Have you ever wondered why in Zimbabwe you rarely hear a female child saying ‘when I grow up I want to be the president’?
The scarcity of presidential hopefuls amongst little girls is so clear, such that if one is to be brave enough to highlight her aspirations, it might come as no surprise if she is actually laughed at.
The societal misconception of women inferiority, complimented by the occupational stereotype associated with it, as well as the unconcealed disregard of Constitutional provisions; have rubberstamped the misbegotten view that top government positions are a preserve for men.
Our politicians have instilled a culture of entitlement for men such that it is regarded as ‘very normal’ to have only six women in the cabinet, the scenario in the current administration.
Of the 20-member cabinet announced by President Mnangagwa in September, only 6 are women: Monica Mutsvangwa (Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services), Priscah Mupfumira (Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry), Sithembiso Nyoni (Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development), Kirsty Coventry (Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation) Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri (Defence and War Veterans) and Sekai Nzenza (Public Service and Social Welfare).
The women depiction percentage in cabinet stands at 11.5%, a very low figure which is contrary to what the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for in Section 17(a) ‘’The State must promote the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men; (b) the State must take all measures, including legislative measures, needed to ensure that (i) both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level.’’
Similarly, the current government does not have a female vice-president, and even though the President is not constitutionally mandated to appoint one, it still is a cause for concern.
It is against this background that in future, our leaders should advocate for gender balance in cabinet, a move that is also supported in Section 52 (2) of the Constitution, which stipulates that women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.
The participation of women in key decision-making capacities is part of our democratic discourse and our leaders should walk the talk in that regard.
Correspondingly, society needs to embrace aspiring female leaders, not to hold on to cultural beliefs that suppress and hinder their progress.
Bad publicity of women in politics, usually accompanied by derogatory statements that you would never hear being directed to their male counterparts, should be shunned completely.
It is high time our leaders begin to interpret the Constitution in regards to gender parity in the allocation of key government positions. Cultural beliefs should not influence political structures and societal reaction to women who aspire to be leaders in politics should change instantly.
Lawrence Tichaona Mangenje is a freelance journalist who is passionate about gender-related issues. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on the email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LTMangenje
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