AMhVoices: Young women on primary elections

Young women share their experiences during the political parties candidate selection and primary elections period #VoteRunLead


There are a lot of events taking place as the country prepares for the 2018 harmonised election in a few months to come. Some political parties are busy with preparations of the primary elections where individuals interested in running for office in the upcoming elections submit their Curriculum Vitaes (CVs) for ‘verification’ by the organs of the party and subsequently allow party members to decide on a popular and/or preferred candidate. Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) advocates for gender equality in all spaces and promote young women’s participation and leadership in political processes. Through the #VoteRunLead campaign, young women from diverse backgrounds are going through transformative leadership trainings to share knowledge and skills, create platforms for solidarity and support in their political leadership journeys. IYWD has also been profiling and tracking progress of these young women in their quest for political leadership. Young women recently shared experiences encountered during the candidate selection and upcoming primary elections in their respective political parties.

Political party systems and processes marginalising young women

Ropafadzo, a young woman from Harare,who attended and participated at the Transformational leadership and mentoring workshop in October 2017 facilitated by IYWD noted that political party processes are marginalising young women from participation and being represented.She shared that political parties are not abiding to the quota systems proposed by their own constitutions with regards to women, youth and people living with disabilities when it comes to candidate selection and primary elections. She was a member ZANU PF and according to her, lack of resources and support from other political members has been a major hindrance to her political journey. This motivated her to run as an independent candidate noting that, “ it’s very difficult as a young woman to excel under a party with a strong patriarchal system that only see men as eligible candidates for leadership positions”.

Feeling neglected and undermined by party members made her chose to run as an independent candidate. “Some women are doing great as independent candidates and Linda Masarira is my role model”, shared Ropafadzo who, despite lack of support from her former political party, has found courage to stand as an independent candidate deriving inspiration from other young women who have taken the same decision before.

The need for gender equality at all levels of decision-making process has been a motivation to many Zimbabwean young women. The primary election, a process by which party members select their preferred candidate in an upcoming election, has proved to be part of the political party processes, which marginalise women. Farie, from Bindura could not have a chance to submit her CV personally for the primary elections as she was admitted in the hospital. When she informed the ZANU PF District leader, they rejected her CV. All she ever wanted was a second chance considering that she wasn’t feeling well on the submission day of CVs.

With the support from people from her ward, she opted to run as an independent candidate. The rejection she faced from the party really hurt her.” When they rejected my CV I knew very well that it wasn’t about late submission but it’s because they wanted to get rid of me because I am a competitor to their preferred candidate. It is high time women take up leadership positions. This party is male dominated and they still want to take up those positions whilst they are doing nothing on ground. I have decided to run as an independent and with the knowledge I acquired at the #voterunlead leadership session I am confident that I will make it through to the top”, said Farie. She urged other women to not be disheartened when they face situations like these but always find a way out in the midst of difficulties.

Catherine from Guruve also shared the experiences she encountered when submitting her CV. She shared that the party introduced policies that were meant to further marginalize women in Mashonaland Central Province. The ZANU PF provincial leader announced that aspiring candidates should update their membership cards minutes after people arrived at the provincial office to submit their CVs. “submission of CVs must have been done at party ‘s district office not at provincial office because some did not have money to travel such long distances. One had to travel from as far as Bindura to Guruve to submit their CVs and upon arrival the provincial chairman announced that people should update their membership cards. With the financial constraints people are facing, only a few, the top officials, managed to submit their CVs pushing away young women from marginalized areas who couldn’t afford to update their membership cards”, shared Catherine. She went on to say that it has been the top official’s aim to announce about the membership cards on the day of submission as they know that a handful of people will not afford that. Information about the membership cards and submission of CVs at the provincial offices should have been shared a week or so before the submission date to allow all aspiring candidates to look for money required.

Good news and progress for some

However, it’s been heaven on earth to some young women. Lindiwe, from Movement for Democratic Change (MDCT) in Matebeleland South Province is happy with the way the primary elections were handled in Matebeleland South Province. She managed to get on the Proportional Representation (PR) list and there will not be any voting because only 6 names were submitted in her province. If her party succeeds, she will be a Member of Parliament.

Political parties need to shift the mind-set that women are incapable of taking leadership positions from community level up to national level for the betterment of the country. Choosing the best candidate with developmental plans for the citizens will be profitable to everyone. Political parties should also abide to their constitutional obligations on representation of young people, women, people living with disabilities and other marginalised groups to achieve equality and social justice. If they exercise free, fair, gender equality and peaceful primary elections it means Zimbabwe will be able to exercise this in the 2018 harmonised election.

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