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Friday, April 12, 2024
HomeYouthZimbabwean Youth Demand More Representation in Electoral Processes

Zimbabwean Youth Demand More Representation in Electoral Processes

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The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of non-governmental organizations that promotes democratic elections has called for more youth participation and representation in Zimbabwe’s electoral and governance processes, citing the low number of young lawmakers in the country’s parliament.

In a statement highlighting the crucial importance of youth involvement in electoral affairs as enshrined in the constitution, ZESN said that despite constitutional provisions and global mandates advocating for youth empowerment, youth are still underrepresented in key electoral, governance, policy and legislative affairs.

The National Youth Day, which falls on February 21, was proclaimed and introduced by the Zimbabwe government in 2017 to recognize youth and celebrate their contributions to the development of Zimbabwe as well as for the young people to emulate the leadership values of the country’s liberation heroes.

Zimbabwe has a young population, with over 60% of its estimated 15 million people being under the age of 25, according to the United Nations Population Fund. However, this demographic reality is not reflected in the political sphere, where youth face various barriers to entry and participation.

In the aftermath of the 2023 Harmonised Elections, ZESN observed with concern that only 35 young individuals secured seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. Among these, 17 were directly elected, 10 went through the Youth Quota allocation and a further eight went through the Women’s Quota.

This representation, constituting 12.5% of the 280-member National Assembly, contrasts with the demographic reality where the youth comprise over 60% of Zimbabwe’s population.

ZESN welcomed the institutionalization of the Youth Quota in the National Assembly to enhance their participation in democratic governance processes but expressed concern over the gender disparity within the quota system. Out of the 10 youth MPs elected under the Youth Quota, only three are female.

“This gender disparity not only undermines the principle of gender equality but also hampers the holistic representation of youth voices in the legislative chambers. Special attention must be given to addressing gender disparities within youth representation,” the statement read.

ZESN implored political parties to adopt affirmative action measures to promote the inclusion of young women in leadership positions, both within party structures and as electoral candidates.

The civil society group also called upon all stakeholders, including political parties, civil society organizations and the youth themselves, to take decisive action towards enhancing youth involvement in electoral processes and economic development.

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“Furthermore, there is a need for the government to revise electoral laws to allocate more seats specifically for young candidates and enforce gender parity measures within quotas. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and civil society organizations should come up with voter education programmes targeting youth to raise awareness about the importance of electoral participation, the electoral process, and the rights and responsibilities of voters and candidates,” the statement added.

ZESN contended that robust youth engagement, rooted in governance awareness and continuous involvement in leadership and governance mechanisms, has the potential to expedite the representation and participation of youth in electoral processes.

The statement coincides with the birthday of the late former president Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years until he was ousted by a military coup in 2017.

Mugabe, who died in 2019 at the age of 95, was revered by some as a liberation hero who fought against colonialism and racism but reviled by others as a dictator who presided over economic collapse, human rights abuses and corruption.

His successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has faced criticism for failing to deliver on his promises of political and economic reforms, as well as for cracking down on dissent and opposition.

Emirates

Zimbabwe’s youth have been at the forefront of protests and social movements demanding change and accountability from the government, such as the #ThisFlag and #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaigns.

However, they have also faced challenges such as unemployment, poverty, poor education, lack of opportunities, and repression.

Some of the youth who spoke to 263Chat expressed their frustrations and aspirations for the future of their country.

“We are tired of being sidelined and ignored by the politicians who only care about their own interests. We want to have a say in how our country is run and who represents us. We want to have a voice that matters and a vote that counts,” said Tinashe Mandivenga, a 23-year-old student and activist from Harare.

Moyo said he was inspired by the press statement from ZESN and hoped that it would spark a national dialogue on youth participation and representation.

“We need more platforms and spaces where we can engage with the authorities and the stakeholders on the issues that affect us. We need more support and resources to enable us to participate effectively and meaningfully. We need more young leaders who can represent our interests and aspirations in parliament and other institutions,” he said.

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Rumbidzai Chikwava, a 25-year-old entrepreneur and blogger from Bulawayo, said she was disappointed by the low number of young women in parliament and the lack of gender equality in the political arena.

“It is unacceptable that in this day and age, we still have such a huge gap between men and women in politics. We need more young women who can challenge the patriarchal and sexist norms that have been holding us back for too long. We need more young women who can bring new ideas and perspectives to the table and advocate for the rights and needs of women and girls,” she said.

Chikwava said she was encouraged by the call from ZESN for affirmative action measures to promote the inclusion of young women in leadership positions and electoral candidates.

“I think this is a step in the right direction and I hope that the political parties will heed this call and implement it. We need more young women who can inspire and mentor other young women to take up leadership roles and participate in electoral processes. We need more young women who can make a difference in our society and our country,” she said.

Tafadzwa Chirinda, a 24-year-old farmer and musician from Masvingo, said he was optimistic about the future of Zimbabwe and the role of youth in shaping it.

“I believe that we have the potential and the power to transform our country for the better. We have the skills and the talents to contribute to the development and prosperity of our nation. We have the passion and the vision to create a more democratic and inclusive society,” he said.

Chirinda said he was motivated by the statement from ZESN and hoped that it would galvanize more youth to get involved in electoral processes and economic development.

“We need more youth who can register and vote in the elections and hold the leaders accountable. We need more youth who can run for office and bring fresh and innovative solutions to the challenges we face. We need more youth who can create and seize opportunities in the economy and the arts. We need more youth who can lead by example and show the world what Zimbabwe can achieve,” he said.

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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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