As we commemorate International Women’s Day running under the theme, “An equal world is an enabled world”, ZESN calls for a multi-stakeholder approach in ensuring gender equality in democratic, electoral and governance processes in Zimbabwe. International Women’s Day comes at a time when ZESN and other CSOs are lobbying government and political parties to increase women’s representation in the government and participation as political candidates as a way of empowering women to achieve gender parity.
International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on 8 March and offers an opportunity to reflect on progress made with regards to gender equality, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history and development of their countries and communities.
The Zimbabwe Constitution under Section 17 calls on the State to promote full gender balance in Zimbabwean society, and in particular – with regard to promoting the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men and to take legislative and other measures to ensure that both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level; and that women should constitute at least half of members of all Commissions and other elective and appointed governmental bodies established under the Constitution or any Act of Parliament; and that the State must take positive measures to rectify gender discrimination and imbalances resulting from past practices and policies.
ZESN notes with concern that despite this legislative framework to ensure gender equality, Zimbabwe is yet to achieve equal representation in public office and decision making positions. There are no measures in place to ensure that political parties comply with the provisions of the Constitution for their appointments and candidate selection. Furthermore, women are subjected to physical, verbal and emotional abuse thereby discouraging political contestation.
While Section 124 (b) of the Constitution provides a quota of 60 seats set aside for women for proportional representation in Parliament and counterpoises the constituency-based electoral system, the quota system does not have clear provisions on how to include young women, does not extend to local government, and expires in 2023.
The Network urges government to ensure that membership of Parliament and membership of any council of a local authority shall at all times reflect gender parity in order to achieve gender equality of representation between men and women pursuant to sections 17, 56(2) and (3) and 80(1) of the Constitution; and (ii) comply with any quotas reserved for the youth and persons with disabilities as may be prescribed by the Commission in consultation with registered political parties.
ZESN thus calls for the development of strong legal mechanisms to encourage and support the adoption of women as candidates so as to ensure gender parity in political and decision-making positions in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which states that “State parties shall ensure equal and effective representation by women in decision-making in the political, public and private sectors, including the use of special measures,” (Article 12. 1). Ensuring that gender considerations are mainstreamed in electoral processes will go a long way in enhancing women’s participation in democratic governance processes.
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