Women must stand up and be counted

HARARE - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of Liberia and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, inherited a war-ravaged country and, with motherly hands, she has done exceptionally well in rebuilding her country.

She will probably go down in history as one of the greatest leaders to ever emerge on this continent, perhaps earning a place in the same league as iconic African leaders such as Nelson Mandela (South Africa); Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana); Alpha Oumar Konare (Mali) and Haile Selassie (Ethiopia).

About seven years ago, Newsweek magazine listed her as one of the “10 Best Leaders in the World,” while The Economist called her “the best president the country has ever had.”

Sirleaf has, indeed, become a popular symbol of democracy and women’s rights, not only in her own country, but throughout Africa and the developing world.

There are so many other women who hold so much hope for their communities but are finding it difficult to break that glass ceiling in the world of politics. As Zimbabwe eagerly awaits the 2018 harmonised elections, women must be part of a new breed of politicians that have their country at heart.

Sadly, there currently doesn’t appear to be any light at the end of the tunnel for the women who constitute more than 52 percent of Zimbabwe’s population. More than 37 years after the attainment of independence, women participation in politics is still far from reaching the levels that mature democracies would eschew.

There has been a lot of talk at several local, regional and international fora about how women could be empowered in the political sphere and other arenas, but it doesn’t seem like there is real interest among women to participate in their numbers in the forthcoming polls. For the majority of women, their political ambitions remain nothing but a dream.

It would also appear that the strides gained over the years are being eroded by greedy and power-hungry male politicians who are bent on using the women empowerment gospel as propaganda. There is therefore need for a new breed of women who will not wait to be given power by their male counterparts but instead take the power for themselves.

In the past, political posts for women have been selectively given to “the chosen ones” by their male godfathers, who would dish out positions according to their discretion and for their benefits hence though they now sat in Parliament, women have never had real power to make any significant policy changes.

It has been said before that Joice Mujuru did nothing to merit her appointment as the first female vice president of the Republic other than being married to General Solomon Mujuru who was at the heart of the country’s politics. Assuming this to be the case that would be a clear example of what is wrong with our flawed political system.

Mujuru left no legacy whatsoever of what a passionate woman could do for her fellow women for the 10 years she was in power. And when she was no longer relevant to the system, not only was she removed from her position unceremoniously, but the Zanu PF constitution had to be amended to remove a clause that had cleared the passageway for her appointment on the basis that one of the two vice presidents had to be a female.

The elevation of women on the basis of the support they enjoy from their prominent partners or associates is also poisoning the political field for deserving women who are more passionate and deserving of the job.

But all hope is not lost.

The advent of young blood on the political scene such as Fadzai Mahere may prove that there is still hope for female politicians. The young advocate has realised that the existing political parties leave a lot to be desired and has chosen to do it on her own by rolling out a manifesto that tackles real issues affecting the country.

She has stood boldly against corruption and government policies that many people shy away from. She is a fine example of what women can do when they set their mind on something.

This country does not lack when it comes to brilliant women, with the likes of Beatrice Mtetwa, Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa, Thokozani Khupe, Jenni Williams, Sharon Samushonga, Divine Ndlukula, Florence Ziumbe, Gloria Muradzikwa, Mavis Mataranyika et-al immediately coming to mind.

These and many more are enduring examples of exceptional women that can do much more for their compatriots if given an opportunity to try their luck in politics.

Probably more women in the position of power is what this nation needs for its rebirth.

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