By Donald Nyandoro
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has stepped up efforts to rally women to participate in politics by designing a mentorship programme to build women’s confidence, especially those aspiring to join mainstream politics.
The programme dubbed ‘Women Rise in Politics’ (WRiP), will be offered in partnership with UN Women, a United Nations agency dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
“The programme is meant to train women candidates aspiring for political careers. The participants will be attached to specific women mentors to assist them with practical guidance and leadership,” ZGC said in a recent statement.
The commission bemoaned a high level of toxicity in the country’s political space deterring women’s participation, despite the fact that they constitute 52% of the total population, and thus were majority voters.
“From a gender perspective, the political environment in Zimbabwe is highly toxic and polarised as systemic barriers to the participation and representation of women are widespread.
“The country’s political domain is infested with gender intolerance which often manifests in violence, name calling, body shaming, sexual exploitation and harassment, stereotyping and systemic exclusion – predominantly against women. It is these negative practices that have hindered meaningful participation and representation of women in politics other than as voters,” the commission said.
The programme targets to create a huge pool of female candidates as Zimbabwe gears for the 2023 harmonised elections.
“The program which targets the 2023 national elections and beyond, has been necessitated by the decrease in the participation and representation of women in the recent past national elections. Women do not only constitute around 52% of the total population but are also the majority of voters in Zimbabwe. Despite these facts, women hold only 23% of elective parliamentary seats, 13.3% of local government seats and 48% of the Senate.
These unfortunate statistics are an affront to the aspirations of Zimbabweans for full gender equality (50-50) as captured in the Constitution,” the commission said.
Zimbabwe has registered low participation in politics from women owing to a number of reasons. In the 2018 harmonised elections women constituted only 13,3% of local government seats, 23% of parliamentary seats and 48% of the Senate.
ZGC was established in terms of Section 245 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe to promote, protect, enforce, and advance gender equality.