50/50 gender parity still a mirage

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OVER the years the 50-50 gender representation mantra has been waved around like a magic wand by political parties, government officials and activists, but the reality on the ground speaks otherwise and results of the just ended by-elections speak loudly.

The gender card is, apparently, merely a campaign tool often taken advantage of by candidates for political mileage.

Even before the results, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) had said the by-elections had produced fewer women candidates than their male counterparts.

According to the statistics for the winning candidates for local authority seats, women represented a paltry 15,5% of winning candidates against a resounding 84,5% for males.

For the National Assembly, women only accounted for 21,4% of the winning candidates.

While we applaud the female candidates who won — like

Judith Tobaiwa of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) who grabbed the Kwekwe Central constituency seat — it remains a small victory for women.

Ironically, this comes as the world celebrates women in the month of March.

Prior to the elections, we pointed out how the playing field was skewed in favour of men.

Why are women failing to conquer the bias and shatter the glass ceiling in politics even when they represent the bulk of the population?

Is it that they do not support each other or there is a bigger force at play?

One thing that is clear is that efforts to bring equality have not been sincere nor have they been well thought out. Various women’s organisations purporting to be championing women’s rights have failed to make an impact in politics.

The funding they receive yearly to push for equity and equality is just going down the drain.

The government too has not been really sincere in ensuring a fair number of women assume key decision-making positions.

Communities also seem to prefer male candidates ahead of their equally capable female counterparts.

Financially, women are more likely to be incapacitated and this limits even their campaign trail.

We need to change the mindset in respect of capable women. Yes, capable! It is not just a matter of window dressing and satisfying constitutional demands, but we need women who can deliver.

We implore stakeholders to go back to the drawing board and plug the holes, starting with changing mindsets to funding female candidates.

They need support in every respect and who knows, they may have the keys to turning around the misfortunes of the country.

The activists should by now have realised that marching and making noise are not enough anymore. Take charge and help mould resilient female leaders who can challenge the status quo. The 2023 general elections are just around the corner and it’s not too late to write a new chapter.