BY CATHERINE MUCHIRI
WOMEN’S rights’ groups have bemoaned the poor representation of women in local governance structures amid reports that the numbers have dropped sharply since the 2018 elections.
Out of the 6 800 candidates who contested for council seats in the 2018 elections, only 1 156 were women.
The Constitution had a legislated quota for women that did not extend to local government until the enactment of Constitution Amendment Bill No 2 Act of 2021.
The law added 587 seats to the existing 1 958 council seats, guaranteeing about 30% of total seats — higher than the previous 14%, but still far from the 50% gender parity.
Founder and director for Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence, Sitabile Dewa said many factors contributed to women shying away from actively participating in local governance politics.
“Inadequate electoral law and its biased implementation also guarantees that there won’t be an equal playing field for women and men to compete equally. Women are also not getting 50-50 coverage in media and it is reinforced by negative stereotypes in the media, that is body-shaming, name-calling, sexual harassment,” she told NewsDay Weekender.
“There is a need for long term, robust capacity building, mentorship and coaching exercises that prepare women for political office. Continuous support and training for women is also necessary so that once elected, it will increase their retention and boost their knowledge and skills in leadership roles.”
A report by ALIGN, Social Healing and Accountability Research, showed that most female councillors had fallen victim to gender-based violence in their line of duty.
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe humanitarian cluster alternate leader Rita Nyampinga said: “There is a need to demystify cultural, political, economic and social impediments that prevent women from vying for local council seats.
“With the local council, government now availing 30% quota for women, we should seize this opportunity and maximise on it so as to take advantage of the formulated initiatives.”
GenderLinks said lack of policies in political parties promoting gender equality affected women participation in political processes.
“Women vying for local council seats also lack the necessary knowledge and information to enable them to participate in these elections. We recommend the creation of awareness of local governance processes to women and young ladies,” GenderLinks
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network called for the amendment of the Political Parties (Finance) Act to ensure that parties that do not meet the constitutional 50/50 gender parity after the 2023 elections do not access State funding.
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