BY SILAS NKALA
WOMEN’S Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe) has called on the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC to give women fair opportunities to take up top leadership positions at its congress pencilled for May 24 to 26.
Chamisa, during the party’s thank you rally in Gweru on Sunday, indicated that during the upcoming congress every position will be contested including the presidency.
In a statement yesterday, Walpe said it was necessary for the main opposition party to consider placing women in influential positions.
The organisation quoted remarks by a former Head of the United Nations Women, Michelle Bachelet, who is also former President and Defence minister of Chile, who said: “For me, a better democracy is a democracy where women do not only have the right to vote and to elect, but to be elected.”
Walpe called for a level playing field for all contestants and said the MDC should guarantee a violence-free environment.
“Women’s political empowerment and access to leadership positions, at all levels, are fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the United Nations Women 50/50 gender representation agenda,” the Walpe statement said.
“As the MDC goes on a leadership renewal exercise, Walpe appeals for a level playing field for all contestants. The party must guarantee an environment that is free of violence, harassment and victimisation of women contesters, name-calling, body-shaming and cyber-bullying of female candidates. Further, the party must outlaw vote buying which creates an imbalance for women who are traditionally under-resourced.”
Walpe urged the party to set up an independent disciplinary and dispute resolution committee to adequately deal with potential cases of violence against women and/or infringement of ethical codes of conduct and those found guilty must be held accountable.
The organisation also called upon the opposition party to ensure that all congress-related processes are done during friendly hours to allow women to freely participate.
“Elections that run well into the night curtails women’s participation as they have other important social responsibilities to attend to. Therefore, all programming related to congress must be gender sensitive,” Walpe said.
“Women’s participation is important for internal party democracy and for broader development of national democracy as such, it is critical to ensure women compete for leadership positions at all levels of party structures instead of second tier positions such as deputies, welfare or portfolio secretaries.
“Going forward, Walpe will closely monitor and report on leadership renewal processes of all political parties to inform national and international opinion on how individual parties are faring in promoting women political participation and leadership,” it added.
In response, MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume said: “We actually have two areas where women can participate, which is the women’s assembly and the main wing.
“The women assembly is wholly for them, but it doesn’t end there. They can also compete in the main wing of the party if they manage to secure the nomination. We have created a conducive environment for their participation.”
Zimbabwe currently has just above 30% female representation in the National Assembly.
Violence and intimidation during elections in local politics has been identified as a major contributing factor to failure by women to participate in politics.