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HomeGender and Women's RightsEmpowering Women in Zimbabwean Politics: Breaking Barriers and Ending Violence

Empowering Women in Zimbabwean Politics: Breaking Barriers and Ending Violence

Honorable Jasmine Toffa has been instrumental in pushing for the full representation of women in politics (Pic Lovejoy Mutongwiza)

Women’s participation in politics is a crucial issue for Zimbabwe, as it affects the development, democracy and human rights of the country.

Women comprise more than half of the population but are underrepresented in decision-making positions and face various forms of violence and discrimination.

According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, only 15% of the candidates in the 2018 harmonised elections were women, and only 86 out of 270 seats in the National Assembly were won by women.

This was a decline from the previous elections in 2013 when women constituted 35% of the National Assembly and 48% of the Senate.

The main reasons for this low representation include a lack of financial resources, patriarchal attitudes, cultural and religious barriers, political violence and intimidation, and inadequate support from political parties and civil society.

The 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe provides a robust framework for promoting gender equality and women’s rights. It recognises the equality of all persons and explicitly outlaws discrimination based on sex or gender.

It also provides for affirmative action measures to ensure that both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level and that women constitute at least half the membership of all Commissions and other elective and appointed governmental bodies established by or under this Constitution or any Act of Parliament.

However, these constitutional provisions have not been fully implemented or enforced, and there is still a gap between the law and practice.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of civil society organisations working on electoral issues, published a position paper on mechanisms to increase the representation of women in elections and governance in Zimbabwe.

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The paper recommends that the Electoral Act be amended to include a 50/50 gender quota for party candidates’ lists, that political parties adopt gender policies and allocate resources for women candidates, that electoral violence against women be prevented and prosecuted, that voter education and media campaigns promote women’s participation, and that civil society monitor and advocate for women’s rights.

One of the initiatives that aim to support women’s participation in politics is the UN Women’s “End Violence Vote for Her” campaign,

The campaign is focused on supporting women candidates and ending violence against women during electoral processes.

“When you want to empower women, it starts with your vote. Join the women’s movement and support women candidates. Violence against women remains the biggest barrier to women’s participation. There is a need to balance the scale by voting for women and showing power by supporting and voting for women,” said Innocent Katsande, UN Women Zimbabwe’s Media and Communications officer.

The campaign also features testimonies from women who have contested or are aspiring to contest in elections, highlighting their challenges and achievements.

Nokuthula Thebe, a political activist stressed the potential for women to drive development, urging a united voice and the election of women to political offices.

Antonella Nare, a youth and women’s rights activist pointed out the lack of mutual support among women as a hindrance to progress. She called for unity among women to counter the effects of violence and encourage more women to take up leadership roles.

“We have seen that so many women are lagging politically, and this is due to several reasons, mainly violence. Be It physical and or online. We also don’t support each other as women which has been a drawback for a long.

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“Given the chance, women can lead and bring about much-needed development. If we look at the number of victims of violence, women are the most affected, they are always at the receiving end, we need to speak up and educate more people,” she said.

Sikangeli Moyo, a lecturer and women’s rights activist, acknowledged that while strides have been made, women’s political participation still faces challenges. She emphasized the need to address the deeper roots of these barriers, highlighting financial constraints and a political landscape that remains skewed towards men.

” Maybe the answer is that the political landscape Is not level, men still dominate the politics. Women don’t have money to get into these positions and how many women have enough money to part with for a political seat.

“As much as the economic situation is getting worse, the participation of women will keep getting worse. We need more women in positions of power because they are natural caregivers, besides, we have been voting for men since independence but what have they offered? Nothing, hence, we need to have women occupying these spaces as well,” she noted.

Ultimately, the path to true gender equality in Zimbabwean politics demands collective action. Through campaigns, legislative changes, and societal shifts, the country can pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse political landscape where women’s voices are heard, celebrated, and respected.

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

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