Mkhululi Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) is capacitating women across the country to contest in the forthcoming general elections under the programme Women Rise in Politics, with support from United Nations Women.
Under the programme, the commission is hosting workshops for women interested in participating in politics to provide them with critical information to enable them to contest the male-dominated political space.
According to the latest census results, women make 52 percent of the population but despite this, there are few women than men in political positions.
Last week the commission held a five-day workshop targeting women from Lupane district in Matabeleland North Province.
In an interview after the event, ZGC deputy chairperson Mr Obert Machalaga told Chronicle that the commission is targeting to capacitate women who are interested in participating in the forthcoming general elections.
“Today we have women from Lupane district and another workshop is concurrently being held in Chipinge District. We have conducted such mentorship programmes in other districts. The idea is to get women who have shown interest in participating in the political space because the political space is such that women are largely left out. So, we are trying to empower women with skills and knowledge of the political process and the benefits of being elected because it is politics which determines who gets what and when.
“If women are not represented their needs are the least addressed and so we are trying to break the stereotype about politics being a dirty game. Politics is part of the natural civil process where women can also participate notwithstanding that there are issues of violence, patriarchy and negative attitudes about women. We were empowering them with skills to fight all those and to appreciate that they need to see themselves as equal citizens of this country,” he said.
Mr Machalaga encouraged women to collaborate and work together despite their political affiliations to champion the women cause.
He said the organisation has done similar trainings in eight districts with an aim to cover all the districts, funds permitting, before the next general elections are held.
“We need a national conference of the political parties to see how best this can be addressed. Such a conference can give birth to recommendations that can be adopted at national level. Our role is promoting and protecting gender equality as provided for in the Constitution,” he said
UN Women in Zimbabwe governance peace building specialist Ms Goretti Mudzongu said it was crucial that Zimbabwe pushes for more women to come into political space in fulfilment of various treaties that the country is a signatory too.
“UN Women believes in the importance of the women political participation as enunciated in the international Human Rights treaties that Zimbabwe is a party to and strengthened in the country’s Constitution Section 17 which talks about gender equality. Women’s political participation is well below the accepted 50 percent, in parliament it is around 34 percent and local government it is 14 percent.
“Women face a lot of barriers which include lack of knowledge on the process which this initiative is addressing, we have the barrier of violence against women, we have the barrier of political parties not implementing the human rights standards of 50 percent quota and many other barriers which prevent women from participating equally,” she said.
Ms Mudzongu said political parties need to ensure that women are represented in their political parties’ internal elections which will give rise to women participating in the electoral process.
She said there was a need to address the issue of violence and sexual harassment in elections as that creates a stumbling block for women to participate.
One of the women who participated and wants to stand as an independent councillor, Miss Eve Rombe from Lupane ward 20, said there are many barriers to entry of women into politics.
“As women we face many challenges as we are expected to take care of the home as we have families and various chores we have to attend to. Society looks at us negatively when we want to talk politics and these are some of the issues we have to overcome. My wish is to contest as an independent councillor next year,” she said.
Ms Luiza Mathe (18) from Sowendle Ward in Lupane West Constituency and a member of the Republican Party of Zimbabwe said youths need to gain confidence to enable them to participate in politics.
“I completed my O-levels last year and I want to stand as a councillor. This workshop was an eye opener for me as it has armed me with what I need in order to stand as a candidate. We need to be able to package our message because coming from the community we know the issues affecting us as youths and I can stand for my area to help address those issues,” she said. — @themkhust