IYWD Drives a Petition for Robust Affirmative Action for Young Women’s Participation and Representation at Local Government Level

In a bid to enhance young women’s political participation in line with Zimbabwe’s constitution and regional and international commitments Zimbabwe has signed up to young women from different provinces of Zimbabwe have consensually called for robust quota systems as a means to gender equality. Section 124 (b) of Zimbabwe’s constitution provides a Proportional Representation quota system of 60 seats for women parliamentarians. The quota system comes to an end in 2023. However the same constitution extensively provides for gender equality and non-discrimination in all spheres of life including politics.

It is against this background that IYWD convened and sought the views of young women and women politicians. The women have called for the review and continuation of a robust quota system that acts as a transitory mechanism towards gender equality, until such a time the socio- economic and political conditions facilitate a level playing field for women’s political participation.

On 29 April 2019, over 70 young women and women politicians present signed a petition by the Institute for Young Women Development which will be presented to the Parliament of Zimbabwe. The petition demands the implementation of gender equality and non-discrimination provisions by way of a review and continuation of affirmative action both at Parliament and Local Government Level to ensure the equal representation of young women and women in elective politics. In agreeing with continued affirmative action, Glanis Changachirere, the Team Leader of IYWD said ‘the quota system is a transitional and methodological way of ensuring inclusive politics of representation of young women and women, that should be accompanied by citizen education and institutional reforms for effective women’s participation’. She added that relevant legislative reforms also need to take place to align electoral laws to gender equality principles. Speaking alongside the validation meeting of the findings, Honourable Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga, a Member of Parliament elected under the current quota system stated that “Affirmative action usually stay until a time when you think the group you want to protect is now in a position to continue. Clearly young women have not reached that stage yet so the extension is necessary in my opinion”

The conference sparked conversations about women participation in politics, and key reflections on the need for continued education of society against misogynistic practices and behaviours so that they learn to accept that women can hold political office on an equal basis with men; empowerment of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to take punitive measures against political parties that do meet gender equality provisions in their candidates selection; creation of a specific budget by the Government for women participating in politics; setting up Women Resource Centres or Hubs for women politicians; and specific reporting and follow up guidelines for sexual harassment and abuse of women within and outside political parties.

Quota systems have become a key instrument in advancing gender equality worldwide. More than 30 countries have introduced quotas for election to national parliament by constitutional amendment or by electoral law, most of them during recent years. In more than 50 countries quotas for public election is now stipulated in major political parties’ own statutes, demanding that a certain minimum of the parties’ candidates for election to national parliament must be women. For Countries like Sweden political parties have actually not adopted quotas but rather affirmative actions measures for women to be politically involved. Zimbabwe, just like Sweden, is moving towards a solid framework for women to be seen on the map thus they called for the quota system to be revitalised in the upcoming 2023 Elections.

In Zimbabwe, the quota system is temporarily applicable to Parliamentary Level. Based on its work in advancing young women’s political participation including the 2018 election, IYWD realised that a number of young women were forthcoming to take up political office at local government level. However, the socio-economic and political conditions including candidates selection systems in political parties continue to inhibit effective young women’s participation. IYWD is therefore advocating for upholding of the country’s constitutional commitment to gender equality by putting in place robust quota systems for the election and representation of women in Parliament and Local Government. Additionally, IYWD is advocating that within the 50% representation of women, 25% should be occupied by young women. The petition will soon be tabled to the Ministry of Justice, Parliament of Zimbabwe, the Gender Commission and the Human Rights Commission.

Source: Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD)