Local female parliamentarians have shared heartrending stories of the challenges they encounter in the male dominated political terrain.
The legislators shared their experiences at the Thematic Dialogue Session with the Parliament of Zimbabwe and the Election Management Board. The theme for the event was “Fostering an Enabling Environment for Women’s Political and Electoral Participation.”
The thematic session was hosted by the Women and Law in Southern Africa Zimbabwe (WLSA) under the Women in Political Participation project in partnership with the Swedish Embassy, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), GenderLinks, Padare, Forum for African Women Educationalists, Feminist Network and the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire (IFAN Cheikh Anta Diop).
MDC legislator, Memory Mbondiya chronicled how her relatives did not support her when she ran in her rural area in 2013. She recounted:
“When I ran in the election in 2013, I lost the primaries in my ward in my own rural area. Even my own relatives did not believe in me because I am a woman. When you are a female politician, people will lie and denigrate you, so much that even your partner will dump you.”
She added that the playing field is worsened by fellow aspiring candidates towards elections.
Mbondiya revealed that some politicians steal the documents of elected female candidates at the nomination court, so they fail to be nominated. Another politician will be on standby to replace them right at the nomination court.
Josephine Shava, a legislator from Mashonaland West echoed the same troubles faced by women, saying she was arrested just before an election and had to be replaced despite having run in the election.
All the present legislators reiterated that women aspiring to storm into the political space must be bold and develop thick skin in the face of insults and name-calling from men.
Participants at the thematic session discussed that despite this, there needs to be 50/50 participation in parliament, and political parties must facilitate women’s equal participation and representation.
“Political parties are critical in implementing gender balance because they are the ones that select candidates for elections. The Electoral Commission of South Africa has the power to sanction political parties if they are any electoral malpractice,” said former ZEC Commissioner Netsai Mushonga.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) media and information officer Emilia Bundo suggested solutions to increasing women’s participation in the political space:
“There can be an introduction of intra-party quotas to promote the participation of more women in politics. Women’s leadership should be strengthened through training and mentoring. There is also a need for media campaigns on the representation and participation of women. There is a need for political will of those in power to create an enabling environment for women to participate in politics and election processes.”