Recent Polls Surface Challenges for Female Politicians

The recently held by-elections showed glaring disparities in Bulawayo’s electoral process with political parties exposed for disregarding constitutional provisions regarding gender equality, some with women shying away from contesting in the by-elections.

Senzeni Mpofu, a female politician, says it is disappointing that women politicians continue to face hurdles when they attempt to contest for positions.

Mpofu blames this on societal and cultural norms which often relegate women to household chores.

“One barrier to women’s political participation and leadership is time use. Women spend up to four times as much time on unpaid care work and home duties than men, precluding them from economic and political participation,” Mpofu says.

Bulawayo ward 17 councillor Sikhululekile Moyo is concerned over the low women participation in Bulawayo in the by-elections.

“I am deeply worried because we had very few women participating. If I look at the National Assembly from my party (CCC), only one woman contested. In the local government, only two participated,” Moyo says.

“I was hoping we were going to get more numbers this time around. But the problem also goes back to our political parties where candidates are selected at primary elections. It’s clear we still have a long way to go to ensure more women join the political train.” Says Moyo.

Out of 12 MPs in Bulawayo only three are women.

The situation is also the same with the Bulawayo City Council where there are 8 women out of 28 councilors, exposing a huge gap of women representation in the city.

A 2017 study by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) provided a grim summary: “Seventy-four percent of women said they were not interested in participating in elections for fear of violence.”

Thabitha Khumalo says the statistics are worrying.

“It’s all because policy makers are currently held by men where there are women; they are just ceremonial to keep up appearances due to cultural, economic norms that affect women. In that case there is nowhere, numbers of women holding positions rising,” she says.

As noted in the Millennium Development Goals (United Nations, 2019), women’s equal participation with men in politics, power and decision-making processes is part of their fundamental right to participate in political life, and at the core of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

From a post-election analysis, very few females compared to males managed to win the Parliamentary and local authority seats.

So bad has been the situation that even the central government decried low participation of women in politics, saying of the 6 800 candidates that contested for council seats in the 2018 elections, only 1 156 were women.

There were 28 vacant National Assembly seats and 122 local authority seats last week, and male candidates emerged as the majority of winners.

Female candidates only managed to get 15.5% of the 122 local authority seats, and 21.4% of the National Assembly seats, with the remainder being occupied by men.

According to statistics provided by the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (Wcoz), women constituted a mere 33, 2% of the parliamentary candidates with their male counterparts accounting for 66, 8%.

However, a brief comparison with the 2018 elections shows that the level of women’s participation as candidates for the direct National Assembly seats has remained stagnant.

A number of reasons have been cited for the stagnation with fear for violence and political parties’ gender imbalances topping the list. Ironically, women remained high registered voters.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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