Tuesday, June 18, 2024
HomeElections 20232023: Zim’s Missed Chance On Women’s Political Participation

2023: Zim’s Missed Chance On Women’s Political Participation

In a nation where the struggle for gender equality has long been a focal point, the 2023 election in Zimbabwe was poised to be a pivotal moment for women’s political participation.

Despite the constitutional and legal provisions that guarantee gender equality and women’s rights, Zimbabwe has failed to make significant progress in enhancing women’s political participation in this year’s election.

According to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), which Zimbabwe ratified, state parties are obliged to promote gender parity and equal representation of women and men in all electoral processes and institutions. The ACDEG also calls for affirmative action measures to ensure that women have at least 50 per cent representation in decision-making structures at all levels.

However, Zimbabwe’s Electoral Act does not provide for any quota system or special measures to increase women’s representation in the National Assembly, the Senate or the Presidency.

The only quota that exists is for the 60 seats reserved for women in the National Assembly through a party-list system, which was introduced by the 2013 Constitution as a temporary measure for two terms only. This means that after the 2023 election, the quota will expire and women will have to compete with men on an equal basis for the 210 constituency seats.

The Electoral Act was amended in June 2023, shortly after the proclamation of the election date, to introduce a 30 per cent quota for women in local authorities and a youth quota for provincial councils.

However, these amendments were challenged in court by some political parties and civil society groups, who argued that they violated the constitutional provision that prohibits any changes to the electoral law after an election has been proclaimed. The court case was still pending at the time of writing.

ALSO ON 263Chat:  ‘Zanu-PF Must Move Away From Comic Politics’

Sections 17, 56, and 80 of the Constitution, as well as Section 277, emphasize the need for gender equality across all sectors, including politics.

However, a glaring disparity between rhetoric and reality has emerged in the aftermath of the 2023 elections. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a leading civil society organization, revealed that the gender parity gap has, in fact, widened. Only one out of the eleven presidential candidates was a woman, compared to four in the 2018 elections. This statistic alone underscores the uphill battle women face in breaking the glass ceiling of the political sphere.

A closer examination of parliamentary participation paints a similarly discouraging picture. Out of the 637 prospective candidates contesting for National Assembly seats, a mere 11% were women.

This is a stark contrast to the 14.4% representation women achieved in the 2018 elections. Local Authority elections were no exception, with only 14% of the candidates being women, down from 17% in the previous election. These figures not only fall short of national and international expectations but also violate the very principles enshrined in the Constitution.

The low level of women’s political participation in Zimbabwe can be attributed to various factors, such as patriarchy, social and cultural norms, violence and intimidation, lack of resources and support, media bias and marginalization, and weak implementation and enforcement of laws and policies, among others.

These factors create barriers for women to enter and remain in politics, as well as to exercise effective leadership and influence.

Several civil society organizations have been working to promote and support women’s political participation in Zimbabwe, through advocacy, capacity building, networking, mentoring and monitoring. Some examples are Gender Links Zimbabwe, Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD), Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU) and Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA)

ALSO ON 263Chat:  Zambia Elections Give Zim Opposition Hope

These organizations have called for more concerted efforts by all stakeholders, including political parties, government institutions, electoral management bodies, media, traditional and religious leaders, and the international community, to address the challenges and gaps that hinder women’s political participation in Zimbabwe.

They have also urged the government to fully implement and comply with the constitutional and legal provisions that guarantee women’s rights, as well as the regional and international instruments that Zimbabwe is party to, such as the ACDEG, the Maputo Protocol and the CEDAW.

Institute for Young Women’s Development team leader, Glanis Changachirere, emphasized the importance of acknowledging women’s rightful place in leadership and governance. Changachirere highlighted the significance of numbers as indicators of progress and areas needing improvement. Her sentiment underscores the importance of a robust framework for women’s participation that extends beyond lip service.

The missed opportunity to elevate women’s political participation sends a message that more needs to be done at various levels—by political parties, the government, parliament, and electoral stakeholders—to create an environment where women can fully engage in politics without hindrance.

Zimbabwe has missed an opportunity to make progress on women’s political participation in this year’s election. The country needs to do more to ensure that women are not left behind in the democratic process and that their voices and interests are adequately represented and reflected in the governance and development of the nation.

Women’s political participation is not only a matter of justice and equality, but also a prerequisite for effective and inclusive democracy.

Share this article
Written by

Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

No comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

You cannot copy content of this page