A remarkable Muslim female Head of State

Woman Nilanjan Hajra
MUslim female Head of State

Saima Suluhu Hassan is a remarkable lady. As the president of Tanzania, she has the distinction of being the first-ever, and so far only Muslim female head of state in an Eastern African Community (EAC) country. EAC is an inter-governmental platform of six nations in the Great Lakes Region in eastern Africa. President Hassan is the third woman to be the head of state in the EAC. And she is also the first Muslim president of Tanzania. She was also the first female Muslim vice-president of her country.

President Hassan has over two decades of political career behind her. And she is particularly popular for being a soft-spoken person, who has a great ability to build consensus among conflicting parties. It is also no less remarkable, that President Saima Suluhu Hassan is the only directly elected Muslim Female head of state in the world in a nation where Islam is a minority religion.

Personal life of Muslim female Head of State

President Hassan, despite holding major government posts, keeps a low profile. People know little about her personal life. She was born on January 27, 1960, in Makunduchi, a nondescript town in the Zanzibar Sultanate. Hassan graduated from the Institute for Development Management (renamed Mzumber University). Later she obtained an advanced diploma in public administration. Later she earned a postgraduate Diploma in Economics from the University of Manchester. Tanzania’s first Muslim female head of state also did her MSc in Community Economic Development, from a joint programme run by the Tanzania Open University and the Southern New Hampshire University.

In 1978 Hassan married Hafidh Ameir, an agricultural officer. Her husband retired from service in 2014, and he also keeps a very low profile. The couple has four children. One of them, their second child, Wanu Hafidh Ameir is a special seat member of the House of Representatives.

Her politics

Tanzania’s first Muslim female head of state has long been a member of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi. A social-democratic party, its name literally means the Party of the Revolution. The great Tanzanian national leader Julius Nyerere founded the party in 1977. CCM has always been Tanzania’s most popular party. It has won all the five presidential elections held so far. It also has maintained a steady majority in the legislature.

Since 2000 Hassan’s political graph reflects an unfailing upward curve. In that year she won the elections to become a special seat member in the Zanzibar House of Representative. Amani Karume, then the president of the autonomous Zanzibar Sultanate, appointed her as a cabinet minister. In 2005 she again became a minister with a new portfolio. During these years she had to fight heavily the male chauvinism present heavily in Tanzania’s political world.

In 2010 Hassan won a landslide victory as a CCM candidate from Makunduchi to the National Assembly. The then-president Jakaya Kikwete made her the minister of state for union affairs. Her political career progressed significantly in 2014 when was elected to the post of the vice-chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, which was drafting a new constitution.

In 2015 Hassan became the first female running mate of Tanzania’s presidential nominee John Magufuli. The pair won, and Hassan became the first Muslim vice-president of her country. They won a second term in office in 2020.

When after a long illness President Magufuli passed away, Hassan was sworn in as the President on March 21, 2021. She is not only the first Muslim female head of state in Tanzania, but is also one of the most popular politicians of her country.

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