Women participation in politics still below expectation

By Patience Nyagato

THE number of women participating in politics continues to decline despite various provisions by the country’s constitution on gender equality.

Statistics show that in the March 26 by-elections political parties did not field female candidates in 17 of the 28 parliamentary seats that were up for grabs.

Despite various strides being implemented to achieve gender equality in the country, including the quota system, progress is slow in terms of representation of women in politics which has prompted gender partners to go back to the drawing board to address the issue.

“Since the introduction of the quota in Parliament we initially had a large increase in the representation of women. but what we are seeing now is that the number of women who are running seems to be coming down continuously during each election.

“In the last election we only had 25 women winning seats and i think we need to relook and see how we can translate the 50 percent that we have in the constitution into a reality. What we have at the moment is not the desired result. When you look at the last by-elections we had in March, the level of representation was poor,” said former ZEC Commissioner, Netsai Mushonga.

Female politicians are convinced it is the toxicity of local politics that discourages aspiring female candidates.

“I faced a lot of abuse as I tried to get into politics. Apart from lack of funds there is name calling and sexism and if you don’t develop a thick skin you will quit,” said Linda Masarira, LEAD president.

The government reiterated its commitment to achieving gender equality, with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprises Development working on strategies to encourage women participation in politics.

“We have made a commitment for gender equality. As the ministry of women affairs, we have been working towards creating an enabling environment for the achievement of this policy in our national gender policy.

“We need to come up with strategies where women can participate with equal opportunities as men. We are finalising on a women in decision making strategy and the strategy has five thematic areas so that there is a pipeline of leadership to a low level and as young as school girls all the way up,” said Stephen Nyaruwata the Director for Gender in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprises Development.

Meanwhile, female politicians from across the political divide met in Kadoma this Wednesday to map the way forward on how to achieve 50/50 gender representation in Parliament and Local Government in the forthcoming elections.