Beverly Bizeki/ Perpetua Murungweni
Reviews from female politicians and women’s organisations after the just ended elections have shown that social norms is still one of the major setbacks in women’s political participation across the country with the number of women decreasing time and again in high positions of power despite interventions by government through proportional representations.
Speaking during a post-election engagement meeting for female politicians and journalists hosted by Gender and Media Connect, women said being a woman contributed to the disadvantage of women in politics.
Zanu PF National Executive member and Masvingo Proportional Representative Auxcilia Dhanzi said women face challenges during campaigning period and often required to perform wifely or motherly duties at the same time they are anticipated to grow their political careers.
“In politics there is campaigning and there are times when you are required to be out campaigning while you leave your husband and children which is at times difficult.
“There is also a belief that women who rise to take political positions are a result of affairs with the male leaders in their respective political parties which is not always the case and that hinders women participation in politics,” said Dhanzi.
On social media she said there was need for positive media coverage of women saying negative publicity was not only costing individuals in politics but their whole life as well as their parties.
“As we are grappling with the issues of disinformation and misinformation, negative media coverage on women in politics does not only affect the candidate as a person, but it affects the nation, her party and her position.
“I urge you all journalists to promote women who are participating in politics in your work through positive coverage so that you motivate and inspire other women who want to take leadership positions,” said Dhanzi.
Women Coalition of Zimbabwe Masvingo Chapter Coordinator Blessing Chimombo said women’s political participation was hindered by lack of resources as some depend on their husbands financially and due to the patriarchal nature of the society their families dissuade them from taking part in politics.
“In most cases women do not have resources for campaigning as compared to their male counterparts, some women depend on their spouses financially which makes it difficult for them to acquire resources for campaigning.
“In other cases women lack support to such an extent that some are told they cannot use their spouse’s family name to contest in elections hence the low numbers of women contesting for political positions,” said Chimombo.
Chimombo said women are criticized on social media that’s why they are active mainly through campaigning for men but are scared taking positions themselves.
“Women participate more in the pre-election period campaigning than in the election period and during campaigning processes most of them do not hold influential positions because they are scared to be bullied on social media.
“Women are bullied on social media and are body shamed for example Linda Masarira was told that her body does not fit that of a leader,” said Chimombo.
Speaking at the same meeting freelance female journalist Hazvinei Mwanaka said social media unlike mainstream media was also dissuading women from participating in politics through disseminating incorrect information about women who are in politics.
“A lot needs to be done in order to portray female politicians in a positive way. Mainstream media is competing with social media, and in mainstream media there are a lot of considerations when covering stories unlike social media where people are free to attack and name call women.
“A classic example is how the recently appointed Minister of ICT Tatenda Mavetera was accused of having slept her way up to the post,” said Mwanaka.
Mwanaka said social media was promoting gender disinformation that was affecting women’s participation in politics mainly because of fake and negative stories that circulates on social media and people don’t want to be associated with someone portrayed negatively.
“Gender disinformation affects the participation of young women in public spaces, it also undermines women’s credibility and become obstacles to their electoral success.
“Gender disinformation affects the self-esteem of women in politics and public spaces and if one loses self-esteem it means one has lost the power to fight for what she wants,” said Mwanaka.
In Masvingo City Council however there has been a little improvement in the participation of women which has seen the local authority getting two female councilors who got in through the ballot while three got in through women’s quota to make them five.
The Province also has a female member of parliament, Naledi Maunganidze representing the youth quota.