Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Reporter
SINCE 1957, women in Zimbabwe have had the right to vote in elections and although they are the majority, they have not used that advantage to elect fellow females into positions of power.
To date only a handful of women have made it into local authorities and Parliament.
Although reports and studies have been conducted to critique how patriarchy accounts for the low political participation of women in Zimbabwe, much is still to be done to analyse why women are never willing to vote for a woman into power.
Statistics show that women make up about 52 percent of the total number of registered voters, giving them power to elect as many female candidates as they want to achieve the much-anticipated equal representation.
While some argue that lack of resources is pushing women out of politics, women too have played a role in giving men power at the expense of their own.
Women occupy 26 percent of seats in parliaments regionally, 20 percent in the cabinets and 24 percent in local governments.
South Africa has the highest proportion of women in parliament at 41 percent and the only country with 50 percent of women in the cabinet.
Parliamentary representation in other Southern African countries stands at 40 percent for Mozambique, 36 percent in Namibia, 31 percent for Zimbabwe and in 30 percent in Angola.
Nkayi South legislator Cde Stars Mathe said women like pulling each other down and seem not ready to see more female leaders.
“This is a discouraging trend, which is, however, improving as more programmes are held to help us (participate in politics).
This pull-her-down syndrome is rooted in low self-esteem, hence many women still believe they are inferior to men and that they cannot lead, which influences their choices when it comes to voting,” she said.
“We are the majority when it comes to numbers, but only a few women have managed to take positions in politics.
We are letting others down as sisters. As we continue encouraging women to participate in politics, we should also invest in programmes that will help women realise that they are capable so that we vote for each other and occupy a majority of these positions.”
Cde Mathe believes it is the duty of every woman to support and vote for female candidates so that the country achieves its goals of ensuring that at least 50 percent of positions are held by women.
“The other thing is lack of resources because it tends to reduce our confidence in participating in politics as voters want to see material things and receive donations for them to vote for you.
Men have access to resources compared to women, which means they are likely to enjoy that advantage over women.”
For Bulawayo’s Ward 17 Councillor Sikhululekile Moyo, women themselves do not believe in gender activism they have been fighting for years.
She said women are their own worst enemies and can easily derail progress that has been made in empowering women to participate in politics.
“I remember when I tried my luck in contesting to be Bulawayo’ deputy mayor, I got the shock of my life when my five sister councillors openly told me that they did not vote for me.
They said I had not consulted them or asked them to support my ambition,” she said.
“The painful thing is that only two of us had submitted our names and my sisters didn’t vote for me saying I had not communicated my interest.
I am, however, grateful because through training our views on female leaders keeps improving, even as elected officers.”
She said women should unite against men who always win in dividing and ruling them when it comes to voting.
“Due to resource challenges, women cannot buy votes, even when they are genuinely advocating for issues that affect communities.
This also makes fellow women assume that we are not able to lead as we do not have resources to support our policies.”
Local gender and media activist Mrs Sibusisiwe Bhebhe said the media has been widely used to portray men as better leaders, which makes it difficult for women to vote for each other.
“The media is involved in elevating the voices of candidates during elections and has not projected enough content from female leaders.
It has not reflected that women can be good leaders who can take their communities from bad to good situations,” she said.
“There are no examples in Zimbabwe where the public has read or seen or heard of a female leader doing something for her community to push members of the public to rally behind them.
The image of leadership is male, which is further supported by the media, which has been teaching us that men are the only icons of political leadership.”
She said women often vote for whoever they think will deliver and sadly the media has been one-sided in portraying men as competent leaders.
“The only example of good leadership they have is of donating fertiliser and food and it’s rare to see women doing community projects.
The only female we know to be heavily involved in community work is the First Lady, but the rest of the women are absent as if they are not capable of doing what men can do given the chance.”
She said female politicians are not visible as they cannot afford to flight colourful posters like their male counterparts, which reduces their chances of getting majority votes.
“I am yet to see a poster from female candidates who will be contesting (the by-elections) on Saturday, but the city is full of posters of men.
So how will ordinary women that will be voting in numbers know of the few brave women if they are not visible anywhere?”
Mrs Bhebhe said women should also take an active role in creating names for themselves in order to be visible.
“They should visit their constituencies and take active roles in discussing issues that affect their communities and cities on social media which is not controlled.
They should make their advocacy and policies widespread to the point that they are difficult to ignore and that is how they can counter the male icon of leadership which the media keeps feeding us,” he added.
Aspiring Gwanda councillor Ms Alice Makara said women had a natural meanness against each other, hence the low votes for female candidates by women.
“We can be our worst enemies sometimes and we think we can do better by pulling each other down. We should also love each other and never offer fake oral support because some may claim to support you, but come elections, they go and vote for men,” said Ms Mukara.
“It’s us women who bear the brunt of service delivery challenges and we are better placed to lobby for improvements.
Many aspiring candidates have given up because there are so many challenges in this field, but it will give us comfort to know that we have fellow women who will support and vote for us.”
Women in Leadership Development Trust (WILD) communications director Ms Duduzile Mathema said women still need training to become confident and competent candidates.
“As Women’s Institute for Leadership Development, we have noted that indeed women’s capacities do need to be strengthened in identified skills and knowledge gaps through structured mentorship, skills training, lectures, experiential learning and exchange visits.
It is essential that women are aware of gender policies, laws and the Constitution to promote and protect women’s rights and public participation,” she said.
“We have since engaged aspiring candidates through our leadership mentorship school to enhance women’s effective and full participation in politics and public leadership in Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces.”
Ms Mathema said the school targets election candidates as a move towards increasing participation and representation of women in electoral processes. – @thamamoe
Article Source: The Chronicle