Over the years, governments and civil society organisations have been working tirelessly to achieve 50/50 representation, that is equal representation of both women and men at all levels.
By Loverage Nhamoyebonde
Interested parties are still committed to ensuring that both women and men are equally and fairly represented.
Affirmative action interventions were implemented to ensure that women occupy decision making positions but the situation on the ground shows that a lot of work still needs to be done.
After witnessing the zeal, energy and evaluation of the resources being implemented into activities that aim to achieve equal representation of women, men, boys and girls, the big question that arises is, with what benefits?
The question of the benefits of 50/50 representation remains partially answered and totally ignored in some circles of society.
Whether ignored, swept under the carpet, dismissed or twisted, the question cannot be left unanswered.
Chipinge Rural District Council Chairperson, Patience Mlambo explained that 50/50 representation is very crucial in balancing power between women and men in communities which is a prerequisite in addressing all forms of discrimination, stereotypes and Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG).
“Chipinge rural is one of the remotest parts of the country and it was dominated by the high prevalence of discrimination against women due to lack of knowledge, harmful cultural and religious beliefs.
“Many girls in our community were denied an opportunity to access or fully participate in educational activities because of discrimination.
Families were not prioritising educating the girl child and boys were always given the first preference,” said Cllr Mlambo.
The question still remains, how is the issue of discrimination against the girl child linked to 50/50 representation.
Cllr. Mlambo explained that when women occupied decision making positions in Chipinge, the enlightened communities on the importance of educating the girl child.
“Female leaders had prioritised educating communities and influenced positive attitudes towards the education of the girl child.
“The shift in attitudes was never witnessed during the time when men were dominating in decision making positions because that was never their priority,” said Cllr Mlambo.
She added that the presence of women in key decision-making positions improved service provision in communities.
“When women occupied key decision-making positions in ward development, water point and other development committees, we witnessed a significant improvement in service provision.
“We are now receiving services that cater for the needs of both women and men although there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the quality of those services,” said Mlambo.
Cllr Mlambo said that the realisation of the benefits of 50/50 representation made them push for the operationalisation of the 30% quota provision. She said that they are drawing lessons from Chipinge Town Council which had achieved 50/50 representation at the local authority level.
Chipinge Town Council has eight wards and these wards are equally represented by four female councillors and four male councillors.
Can the benefits of 50/50 be generalised? One keeps on wondering and Murewa Rural District Council, Vice-Chairperson Alderman Resta Dzvinyangoma said that it is possible.
“The benefits outweigh the disadvantages and there is a need for us to focus more on the positives so that we work towards achieving 50/50 representation.
“50/50 representation ensures healthy communities that can easily achieve better wellbeing through reduction of GBV cases, poverty and hunger,” said Ald Dzvinyangoma.
Ald Dzvinyangoma said that gender equality is a more reliable predictor of peace and sustainable development.
“It stimulates economic growth through reduction of socio-economic disparities and promotes fairness and justice between women and men.
“This leads to inclusive gender-responsive budgeting and inclusive gender-responsive service delivery,” said Ald Dzvinyangoma.
Ald Dzvinyangoma added that 50/50 representation breaks the bias and reduces harmful cultural practices like child marriages. She said that it increases the visibility of activities done by women and their positive portrayal.
In Zimbabwe 50/50 representation was achieved or surpassed in the structures of the Gender Commission, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and in the appointment of ministers of state. Are the benefits visible to everyone?
Epworth Local Board, Ward 1 Councillor, Joshua Chinonyengerwa said that 50/50 representation promotes equal access and participation in development processes.
“Some people are not comfortable speaking out to men and some are not comfortable disclosing sensitive information to women hence the need for equal representation.
If we have men only in key decision-making positions we will be shutting out a significant percentage that will not come out with issues affecting communities, said Cllr Chinonyengerwa.
Cllr Chinonyengerwa equated 50/50 representation to less corruption and said that women are less corrupt.
“Based on the experience that we have with few women occupying key decision-making positions, they are more reliable with finances and they are less likely to be associated with cases of corruption,” said Cllr Chinonyengerwa.