As the 30th of July 2018 Harmonised election draws near we, Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU), declare that 50/50 is still on our Agenda and pledge to continue on our quest to achieve it. This is despite the overwhelmingly underwhelming poor political party commitment to our nation’s Constitution, clearly highlighting the political hypocrisy to the delivery on the 50/50 Agenda across the political divide.
We make the commitment to achieving 50/50 in a context that has carried and promoted negative beliefs, attitudes and behaviours towards women in the public political domain. This narrative seeks to cover the failure to achieve equality in party processes and leadership as a fault of women themselves and beyond the reach of the country’s laws, structures and mechanisms. Inequality in public leadership is being normalised, hate speech against women and sexual harassment of women in leadership are being considered part of the acceptable leadership terrain and therefore not worth complaining about or responding to.
We will continue advocating the participation of women in elections, not just as voters but as candidates as well. We will continue to engage and raise the principle that women have a right to be there. We will continue to amplify the fact that, there is more to women, beyond the numbers. Women also have the right to exercise and enjoy their political rights as political constituents. Women do not have to take on leadership and politics with fear and trepidation as if they are preparing for an expedition to the great unknown. As such we will continue to seek the social, structural and institutional reforms that actively hinder the realisation of 50/50 in Zimbabwe.
Why does 50/50 even matter?
There are numerous reasons why women’s political participation matters but we highlight five here:
- Women’s Rights are Human Rights. Rights are universal and unassailable. This means we cannot allow our society to cherry-pick which rights matter for whom and when. Rights should always include and intrinsically strive to protect and promote women.
- Zimbabwe is a Constitutional Democracy, and the Constitution is very clear on Gender Equality:
- Section 3(g) entrenches Gender Equality as one of the country’s founding values and principles.
- Section 17 states “The State must promote full gender balance in Zimbabwean society…” Subsection (2) further states: “the State must take positive measures to rectify gender discrimination and imbalances resulting from past practices and policies.”
- Section 56(2) states unambiguously “Women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.”
- Section 80(1): Every woman has full and equal dignity of the person with men and this includes equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.” This right extends to opportunities to be voted into office; not just to be voters. Political parties should abide by the Constitution. Their structures and processes should accommodate more women.
- It is just and democratic. We cannot talk about democracy, inclusivity and social justice if women are left behind. Numbers matter. Zimbabwe’s population is 52% women and women constitute 53% of registered voters. Nothing for women without women.
- It demonstrates the responsiveness to our different needs and experiences. Women’s experiences are different from men’s and these are better articulated by women themselves. Only if women are at the decision making table (where they can speak out and influence decisions) will their interests and concerns be seriously taken into account. The country cannot continue to have women at the periphery of politics where they are at the mercy of other agendas and the needs of others.
- It reflects our international and regional role and positioning.Zimbabwe has committed to the international community of nations that its respects and protects women’s rights. Zimbabwe is a signatory to a multitude of regional and international conventions where it commits itself to the highest standards of women’s rights protection and promotion. Zimbabwe’s inability to meet those standards negatively impacts on the country’s collective trajectory to taking its right and appropriate place in the global arena and in particular the aim to grow and strengthen Zimbabwe’s voice and influence internationally. To continue failing to meet those standards is at best hypocritical and at worst a blatant disregard of the global community it seeks to re-join meaningfully and influence.