The sudden interest politics by young people, and specifically young women, is both exciting and electrifying.
Young people below the age of 40 make up 60% of registered voters in Zimbabwe, a significant change from previous elections when especially young urbanites never bothered to register. Of note also is the appeal that younger candidates have on their peers for a vote. For instance, there are indications that MDC T presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa, will garner a significant young vote. A few weeks back, support for his candidature was evident in the social media posts by SheVotes2018 leader, Maureen Kademaunga’s post of a picture of herself wearing a Chamisa cap. Although she recently moved to join the Thokozani Khupe led, MDC-T, Linda Masarira also endorsed Chamisa in a social media post. The youth wave is also blowing in Zanu PF where young Turks are going for the kill challenging the old guard.
Youth participation in elections bears witness to the reawakening of a nation. Tomorrows leaders that there is an opportunity to claim their power and steer the nation towards inclusivity regardless of age and gender. Key questions however are whether as formerly marginal groups, women and the youth will be able to vote freely; and whether they understand what their vote represents.
The two main political parties, Zanu PF & MDC Alliance, are promising jobs. For a good number of people in that group, jobs and financial independence remain a dream. Those that are ‘lucky’ enough to be in jobs, work overtime for paltry salaries, which in most cases, come way after the last day of the month. The majority is caught between ‘hustling’ and loitering.
Undoubtedly, the youth vote, wherever it will fall, is a call for employment that offers financial security, and a fulfilling lifestyle that is indicated by an individuals ability to contribute to medical, legal and life insurance. It is fact that, Zimbabwean women bear the brunt of the harsh socio, economic and political environment in the country by taking up the breadwinner role in the informal sector, in most cases. The opportunity for young women to live in a country where they can get decent jobs and report to safe workplaces is the ideal. This is what they should be looking out to find in the political party of their choice.
Women can no longer be content just cheering the wealthy members of the society or politicians that are imposed on them. It is apparent that Zimbabwean women no longer want to just be dependent on men and husbands for their well being. As women seem fed up with being blamed for lacking initiative, they have resolved to tackle their challenges by themselves. This is evident in the moves that they are making to ensure that as the majority, they participate in voting for leadership, which they trust to deliver the Zimbabwe that they work. Initiatives and efforts by women’s organisations to ensure a 50-50 representation of candidates in the political parties through policy , demands for transparency on allocation of the constituencies and positions and demands for more tangible commitments to supporting entrepreneurial opportunities and other critical sectors that will uplift the woman..
Women should view this election as an opportunity to vote for a leader who will their guarantee freedom and security. After years of repression under Robert Mugabes rule, where speaking against the president or the political elite was considered treasonous, women should use this transitional period to step up and reclaim their voice. Toxic political systems of intimidation and violence should be a thing of the past.
It is everyones right to participate in politics. However, women in Zimbabwe must realise that their right to vote, will also send a message that whatever choice they make guarantees their freedoms, security and the opportunity to be financially independent.
Young people, and particularly young women, should view this 2018 election as the beginning of the great awakening of our nation. Indeed it is a historical moment where making a choice with resolve and conviction is the only to go – for the good of the Republic!
About the author:
Itai is a passionate writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. He is also a Gender Focal Person for Magamba Network. He is a design engineer by training.
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