President Mugabe urges affirmative action for women

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has urged proportional representation for women in governance as a way to empower them politically, especially during elections.


He was speaking in Harare on the first day of a two day summit organised by GlobalPower Women Network Africa whose objective is to generate action for women’s empowerment and the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls.

Mugabe admitted that women were disadvantaged during elections, saying proportional representation would help them overcome the obstacles they faced when competing against men.

Departing from his prepared speech, Mugabe said: "I would recommend affirmative action for you women because, if you stand against men, you will lose. I can tell you that you will lose and I, therefore, suggest a proportional representation by all parties such that you do not stand against a man in your constituency.'

He received an applause from the than 400 women from all political parties and other walks of life who came for the meeting.

Tsvangirai, who was present at the function, will stand against President Mugabe in the watershed election, probably the last that the 88-year-old statesman will compete in.

Even though, since 2004, Zimbabwe has had a female Vice President and there has been a slight increase in women parliamentarians and in Cabinet, women’s rights groups still complain that they are underrepresented and want more decision making positions in government and the corporate world.

Women mostly dominate elections as voters, with some analysts blaming that on political violence that scares them away and on patriarchal beliefs that discourage them from actively participating in politics.

In his speech to mark the summit, PM Tsvangirai said education was a vital tool to in the drive to empower women “Education remains a cornerstone in the improvement of women welfare and that of the generality of our populations. The education of the girl child remains a challenge in Africa in general with fewer and fewer girls and women found in tertiary education,’’ said the PM.

He added that gender based violence against women and children was ‘‘limiting their participation in the development of their countries’’.

‘‘The attainment of the Millennium Development Goals would go a long way towards addressing challenges afflicting African communities and the welfare of women in particular,’’ he added.

He regretted that, despite the advancements made in empowering them, there were still ‘’too many of the women (who are) still afflicted by daily challenges in the homes, in the communities and places of work – challenges which we must consistently strive to minimize or eliminate’’.

He urged governments to empower women, particularly those living in rural communities, to have improved access to land, water, education, training and financial aid.

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