Womens leadership demands political will

It is no longer enough to state and report on progress in meeting the women’s quota in Zimbabwe. Demands should be made, implementation monitored and accountability sought.

Most citizens expected an increased number of women participants in Monday’s election but they were disappointed.

According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), women make up only 17 percent of councils nominated candidates and 15 percent of national assembly contestants. Out of the 23 presidential candidates, only four are women. Other statistics show that out of the 47 political parties that will be contesting in the election, 20 of them had no women candidates at all. All this is happening against a constitutional provision for proportional representation.

Zimbabwe’s proportional representation quota, found in section 120(2)(a) of the constitution, provides for the election of senators under a party system of proportional representation, in which male and female candidates are listed alternatively, with females heading the list, while Section 124(1)(b) provides for seats to be reserved for women.

Yound aspiring independent councillor for Bulawayo’s Ward 5, Natasha Karimakwenda said women do not actively participate in politics due to discrimination and dominance of men within political parties.

The 26-year-old candidate expressed disappointment at the ill treatment of young women in politics despite efforts to encourage their participation.

“I am told that I don’t know enough because I am young. I have not been in politics long enough therefore I cannot be of a person of influence; and because I am a woman, should be at home, married and making babies,” she said.

Karimakwenda says the people around her have been very accommodative, supportive and have embraced her as a young leader, despite the fact that she is young and is a woman. She said she has, managed to pursue her political ambitions, mainly because she has a very supportive husband.

Clearly the low number of women running in this election is an indication that the problem is deep-rooted. In order for women to actively participate in politics, they need not only a strong push, but also a lot of support, as patriarchy is a reality we cannot deny.

“People think that saving a few seats for women in parliament will solve the problem. The problem is deeper than that. Only privileged women have had access to leadership opportunities. They do not relate to the majority of women in this country, who are sinking and have no idea what to do,” said Karimakwenda.

She said women do not support each other because they do not believe in each other and are told where to be right from the beginning.

“We accept the toxic narrative against women and have normalised it and have chosen to support men who are always in the ‘right’ space,” she says.

The women’s movement in Zimbabwe’s has been in the forefront of the push for equal rights and gender balance in all spheres. Could more have been done to support the women that they have strongly supported, advocated and fought for?

At this point, women’s organisations should strategise on engaging the political parties further. This would be important for securing political will, sincerity and commitment to having women in the political arena.

About the author:

Mandy Kanyemba is a freelance journalist who is passionate about Gender issues. The opinion or views expressed on this platform are those of the contributing Authors or organisation . They do not necessarily reflect the views and policies or the position of Gender and Media Connect.