Women push for gender parity in Parly

Source: Women push for gender parity in Parly – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 21, 2017

ZIMBABWE’s Parliament now has 125 female MPs, constituting 34% of the total number of legislators.


This is the highest number ever of female legislators in the country, courtesy of the proportional representation quota.

But, now women have changed their focus and want the 50/50 gender parity ratio as stipulated by section 17 of the Constitution. This means out of the 210 National Assembly seats women must occupy 105.

Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Biata Nyamupinga says instead of the 60 seats that women attained during the 2013 general elections, women must now occupy 105 seats in Parliament, and that is the only way Zimbabweans can begin to talk of having attained gender equality.

To ensure they achieve this ratio, Nyamupinga and her committee invited the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) before Parliament to explain the measures they will take as an electoral body to warrant half of the 210 seats in the National Assembly are occupied by women.

But Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau says inasmuch as she would also like to see many women getting into Parliament, it is actually the mandate of the political parties where the women belong, to ensure 50% of their candidates are female.

“Zec cannot compel political parties to fill in women candidates for the National Assembly and we have no mandate to do so,” Makarau said.

“We have a nomination procedure that we follow and we cannot reject a candidate because of their gender. In terms of the Constitution there are certain seats reserved for women through the Zebra system. As Zec we take strict adherence to those constitutional provisions, and where we receive a party list that does not comply with the Constitution we reject it and ask that party to submit a list that complies with the law. Whenever there is a vacancy at a constituency belonging to the 60 reserved seats for women, again we ask the political party concerned to give us the name of a woman to fill in that seat.”

Makarau said women must begin to push their political parties to change their party constitutions to ensure they include a 50/50 gender parity clause. Some of the political party constitutions stipulate just 30%, and women must begin the campaign for more female representation at their political parties.

Nyamupinga, however, feels that Zec can also do something to ensure that 105 women attain Parliamentary seats in the National Assembly during the 2018 elections.

“The Constitution stipulates equality for women, and that only means 105 seats. I looked at the Rwanda scenario and their Constitution promotes women representation. Their electoral commission refused to accept submissions of candidates from political parties that are not showing gender parity. We can have a similar arrangement because our Constitution provides for that,” Nyamupinga said.

Makarau believes there is no harm in trying out the Rwandese case in Zimbabwe. In Rwanda, women hold 64% of seats in the legislature, the largest share in any country internationally. Developed countries like the United States have not even achieved that gender parity with only 19% seats in the United States House occupied by women, and Sweden at 44%.

Research papers by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and the Women in Politics Support Unit (WiPSU) have shown that women are at times deterred by lack of money to support campaigns and political violence to participate as candidates during elections.

Member of the Women Affairs Portfolio Committee, Fanny Chirisa (MDC-T proportional representation MP) feels that women are the most affected by electoral violence.

“Zec must disqualify the people who are violent and protect women and children during elections. Right now electoral violence is already taking place in communities and Zec must place observers to monitor the situation before elections,” Chirisa said.

Makarau said the law provides for various conflict resolution mechanisms such as multi-party liaison committees, the Electoral Court and the Special Investigative Committees that are set up by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

“These will be fully employed during elections to minimise on politically-motivated violence and intimidation of voters. Zec also encourages political parties to adhere to the provisions of the code of conduct for political parties and candidates.
“During the forthcoming voter registration exercise and during voting proper, preferential treatment will be accorded to pregnant and nursing mothers, the sick, people living with disabilities and the elderly,” she said.

The Zec chairperson related an incident during the 2013 elections, where a baby was being rented out by different women in order for them to beat the long queues. But, this time, she promised that women will be protected.
MPs and civic society groups supporting women feel that women in the rural areas have been sidelined and have no information about the biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise. It is mostly being advertised using modern communication channels like radio, newspapers and television.

Another hassle that MPs from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women and Gender foresee is that of disenfranchisement of female voters due to the new requirements that one has to come for registration waving proof of residence, whereas most properties and statements providing that proof are in the names of their husbands or men.

Makarau said it is now imperative for MPs to ensure there is massive voter education targeted at women so that they attain the desired 105 seats.

“We accept your assistance to educate members of the community about the voter education exercise (BVR), especially women. They need a legible national identity card with a picture on it. We have noticed that as women we do not keep our IDs appropriately and we put them in our handbags where they are destroyed by lipstick or keys and the letters and picture are distorted, resulting in incorrect information being recorded. We appeal to women to take a look at their IDs and ensure they are legible,” she said.

She said several women in Zimbabwe do not have documents to prove where they reside.

“They can register to vote by getting a letter from their husband confirming they still reside with him. If you are not in good books you can still register by depositing an affidavit yourself. There is confusion between an affidavit and an affirmation, but yes, people can affirm where they reside and this will help homeless women. No one will be denied the right to get registered.”

Makarau said Zec has material that can be used by civic society and MPs wishing to embark on voter education. However, she warned that voter education must not be done by these groups to campaign for political parties.

She said accreditation of observers will be done after a proclamation is done on when the 2018 elections will be held.