‘Fear of sexual harassment keeps young women out of politics’
Lumbidzani Dima, Chronicle Reporter
LIVING in an era when Zimbabwe and the world are fighting for gender equality, it is sad young women still shun politics in fear of sexual harassment which appears to be the greatest challenge in the male dominated sphere, a member of parliament has said.
Zanu-PF legislator, Cde Tatenda Mavetera who is well known for her acting role as ‘Tendai Jari’ in the popular Zimbabwean sopie of the early 2000s, Studio 263 made her way into politics in 2010 with the aim of leading women by example and motivating them to join politics.
The 35-year-old Parliamentarian admitted that challenges do exist and there has to be a way to curb them as they are bringing down the 50/50 equality objective.
She said sexual harassment surpasses all challenges faced by women in politics as men holding high positions always try their luck by asking for sexual favours and young women always find themselves as victims.
“Young women in politics face a challenge of resources, a very crucial area for one to thrive in politics as one needs to convince a lot of people.
Sexual harassment is the greatest challenge. Men always think that they have to take advantage of you because you are a woman or someone of the opposite sex.
They just think that asking you out or asking for sexual favors from you will actually make you feel more ‘like a woman.’ They think that for you to make it you have to agree to whatever they say. Because of that many women shun politics. The moment you see a man victimising you because of a position that they hold, it becomes a problem,” said Cde Mavetera.
She said social constraints also deter young women from getting into politics.
The legislator said women believe that politics and taking care of families cannot be balanced.
“When one realises that they are still young and they need to take care of their families, it divides their attention. The pressure of balancing family and politics makes women shun politics. Most men and families tend to want to protect the marriage and do not want you to get into politics.
“However, I can assure them that it is possible to balance the two, of course it can get difficult here and there but it is possible.
I am married and I have two children, I’m managing as I make sure that I give my husband and kids my full attention during the time I spend with them. I’ve made them understand what really happens in politics. Spouses should just support each other to make life easier for everyone,” said MP Mavetera.
She said patriarchy dominates politics and most decisions in politics are in favour of that.
MP Mavetera hailed President Mnangagwa for his gender mainstreaming approach which she says is an advantage to women.
“The approach will bring a lot of women to the forefront of politics. We got an extension of the women’s quota, 30 percent new introduction of women getting into councils, as well as 10 seats going to the youth.
“All young women out there please be bold enough to join politics, it’s not as deadly as people say. Just be determined, be focused, make sure that when you hear something negative, let it come into one ear and go through the other ear because if you are in politics you will always get bad talk.
You need to be strong and courageous in order to go forward,” she said.
MP Mavetera, who has held positions, is also an assistant speaker in Parliament.
“Being an assistant speaker in Parliament, sitting on the speaker’s panel is a great achievement for me as a young woman. I have been in positions such as being the chairperson of the youth caucus. Now we have established a youth caucus in Parliament something which had not happened in 1980. I’m also the secretary general for APNAC, a network for anti-corruption champions in Parliament,” she said.