Give rural women a voice – law expert

The Chronicle

Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Matabeleland South Bureau Chief
Rural women should be empowered to participate in electoral processes as they remain peripheral on issues concerning democratic governance.

According to an expert, the doctrines of democratic governance and human rights are premised on the notion of equal participation by all citizens in any country.

Women constitute more than half of the world’s population, yet their participation in electoral and governance processes – where decisions regarding their lives are made – remains fringe in many countries.

In addition to having a legal framework that values gender equality and equity in politics, Zimbabwe is a signatory to many declarations aimed at increasing women’s leadership and decision-making.

Zimbabwe’s new Constitution came into effect in 2013, and provides a quota of 60 seats set aside for women for proportional representation in Parliament, increasing the number of women in Parliament from 16 percent to 34 percent.

Women and Law Southern Africa director Mrs Fadzai Traquino said it was important to simplify electoral laws in order to broaden participation.

“With rural women, I think it’s about simplifying information around electoral laws because by nature, electoral participation involves your understanding of electoral laws. So these laws need to be simplified and translated into vernacular languages so that they can be easily understood.

Some of the issues are related to voter education. Do people know how to register, where to register? Do they have the documents that are required for electoral participation?” highlighted Mrs Traquino.

There is a need to go on overdrive to ensure every citizen has an identity document, she said.

“For you to be able to register to vote, you need the crucial documents required and one of the most important documents is your ID. Do rural women have access to identification documents?

And we know already, especially with the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of people couldn’t access identity documents at the registrar’s office because of lockdown restrictions and other challenges.

We need to go on an overdrive to ensure that everyone who requires identification documents has them because these are crucial documents that are required,” said Mrs Traquino.

She highlighted that there was a need to decentralise registry services in order to allow more people to access them.

“When you look at our country at the moment, not all these services are  decentralised enough so sometimes if you have a complicated case, especially when it comes to women because of issues to do with change of name either due to marital status, divorce and other things, you notice that your lowest level centre may not be able to deal with those peculiarities and one has to go to a provincial centre if not head office.

“These are some of the things that make it complicated for rural women to participate in electoral processes. Issues to do with access to such an important document before we even talk about registration itself.”

Mrs Traquino called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to decentralise its services further.

“With the biometric voter registration system, you notice that Zec has been shying away from that because they say the BVR machine requires a lot to be moved around so they’re opposed to really decentralising to local level, but instead require citizens to go to where the centre is. If it is in your district, you move to where the centre is. For a woman who needs to pay bus fare to get to those centres, it becomes a challenge. These processes need to be made simple for anyone to access,” she said.

“When we talk about rural women, it’s not just a homogenous group.

There are rural women with disabilities, others are young women, there are mothers with children, there are rural women who may also be illiterate; all these are dynamics at interplay for a rural woman that wants to participate in electoral processes.

We’ve noticed that with political contestation, rural women become more vulnerable each time we talk about elections because the rural communities are considered vulnerable and less privileged.

So anyone who wants to play politics tends to do that within the rural constituency and they’re not usually given a voice to equally share their issues in terms of what they want and expect from candidates.”

Mrs Traquino said rural women need to be given the voice and agency to be able to choose the leaders they want.

“They need to be able to choose leaders from rural constituencies that  represent their voice. Political parties should not impose candidates on rural women and rural constituencies as a whole. Let rural people be allowed as an electorate to vote for rural women that represent the issues that resonate with them.

“Issues to do with land rights, issues to do with service delivery that are peculiar to the rural constituents. We need to give rural women voice, power and agency to be able to self-represent and choose the leaders that they want.

We were actually encouraging women to register or nominate an independent candidate so that there’s an alternative to party politics. We’re also encouraging rural women to vote for women that represent their issues,” she said. – @Yolisswa

Article Source: The Chronicle

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