Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) and Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) hosted an oversubscribed research validation seminar in Harare on 19 September 2019. The validation process follows a research process conducted across the country by the two organizations on: “The Efficacy of the Women’s Parliamentary Proportional Representation Quota System”. The seminar which initially targeted to bring together 20 participants but attracted a total 82 participants drawn from parliamentarians, women civic society leaders, women community leaders, the media, WALPE members and academics.
The key findings of the research which were shared at the validation seminar is as follows:
- The National House of Assembly proportional representation quota system helped in increasing the number of women in the lower house from an average of 10% (2008) to 32% (2013, 2018).
- The PR MPs enhanced advocacy and debates around issues affecting women and girls in Parliament e.g. the marriage bill debate, the challenge of inaccessibility of sanitary wear, sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), violence against women and girls (VAWG), renewable energy, unaffordable education, health and social service delivery and the need for the Parliament space to be conducive for women to effectively and freely contribute to policy making and the development of the country.
- The quota system capacitated some MPs to stand in constituencies and won.
- The PR MPs also represented the country at regional and international forums.
- The system enabled the country to emerge as a model of study for other countries clamoring to increase the number of women in leadership.
- The PR MPs act as role models for young women activists who desire to run for public office in the future.
- Patriarchy remains one of the stumbling blocks to the achievement of gender equality in all leadership positions in Zimbabwe.
- Violence against women and girls remain a huge inhibiting factor to women’s ascendancy to leadership positions.
- There is need to educate traditional and religious leaders as some participants noted that some of them are against the appointment of women in leadership positions due to patriarchy and ignorance.
- Although there was general acceptance amongst the participants that the quota system increased the number of women in the lower house, the percentage increase is still a far cry to the achievement of equal representation in leadership. They bemoaned that there must be equal representation of men and women in all leadership positions in line with Section 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
- Participants highlighted the selection process of candidates of the quota system, is controlled and largely influenced by men hence relegating grassroots women and youth.
- The focus group discussions (FGDs) results show that some of the engaged participants especially from the rural areas were not aware of the provisions of the quota system hence the need for more awareness-raising in communities. Additionally, some of the nominated PR candidates are said to be out of touch with the grassroots’ women hence they are not raising concerns of women they must represent.
Responding to these findings, the validation panel discussion which had the Chairperson of the powerful Parliamentary Women’s Caucus Hon. Goodlucky Kwaramba (ZANU PF), Hon Lynette Karenyi Kore (MDC A) and a vibrant young woman leader and activist Netsai Marova. Collectively, the panel noted that patriarchy remained at the centre of the exclusion of women and there was need to address the issue of attitude change in society and proportional representation in leadership helped to do so by giving more women an opportunity to lead.
Hon. Kwaramba noted that the Electoral Act must be aligned with the Constitution to ensure that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) does not accept any political party list which does not have 50-50 representation of men and women. This validated the findings of the research which called on the need for extensive amendments to the electoral law.
In her submissions, Hon. Karenyi Kore noted that lack of resources limited the effective participation of women in the electoral processes and called for the establishment of a mechanism for funding women candidates. This concurred with the findings of the research which established that women participation was limited due to lack of financial resources for campaigning.
Ms. Netsai Marova, noted that there was need to change the quota system if it was to continue at all. This corroborated with the findings of the research in which 69% of the participants said that there was need for changing the structure and operationalization of the quota system if it must continue beyond 2023.
Overall, the seminar participants validated the preliminary findings of the research by broadly agreeing with the research that the current structure of the PR quota system is undemocratic and the only sustainable way forward to achieve 50/50 representation is to operationalize sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Participants also indicated the urgent need to increase women representation in key decision making bodies such as School Development Committees (SDC), Health Centre Committees (HCC), local authorities, parliament, cabinet and Presidium. Three models on how to achieve the 50/50 gender equality in leadership are emerging to be discussed in detail during the official launch of the research findings on 16 October 2019.
Participants also commended WALPE and SAPST for undertaking the research and also including such diverse voices in the process.
Source: Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)