Women's vote key in 2018 election

HARARE - As political parties gear up for the 2018 general election, women’s participation in the campaigns and the actual vote will change the political dynamics and future leadership of the country.

The country might for the first time meet the 2015 Sadc Gender Protocol target of at least 50 percent representation of women in all areas of political decision and also uphold the Constitution which promotes women’s participation in governance.

Several organisations and political parties have launched rigorous campaigns to make women visible in 2018 election.

International organisation Hivos recently hosted women from various political parties under a “Women for Leadership programme” to discuss women’s participation in the coming elections.

However, the sentiment was that women were shying away from politics because of the violent nature of Zimbabwe’s politics.

Political parties have on the other hand committed themselves to ensuring that women get equal opportunities as their male counterparts in the election.

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said his party was working to have gender parity so that there would be 50-50 representation of men and women in municipalities and in Parliament.

“The MDC believes in creating an environment in which women and the youth will take up positions of authority and influence in both the party and the elective organs of the State such as in municipalities and in Parliament.

“As a political party, we are actively encouraging and empowering women within our structures to contest for positions as both municipal and parliamentary candidates,” Gutu told the Daily News.

People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said his party would ring-fence certain constituencies to ensure that women fully participate in the election.

“We have a 50 -50 policy on women participation. We believe that women are more than men and we should have that reflected in the institutions. We will ring fence some constituencies and wards for women. And we will select 50 percent women in our Cabinet and 50 percent of the permanent secretaries will be women.”

Zimbabwe’s Constitution specifically aims to promote gender balance in Section 17 and 1(a). “The State must promote the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men; (b) the State must take all measures, including legislative measures, needed to ensure that (i) both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level; and (ii)women constitute at least half the membership of all Commissions and other elective and appointed governmental bodies established by or under this Constitution or any Act of Parliament,” it reads.

Zimbabwe experienced a positive development in the 2013 elections where women’s representation in Parliament doubled from about 17 percent following the 2008 general elections, to 35 percent in the 2013 elections.

However, the number of women who actually won, fell from 34 to 26.

Women comprised 124 of the 350 Members of Parliament, including 86 women in the National Assembly – 60 in the reserved seats and 26 elected directly to the 210 constituency seats.

However, President Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet in 2013 was a great disappointment as women’s representation stood at 11,5 percent down from 16 percent in the 2008 Cabinet.

Mugabe appointed only three women ministers out of the 26 MPs, Olivia Muchena as the Higher and Tertiary Education minister; Oppah Muchinguri as Women Affairs minister, and Sithembiso Nyoni as Small and Medium Enterprises minister.

Out of the 24 deputy ministers only four were women.

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