Accessibility links

Gender Disparity in Zimbabwe Parliament Upsets Women

  • Mavis Gama

Some of the women parliamentarians who were sworn-in this week in Harare

Some of the women parliamentarians who were sworn-in this week in Harare

The eighth parliament of Zimbabwe was expected to set a record in the region and the world over by achieving a 50-50 representation in the July harmonised elections.

Many in the women’s movement were angered by political parties in the country failing to field more women candidates, especially when the constitution advocates for such representation in all political offices in the country.

Zanu PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change formations fielded a combined 90 women compared to 663 males who participated in the elections, a far cry from equal representation.

But more women were able to win parliamentary seats, thanks to the proportional representation system. To map the way forward the new women lawmakers met in the capital this week to strategise on how they can make an impact in the next five years.

Meeting under the banner of the Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), the women parliamentarians agreed there was an urgent need to start restrategising for the 2018 elections as they failed dismally this year to increase the number of women in the august house in line with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol on gender and development.

They want the government and political parties to support women’s participation in politics. Their argument is that women can contribute more to development of the country, a senior official with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said.

WIPSU programmes manager Patricia Muwandi says her organisation brought the women lawmakers together at the meeting at the Harare International Conference Centre to create a platform for them to reflect on the July 31 elections, share experiences and strategise for the future.

Muwandi said women are disappointed with the low number of women who participated in the just-ended elections, adding not much was done by all the major political parties in the country to implement the 50-50 representation policy, serve for verbal promises.

WIPSU, which over the years has been supporting women politicians in the country, is disappointed by political parties fielding fewer women in the July elections preferring to allow female candidates to go into parliament through the proportional representation system where 60 seats were set aside for women.

Outgoing Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister, Olivia Muchena, said the women who made it into parliament were nevertheless celebrating their success, irrespective of political affiliation.

WIPSU works with women from across the political divide under the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, leading discussions on issues affecting women’s participation in politics, including helping them raise their debating skills and related issues.

The organisation is now working on developing what it says is a women’s agenda to be used by all women parliamentarians to push policies that will encourage female participation in politics and also to ensure that whatever they agree on in the women’s caucus carries the day in the house.