'Zim women wary of politics'

HARARE - Zimbabwean women — particularly the educated and professional — are reluctant to vote and are cautious of engaging in active politics as they fear for their children and careers, a survey revealed.

The study by the Research and Advocacy Unit (Rau) — an organisation which engages middle-class young women under the age of 35 to ascertain their views on politics — said, however, Zimbabwean women have strong opinions on political issues.

“They will not engage until and unless the political parties present themselves in a manner that eliminates the concerns of the middle-class women about political participation, particularly the use of violence in politics,” Rau said in the survey’s report. 

It added that the women are timid of engaging in active politics even if they have the financial means and educational backing to do so.

The women, whose views were canvassed from focus group discussions and individual interviews, felt Zimbabwean politics do not work.

“...women also cited the chaotic registration process which was noticeable in 2013, so they feel their votes don’t count because it has always been Zanu PF and it will always be, and, that it’s not the people who vote that count. It’s the people who count the votes.”

Rau said the women, who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, felt that political parties speak against violence but they do not practice it.

“The nature of the party politics is nauseating, and, as much as one would like to participate, it means they have to choose a political party and running as an independent is an exercise in futility,” it said.

The research body noted that the political landscape of Zimbabwe has always been threatening, with harmful consequences for entrants, which explains the wariness by citizens to be involved or to even speak about politics except in safe spaces.

“Politics has a strong association with corruption and nepotism and for women who are trying to chart a way in their professions, this association was not palatable,” Rau said.

The women, however, acknowledged that their peers in politics at the moment are very brave and should be supported, as they have faced a lot of challenges to be where they are today.

Rau further said other women felt that the existing political parties do not appeal to the middle-class because they do not lead from the front.

The study also revealed that even though these women are educated, and in the middle-class, they still are burdened by patriarchy which excludes them.

“This is merely because they are women and should not be seen or heard in certain spaces, with the political arena being one of them,” Rau said.

“These women are determined to make a name for themselves in their respective professions and unless they are drawn out of their shell by political parties that speak their language, and coaxed enough to demand to be heard, they will continue to be speaking from the backseat where politics is involved.”

With regard to voting in 2018, the women stated that, unless something drastically changes between now and then, they are not motivated to vote because they feel that there is a dearth of political leadership in Zimbabwe.

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