degree in community economic development.
Her political career began in 2000 when she was elected to the Zanzibar House of Representatives. She quickly distinguished herself, becoming the only senior female minister in President Karume’s cabinet. Despite the sexist attitudes she sometimes encountered, Suluhu persevered, gaining experience and influence.

Her rise continued with her election as a member of parliament in 2010, followed by her appointment as Minister of State for Union Affairs. In 2015, she made history by becoming Tanzania’s first female vice president alongside President John Magufuli.

Magufuli’s sudden death in March 2021 propelled Suluhu to the presidency, making her not only the first woman to hold this position in Tanzania but also the first sitting female president in East Africa.
Since coming to power, Suluhu has had to navigate turbulent political waters. She has sought to unify a country divided by her predecessor’s policies while facing challenges within her own party. Her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic marked a clear break from Magufuli’s approach, implementing measures to curb the spread of the virus.
Suluhu has also taken steps to improve press freedom, notably lifting restrictions on some opposition newspapers. However, challenges persist in this area, with occasional media suspensions.

On a personal level, Samia Suluhu has been married since 1978 to Hafidh Ameir, with whom she has four children. Her daughter, Mwanu Hafidh Ameir, follows in her political footsteps, sitting in the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

Samia Suluhu’s journey from Zanzibar to the presidency of Tanzania illustrates the progress made in female representation in African politics. Nevertheless, her tenure highlights the persistent challenges faced by women leaders, particularly in reconciling traditional expectations with the demands of their political role. As she continues to lead Tanzania, the world watches with interest how her presidency will shape the country’s future and potentially inspire other women across the continent.

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