Despite various moves by government like introducing the quota system to include women into council and parliament through proportional representation, women’s participation in politics is still very low as evidenced by the number of women who got into positions through the ballot in 2023 elections which is lower than in 2018.
Gender and Media Connect National Director Patience Zirima commented on the decline in women political participation saying there was need to enhance equality to encourage participation of women in politics.
“The quota system has increased the number of seats that are available for women but it has failed to enhance the quality participation of women in competitive politics especially at constituency level because when the quota system ends we will continue to see fewer women competing in competitive politics at constituency level.
“Politics is a ‘boys’ game, a ‘boys’ club within political parties themselves and with the national processes, women are left behind in terms of participation because there is a lot of discrimination and marginalization of women at different levels of politics in this country,” said Zirima.
Zirima also said lack of policies at national level hinders women political participation.
“Lack of clear policies at national level pushes women away from the game. At national level the policies are there that says there should be 50-50 but the challenge is how then the law compels political parties to ensure that the policies do exist beyond the quota system,” Zirima said.
Zirima also cited political violence meted on women within their political parties as one of the factors dissuading women from participating effectively.
“There is violence against women within political parties at all levels, we have a lot of these cases where women have been attacked and it intimidates and stops women from participating because when women are attacked young women become afraid to take part and violence is a big factor in terms of limiting women participation in politics,” said Zirima.
Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) information officer Leah Matavire said women are affected by patriarchal nature of societies to participate in politics.
“The patriarchal culture in Zimbabwe, breeds low self-esteemed in women especially within local power structures and makes it impossible for women to compete for political power. In these societies, people think women should be confined to the kitchen, rearing children and doing household chores. Women are seen as inferior to men, not as smart or as powerful,” said Matavire.
Mwenezi West MP Priscilla Moyo said her political journey was not easy because of her gender.
“My political journey was not easy because I am a woman I encountered a number of problems such as hate speech from my male contestants, I was called a prostitute and was told that politics is for men not women, I was looked down upon within the community because I am a woman and also I suffered body shaming.
“I was told that I should not contest because I am a daughter in-law in Mwenezi, most people said the position was not for daughters-in-law but for those who were born in Mwenezi, yet people are forgetting that by the virtue of marriage I automatically become a child of Mwenezi,” Moyo said.
Moyo said that there is need to empower and educate communities that politics is for everyone because most women are scared to take part due to what other women encounter.
“There is need to empower women because they suffer from lack of resources; most women do not have the financial muscle to pull off a full campaign and to participate.
“At intra party level we find that a lot of women do not have the space to fully participate, because they lack the links to people with power to make decisions within the political party to get nominated,” said Moyo.
Proportional representative Tendeukai Matara said political participation was not easy for women saying they face more challenges than experienced by their male counter parts.
“As female politicians, we face problems that prevent us from running for political offices, including gender stereotypes, body shaming; the community questions our sexual life and we are labeled prostitutes,” said Matara.
The 2023 election witnessed a drop in the number of elected women for the national assembly where only 22 out of 70 women who contested for national assembly were elected with the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) getting 10 women, while Zanu-PF got 12.
According to statistics, in 2018, 14.4percent of contesting candidates for the National Assembly were women and out of 210 seats, 26 were subsequently elected to office.
In this year’s election, 70 women out of 637 seats contested for the National Assembly, and 22 were elected to office. Elected women in the National Assembly for 2018 accounted for 10percent seats in this year’s election which is a decline of 2,4percent from the 12.4percent in 2018
This year’s election saw only one woman contesting for presidency as compared to 2018 where four women contested.
Zimbabwe has signed and ratified a number of regional and international instruments that call for gender equality, but equality seems to be a challenge in politics.