Thursday, June 1, 2023

Rural women’s hesitancy for political posts a tragedy for democracy

Cephas Shava

Mwenezi -In one of his hit songs ‘Kushandiswa seCaterpillar, musician-cu-politician Hosiah Chipanga chronicles how, before being wholly excluded, a caterpillar is at the forefront of smoothening of roads paving way for other vehicles to pass without hindrance, after which it is excluded from using the road.

Chipanga’s song seems to be squarely apt in summing up the political dilemma of the hesitant women in the distant Mwenezi district who for years now are merely propping up men for political office duties while they preserve their roles as voters instead of being the ones who are voted into political offices.

The participation of women in the country’s electoral processes as position holders in the local authorities is becoming a ceaseless dream in most rural constituencies where voted political posts seem to be a preserve for men.

Mwenezi’s two constituencies Mwenezi East and Mwenezi West, having a total of 18 male councilors elected during the 2018 harmonized general elections is a microcosm of what is pervading in most rural communities where women despite constituting the majority of voters, are consistently sacrificing their vote for male representatives at their own expense.

Owing to the past volatile political climate coupled with some stereotype that is usually tagged to women who ‘miraculously’ rose to the apex echelon of political office, some politically capable women prefer to stay away from contesting for elected political posts.

Mwenezi District’s Zanu PF secretary for women affairs Violah Maregedze who also decried the absence of female councilors in the local authority said a lot still needs to be done for women to acquire the necessary guts to contest for political office.

“In addition to several defined societal roles which confine women to fully participate in politics here in Mwenezi West, some of the women who are not educated and are of the view that elected political posts are for the educated elite but we are currently embarking on an enlightening initiative to demystify such misconceptions.

“As a party, we have already identified some women who have indicated that come next year’s harmonized elections, they are inevitably going to contest as councilors,” said Maregedze.

46 year-old Loveness Shoko of Mwenezi’s ward 3 told TellZim News that there is need for women to speak with one voice if they are really serious about their political destinies.

“In my view, regardless of our diverse political groupings, as long as a woman contestant eyes any political post, we need to give her all our maximum support as a united force.

“What is regrettable is that currently all our 18 local councilors are male and it is naive for us to believe that whenever they deliberate on, they do justice to our concerns as women. As mothers, we need to speak on our own not to elect male candidates to speak for us. This ought to be the thing of the past come next year’s elections,” said Shoko.

On his part Citizen Coalition for Change (CCC) interim Mwenezi West district chairperson Amos Hungwe said though in the 2018 elections they managed to field one female candidate for councilor’s post who later on lost the race, it is their hope that they are going to have more female candidates in next year’s elections.

“At our recent meeting, we deliberated the issue of giving priority to women candidates in the coming elections. Our target is to have a 50/50 representation though it is difficult to achieve especially in rural communities like Mwenezi but we are certain that we are definitely going to field more female candidates regardless of the hurdles.

“The root problem of some of these challenges is that the previous elections especially the 2008 presidential re-run was dominated by the worst political violence targeting opposition party supporters. As a result, a lot of potential female candidates have fresh memories of the horror hence they do not want to be associated with politics worse still to stand as opposition candidates,” said Hungwe.

As the countdown to next year’s harmonized elections draws closer, political parties’ genuine commitment towards gender parity especially in marginalized communities like Mwenezi is once again having its litmus test.

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