Politics no easy road for women

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By Gracious Madondo

The just-ended harmonised elections in Zimbabwe have revealed that very few women triumphed in their quest to represent the people in both the National Assembly and in local authorities.

Ironically, women have a numerically advantage over their male counterparts as a voting bloc.

Although a large number of women turned out to vote, it appears they voted for male candidates instead of fellow women as very few managed to win seats for both the National Assembly, Senate and local authorities.

Zanu-PF won a total of 170 seats in parliament (both National Asembly and Senate) with 145 seats being taken by men and the reminder snapped by 26 women. 

The opposition MDC-Alliance party won a total of 85 seats with 63 seats won by men while 22 were taken up by women.

The general number of women representation in parliament remains low despite a constitutional quota system requiring that women must be appointed on proportional representation basis.

Commenting on the issue executive director of Zimbabwe Women in Politics Support Unit (WISPU) Sakile Sifelani-Ngoma said political parties in Zimbabwe are not transparent and are not inclusive of women.

“Politics for women in Zimbabwe is no easy road because various party candidate selection processes are not transparent and do not genuinely women. Their processes are not fully inclusive of women. For women not to appear as failures in politics, political parties should adjust their candidate section processes,” Sifelani-Ngoni.

She said political parties in the country should adopt the “Zebra” system, a political system which creates a male and female balance for ministerial roles.

“Political parties in Zimbabwe should adopt the 'Zebra' system to ensure that more women get into parliament. Activists, citizens and even the constitution should focus more on which criteria of candidate parties to have because it is narrowing the number of women who venture into politics at grassroots," Sifelani-Ngoma said.

Sifelani-Ngoma said political parties should set up a system that has guaranteed places for women in their respective parties.

“If political parties dedicate 50 percent of their candidates to women that means that 50 percent of women will make it onto the ballot paper and that means more women will be more likely to make it because simply citizens vote for who their parties tell them to vote for."

Sifelani-Ngoma said women in politics in Zimbabwe are looked down upon and are victims of gender based verbal abuse.

“Politics in Zimbabwe is not kind to women. They are victims of all forms of violence, especially hate and stereotypes which are gender biased. There is a serious need for laws or any other initiatives that sanction violence against women in politics in the country,” said Sifelani-Ngoma.

She said the government and other independent organizations should offer financial assistance to women who want to venture into politics in order to increase in order to give room for more female politicians.

She highlighted the need for financial support and safety for women participating in politics in Zimbabwe saying that finance was one of the major backlash for women in politics in the country.

Sifelani-Ngoma said party financing organizations should also support female aspiring politicians.

Political and social commentator Lovemore Kadenge said women representation is a democratic struggle.

“Women representation is just a part of the democratic struggle currently underway. Our constitution provides for gender where women enjoy a quota in the National Assembly and Senate. This provision lasts 10 years and the current term should see the provision lapsing. It is the best the constitution can do for women under the circumstances,” Kadenge said. 

Kadenge said the constitution has not done enough to promote women.

“Decrees are problematic on themselves. In our case the decree favouring women has not really promoted women. Instead, it has led to balkanisation and other social cultist problems,” Kadenge said.

University of Zimbabwe based political analyst Nyasha Chidembo said politics in Africa is largely characterised by hate speech and women in politics become easy target to insults and ridicule.

“Politics in Africa has been associated with violence and hurt speech. Therefore it is prudent at this juncture to note that the playground becomes so difficult and characterised by stumbling blocks which limit the excelling of many female candidates,”Chidembo said.

Chidembo said stereotyping was one of the major cause of women deficit in Zimbabwean politics.

“Stereotypes are also playing a huge role in the continued underperformance of women in politics.  Some view women who enter into the realm of politics as prostitutes or simply women of lose morals. It becomes very difficult for one to vote that woman because of the negative tags attached to them by the society,”Chidembo said.

 

Citing religious reasons Chidembo said patriarchal regions beliefs and doctrines spill over into politics and is affecting the success of women in politics.

 

“Dominant religious beliefs advocate for women subordination and male dominance. These religious doctrines spill into the super structure and political organization the society. Therefore women tend to avoid taking up leadership roles and those who dare will be disadvantaged because of an indoctrinated electorate which believes in male superiority,” Chidembo said.

 

This is not a phenomenon unique to Zimbabwe alone.   

 

This is a trend across the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as most countries in the region have very few female representatives in their national assemblies.

 

One nation that stands above the rest in Africa and the world with highest percentage of female parliamentarians is Rwanda at 68 percent.

 

Statistics from the Inter-Parliamentary as of June 1 2018 lands Rwanda at number one on comparative data on world and continental averages.

 

Rwanda parliament as a total of 80 seats with 49 seats occupied by women giving the total percentage of 61,3precent of female parliamentarians.

 

Rwanda parliament as a total of 80 seats with 49 seats occupied by women giving the total percentage of 61,3precent of female parliamentarians.

 

 

 

Second in the region after Rwanda is Namibia at 46, 7 percent followed by South Africa at 42, 4 percent, Mozambique at 39, 6 percent, Tanzania at 37, 2 percent, Lesotho at 22, 1 percent, Seychelles at 21, 2 percent, Zambia at 18, 0 percent, Malawi at 16, 7 percent, Congo at 11, 3 percent.

 

 

 

 Country --        women in parliament

 

1.    Rwanda              61,1%(Number one in Africa)

 

2.    Namibia             46,7%(Number one in the SADC)

 

3.    South Africa       42,4%

 

4.    Mozambique     39,6%

 

5.    Tanzania            37,2%

 

6.    Zimbabwe          33,2%

 

7.    Lesotho              22,1%

 

8.    Seychelles          21,1%

 

9.    Zambia                18,0%

 

10.                       Malawi     16,7%

11.                       DRC          11,3%

 

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