STAFF REPORTER 3 January 2018
HARARE – Zimbabwe Local Government Association (Zilga), comprising
92-local authorities, has pitched for the fielding of female candidates in
at least 50 percent of council seats in the forthcoming key 2018 general
The powerful organisation – which came out of the merger of Urban Councils
Association of Zimbabwe (Ucaz) and the Association of Rural District
Councils of Zimbabwe (ARDCZ) – said Zimbabwe had slipped to a “shockingly
low” of 14 percent for female representation in both urban and rural
As well as urging both ruling and opposition political parties to consider
giving women a stronger political voice in this patriarchal country, Zilga
called on all parties contesting the 2018 poll to set a 50 percent
target for the proportion of female councillors actually elected to the
Zilga urged all political parties to ensure women contest against each
other in the primary elections so that if one loses, there will still be a
Chivi Rural District Council chairperson Killer Zivhu – who chairs the
powerful 92-local authorities body – said it was disturbing to note that
out of nearly 1 400 rural councillors in Zimbabwe, less than 200 were
Women represent half of the population and “if we don’t include women,
it’s difficult to transform the local authorities we live in,” he said.
The request has the potential to become one of the most empowering move
for women in Zimbabwe.
“Less than 14 percent of local government councillors are women and their
lack of political participation is hampering progress in influencing
policies and strategies for enhancing women’s economic opportunities,” the
Zilga president said.
He said half the seats in all urban and rural councils must be held by
women after this year’s elections.
Zivhu said women running local governments were more likely to focus on
improving basic services, such as clean water and healthcare, transport,
childcare, schools and providing support to businesswomen, he said.
He noted that women and men’s interests are different and conflicting
sometimes and hence the need for women in representative institutions so
that they can articulate the interests of women.
He also noted that women were also better placed to mainstream issues of
gender-based abuse because they were the main victims.
“Female councillors are the best weapon to effect development, especially
in rural communities,” he said.
“There are many cases of child labour, abuse and rape among other vices
that are committed mainly against children and women.
“Female councillors will be the best to push for an end to such vices
because they are also victims and they know how it feels for children to
suffer and for women to suffer.”
United Nations member states agreed in 2015 to end violence and
discrimination against women and girls and make sure they have equal
opportunities in all areas of life, including politics, as part of the UN
Sustainable Development Goals.
But with women making up less than 15 percent of the country’s mayors and
local councillors, females remain under-represented in local government.
While at the national level the percentage of women in Parliament has
nearly doubled in the last 20 years to around 33 percent after the
inclusion of a constitutional provision, S124, which guarantees 60
reserved seats for women for at least two terms until 2023, they still
make up less than a quarter of all parliamentarians.
Zivhu said it was important to work with men to boost women’s
participation in politics and gender equality.
He said having women in power, both in local and central government, can
help to stem corruption.
“Corruption is an ill and when women have access to power they are less
prone to falling into the phenomenon of corruption,” Zivhu said.
He said ensuring the new agenda can be met means implementing policies and
development projects which take into account that women experience local
authorities in different ways to men.
They face unique challenges, such as gender-based violence and
discrimination in access to jobs, education and housing.
He said introducing quotas to ensure women get elected into power was one
way to increase their political participation.
Gender experts say that among the numerous women’s issues that need to be
addressed in Zimbabwe, one of the most important is to ensure that women
have a voice in the highest seats of power.
Gender equality in municipalities would empower women in general, they
A stronger women’s voice at the top would have a trickle-down effect,
leading to the development of policies and laws that would help women at
the grassroots level fight abuse, discrimination and inequality.
Zivhu, a leading philanthropist, said one of his priorities was to ensure
more girls go to school and have access to health services.
He said more must be done to ensure more women are elected to help build
more socially inclusive and equal urban and rural councils.