Election season, women’s experiences

Election season, women’s experiences

ZIMBABWE has a relatively solid framework for protecting women’s rights. It is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Africa Union and Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Protocols on Women.

However,  this seems to  be  a uniform inscription, decades-old cultivated norm, which remains intact owing to patriarchism of diplomatic ceremonialism. Among Africa nations, in hindsight,  adherence is only  half a glove.

Preeminently, the 2013 constitutional amendment introduced a gender quota to ensure equal representation of women in parliament.

The quota envisages that the lower house 60 of its 270 seats (22%) for  women members of parliament and Upper house is to appoint 60 of its 80 senators from a list that alternates between female and male candidates

Despite a sophisticated legal and policy framework in Zimbabwe that encourages women's participation in politics, the nomination figures show an urgent need for action and an undesirous  downturn at all levels of candidacy compared to 2018 statistics

A total of 70 women were competing for seats in the National Assembly, accounting for 11% of the 637 potential candidates.

Ultimately, this dreadful gender statistic places Zimbabwe last in southern Africa in terms of gender parity.

In South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique, 46%, 44% and 42% women are represented in parliament respectively.

Undoubtedly, the number of our women running for public office at all levels, from local government to parliament to the presidency, clearly demonstrates the democratic deficits in our society and system of government.

Alas , despite all the envisaged legal frameworks in terms of gender equality, women's representation and participation in 2023 is still considered peripheral, while gains are deliberately reversed to preserve  the system's patriarchal hegemony and privileges.

Political intimidation coupled with the unsettling effects of gender based violence have led to  women being hesitant and apathetic towards  political endeavours; unfortunately  only 11% took part in this year's general elections whilst  constituting   the  majority.

The majority of  women, who had successfully filed their nomination court papers, later withdrew their candidature on account of the harassment and covert violence from their own party and from contesting parties as  reported in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission 2018  post-election gender survey report.

The ongoing disenfranchisement of women in politics is compounded by gender bias, which is reinforced and validated by gatekeepers.

This transitional process is facilitated by indoctrination, imposed by religious dogma, and in turn passed on to the next generation.

As a result, symbiotic relationship tied to  patriarchal norms, prejudices and gender  stereotyping  are also  used to undermine women's political agency.

For instance women, who are politically active are often portrayed as morally loose or labeled as prostitutes.

Consequently, lack of representation we see among candidates in the local authorities, Parliament and even at the Presidential level is the after-effect of patriarchal authoritarianism.

Delays in the distribution of ballots in the August 2023 election, due to a variety of factors, prevented some women from voting in areas where elections lasted late into the night.

Conversely women’s triple roles (reproductive, productive, and community work) undoubtedly required inherently more attention, depriving them of their democratic rights while the whole process showing  symptoms of a gender-insensitive disposition. 

In light of the many plethora of problems women face in politics, governments and society must deliberately create an enabling, safe and inclusive environment in which women can participate, express ideas and contribute to the progress of our society and governance as enshrined in the Constitution.

  • Nyawo is a development practitioner.

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