Communique of the Women in Local Governance Dialogue Forum

Women representing 46 Wards of Harare and Elected Women Councilors from different parts of Harare assembled on the 29th of September 2021 at Batanai Gardens to deliberate and interrogate policy proposals on the women’s quota in local governance.

The women bemoaned the democratic deficit created by the under representation of women in the City of Harare, only 8 female councilors out of 46 council seats were elected in 2018.

The women acknowledged Article 17 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe that provides for the promotion of gender balance and taking measures, including legislative ones, to ensure that both men and women are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of the government at every level.

In view of the 30% mandatory proportional representation quota system for local government (local council) proposed by the government, women reiterated that the 30% quota falls far short of the constitutional provisions that call for equal representation and that the appointed seats are merely ceremonial and tokenistic since they are not directly elected to represent any ward.

The participants were worried that adding more Council seats through the 30% quota through proportional representation will put an extra burden on ratepayers who are the major funders of Council budgets.

The women proposed an alternative policy of reserving 50% of the 46 Wards ONLY for women candidates to contest on their own as a way to ensure quality and equal representation in councils, and these seats will be rotational after each election.

The participants noted with concern the discriminatory practices in the nomination court processes of demanding marriage certificates for female married candidates and divorce papers for women previously married while the same documentation is not a requirement for male candidates. Women pointed out that this practice does not create an even or equal playing field for men and women in elections.

The women lamented that political parties are the major gatekeepers who are standing in the way of women to reclaim local governance leadership and represent residents in Councils and this has seen women being relegated to the periphery of local governance hence the poor service provision witnessed in the City of Harare and other local authorities.

On violence, the meeting agreed that a peaceful and tolerant environment before, during and after elections is important to catalyze women’s participation in running for public office during local government elections.

Women agreed to engage the Minister of Local Government and Parliament on the 30% quota system and share alternative policy proposals for the women’s quota for local government.

Women participants vowed to take legal action in removing discriminatory processes and procedures that guide nomination of candidates.

Source: Combined Harare Residents Association

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