Opinion:2018 polls tall order for young female politicians

ROPAFADZO Mafuba (22) strongly believes she is ripe for political office and, as a young woman in a largely patriarchal society, she insists there could never have been a better time for her to contest for the Chiredzi West Ward 8 councillor post.

BY KENNEDY NYAVAYA

Women who are active in national politics have often been subjected to immense grilling and scrutiny, compared to their male counterparts.

Widely considered a dirty game, analysts contend that the playing field is not level for women, who are often abused, forcing many of them to quit politics altogether.

Mafuba, however, maintains she is ready to endure the treacherous journey in the murky world of politics.

“I have confidence in myself and I am not intimidated by anyone because other women started it when they were very young during the liberation struggle. I know I can prevail,” she confidently told NewsDay.

But, according to Margaret Dongo — a veteran female politician famed for her hardline stance against Zanu PF policies in the 1990s, which led to her winning the Sunningdale parliamentary seat as an independent candidate — a possible bloodbath is looming along the way to next year’s crunch elections.

“The next polls are dog-eat-dog. The 2018 election is like 2008, where we witnessed people being burnt. There is likely to be violence. Let us not run away from it. You are too young, not for office, but to endure that suffering,” Dongo said.

The gravity of these possibilities, however, does not terrify Mafuba as she claims unwavering determination.

“I am not moved by any of those statements because if they [older female politicians] did it, I also can do it. I believe in every journey you have to take risks and I am ready to face everything,” she said.

Both Mafuba and Dongo attended a female-only conference organised by the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) last week in Harare, where the latter made a presentation to the group of over 50 aspiring candidates.

Dongo lauded the valiant young crop of politicians, but added that they would need to convince her with women empowerment strategies to earn her vote.

“We definitely need to support each other, but do so with direction, it is not just an issue of saying there has to be a woman,” she said.

“I will not support a woman just because she is putting on a dress, because I do not want to be betrayed. Neither would I want to betray other women. I want to support a woman who is principled, who leads by example that she is a person that can sacrifice for women.”

Mafuba’s manifesto is being generated from personal experiences because, despite having scored high grades at A’ Level, she has had to settle for a “lesser” profession fitting her unemployed father’s financial capability.

With her application for nurse training rejected in what she suspects to be a well-co-ordinated jobs-for-pay scheme, she plans to use the office of councillor as a tool to uproot both unemployment and corruption.

“I am looking for a vacancy to train as a nurse, but because of corruption you will not get it even when you apply with good grades like mine,” Mafuba explained, adding she will mop drugs off the streets.

“Firstly I want to deal with unemployment because my fellow youths are forced into drug abuse and early marriages although they are well-educated, but it is happening as a result of corruption.”

This rot has not only helped shape the political vision, but also encompasses efforts to enhance the equality for both sexes in all spheres of life.

“Some companies in my area are employing more men than women [and] they believe we are not equal, but I want to change that and make sure 50-50 opportunities must not only be on paper, but on the ground,” she said.

Competing against established politicians including the incumbent male councillor, she is banking on her strength and ability to move around individually, mobilising the marginalised masses.

“I still have the strength to take those people to vote rather than him, so for that reason, I believe, I can compete with him,” Mafuba said.

Women constitute the majority of the population, but the positive demographics have not translated into victories for them politically, leaving aspirants at the mercy of male counterparts.

In the build-up to next year’s crucial elections, other female prospective candidates like Fadzai Mahere have already started feeling the heat with arrests, ridicule and name-calling.

“You are going to be very lonely because when things get tough very few people will be willing to stand by you and offer a shoulder to lean on,” advised Dongo.

For Mafuba, who comes from a politically-docile family the loneliness could even stretch further but that will not deter her.
“I know they will have a problem with this, although they are not talking about it now I know sooner or later they will because none of them has been into politics, [but] I am not going to stop,” she said.

Mzingwane legislator and firebrand politician, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC) also weighed in, saying the young politicians ought to find confidantes through their political journeys to ensure their safety.

“You cannot protect yourself totally, but create a support system around yourself, so that if someone throws a petrol bomb you have actual people that know you have been attacked,” she said, adding that there is need to expose sexual abuse in all its forms.

“It makes it easier because violence always operates where it is in silence and darkness, so when people know that if I violate somebody or do something I will be named and shamed then they will not do it.”

Meanwhile, the two-day event also marked the launch of the #VoteRunLead movement which, according to organisers, is meant to equip the youthful ambitious leaders running for local council offices in their campaigns until the days of the plebiscite.

IYWD director, Glanis Changachirere said her organisation put the workshop together to promote participation of young women in decision-making and political processes.

“This has been made so that they can be able to walk, talk and ask from women who have been in politics for some time both those who have made it or not to learn how the experience has been,” she said.

“One thing that has come out are the obvious challenges that they are going to face given the violent nature of elections in the country and their subordinate role in our communities where they are not regarded the same way as male counterparts.”

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