Violence impedes women participation in politics

THE majority of Zimbabwean women are not keen on participating in politics and occupying positions, due to the violent nature of the country’s political system, the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCZ) has said.

BY CLAYTON MASEKESA

In a dialogue session titled Women in Decision Making and Participation in Elections, held in Mutare last Friday, women participants said although progress had been made in increasing the participation of women in politics in Zimbabwe, violence had remained a major impediment.

WCZ Manicaland chapter chairperson, Irene Takundwa said women participation in governance issues was generally low because of fear.

“Increasing women’s representation in the government can empower women and is necessary to achieve gender parity,” she said.
This comes amid reports that women lobby groups are pushing for 50-50 women representation in all contested seats in this year’s general elections.

A participant, Nomatter Mapungwana, cited violence as the major impediment to women participation in elections.
“The political environment is not conducive for women seeking political space. Violence is a major push away for women,” she said.

Mapungwana said female politicians were also regarded as sex objects.

“To complicate matters, women who run for public office typically gain additional, unnecessary attention and are seen as being loose and immoral. Their private lives are put under the spotlight,” she explained.

“Their contributions are not viewed in any manner other than that and this has forced many of them to stay away.”

Unlike their male counterparts, Mapungwana said female political candidates faced many barriers that impact on their desire to run for elected office.

“There is sex stereotyping, political socialisation, lack of preparation for political activity, and balancing work and family,” she explained.

Pamela Muteedzi described women’s political empowerment and equal access to leadership positions at all levels as fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“With limited growth in women’s representation, advancement of gender equality and the success of the SDGs are jeopardised,” she said.

Muteedzi said greater women’s representation would correspond with a more equitable distribution of community resources, including more gender-sensitive spending on programmes related to health, nutrition, and education.

“As women, we have realised that gender inequality within families, inequitable division of labour within households and cultural attitudes about gender roles further subjugate women and serve to limit their representation in public life,” she said.

The participants said due to high levels of patriarchy, especially within local power structures, women often found it next to impossible to compete for political power.

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