Women can achieve 50% target

The prospect of elections this year has been met with different reactions across the political divide, with some parties confident of victory and many analysts concerned that the country is not ready.

Zambia’s first female presidential candidate, Edith Nawakwi.
Zambia’s first female presidential candidate, Edith Nawakwi.

The 50 percent benchmark that women are striving for in decision-making positions will not be delivered on a silver platter. Although women constitute 52 percent of the total population, they remain under represented in decision-making positions.

A women’s era

Women make up 16 percent of Zimbabwe’s Cabinet, 18percent of Parliament and 19 percent of local government, according to a United Nations Report.

This is in sharp contrast to the 2011 elections in Tunisia which have been labelled ‘a battleground for women’s rights’ as 50 percent of the candidates were women. During an interview with the Inter-Press Service, Maya J’ribi, General Secretary of Tunisia’s Progressive Democratic Party said: “I am proud of these women, all of whom are extremely capable candidates. We are all moving towards a women’s era in Tunisia.” Twenty-four percent of Tunisia’s parliamentary seats went to women. This only happened, however, after they took to the streets during the voting period to change their plight. This was groundbreaking courage in Tunisian history and can teach us a lot about how to bring about change.

Khadija ben Hassine, electoral candidate of the Modernist Democratic Pole in Tunisia said: “Many of these female voters –including young women out on the streets – want to improve their daily lives and the election gives them the opportunity to make their own choices, based on their own interest”.

Zimbabwe is one of the eight countries that signed and ratified the SADC Gender and Development Protocol. It stipulates that women should hold 50 percent of decision-making positions, for both public and private sectors. With three years to go, Zimbabwe is still far from reaching the target.

A united front

The current outlook for gender parity in politics calls for women to transcend their political party differences and form a united front.

The Constitution and the Electoral Act seemingly promote women’s political rights, but have no specific provisions for strategies such as quotas and reserved seats to increase representation in Parliament. This has hampered efforts by women to compete, especially in an environment that is highly patriarchal.

According to Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance it will take us 25 years just to reach the critical 30 percent and another 25 years to reach the 50 percent mark.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union highlighted that genuine democracy cannot exist without the full and equal participation of both men and women.

The Gender Policy in the country seeks to redress the gender imbalances in decision-making and politics by increasing the numerical representation of women to 52 percent. The head of the Feminist Political Education Project, Thoko Matshe, said: “Women are given smooth ministries, whilst their male counterparts are chosen to head key departments such as Security, Finance, Home Affairs, etc.”

Women’s needs

Speaking at a Media workshop in October last year, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Information Facility Centre, Virginia Muwanigwa, said: “The reason we don’t have gender sensitive budgets is because we don’t have women representatives in these key ministries who understand the needs of women”. Nigeria has been recommended for its promotion of a woman finance minister who, during her tenure, made some huge changes in terms of economic stability and the elimination of corruption.

The recent Zambian elections saw the country’s first female contestant, Edith Nawakwi of the Forum for Democratic Development, running for president. Zimbabwean women can learn from Nawakwi and Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that the highest political office is not the preserve of men, unless they allow it.

‘Women lack confidence’

The Vice President Joyce Mujuru was recently quoted as saying that women are their own worst enemies and the sooner they learn to fend for themselves the better.

“Women lack confidence and instead of relying on quotas to get into power, they should be bold and aggressive enough to pave their way,” she said.

African success stories

There have been successes recorded in Africa with Rwanda surpassing the 50 percent target of women in parliament; South Africa and Uganda having 39 percent and 31, 5 percent respectively and Tanzania reserving 37 of its 42 appointed seats for women.

Coordinator of the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Netsai Mushonga, said that women’s participation in decision-making at all levels was essential.

“There can be no democracy without the free participation of women,” she said. The 50/50 benchmark needs action on the part of women.

Post published in: Politics

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