Source:Zimbabwe Independent GENDER advocates are vigorously campaigning for the new constitution to reserve quotas for women in government and all public institutions as a way of promoting women’s participation in decision making. The gender activists are demanding a 50-50 women representation in all public institutions ranging from parliament to cabinet. Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe has even threatened to campaign for a NO vote in the constitutional referendum if the 50% quota for women was not included in the new governance charter.
She argues that women’s quotas must be guaranteed through legislation to enable more women secure seats in parliament, cabinet, councils as well as the private sector.
In Africa, only Rwanda has managed to reserve a 30% quota for women in the constitution resulting in them securing 45 out of 80 parliamentary seats, which represents 56%.
The Rwandan parliament is the first in the world to have women as the majority in parliamentary representation despite the 1994 genocide which left 800 000 dead.
The Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing, China in 1995, decided on a 30% quota for women in governments, but this seems to have been largely ignored by the world’s male-dominated governments.
Zanu PF has set a 30% quota for women but this has never been implemented. The two MDC formations are also male dominated with women at the periphery.
This anomaly is highly reflected in the coalition government which only has seven women in cabinet out of 41 ministers while two deputy ministers are women from a total of 19.
There are a total of 32 female MPs elected in 2008 out of the 210 seats and of the 92 senators, only 22 are women. There are 338 women councillors out of the country’s sum of 1 058.
Again, women cabinet ministers hold remotely peripheral portfolios, with the exception of Home Affairs, which is, however, shared. Theresa Makone shares the Home Affairs portfolio with Kembo Mohadi.
The others are Women’s Affairs minister Olivia Muchena, Small to Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni, Labour and Social Services minister Paurina Mpariwa and Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of Regional Integration and International Trade. Vice President Joice Mujuru and Khupe complete the line-up of top government female officials who are widely viewed as political appointees to balance gender disparities.
However, feminine groups want the numbers changed to reflect an equitable distribution of parliament and government posts. But will the women stomach political violence and meet expectations linked to challenging ministries such as Defence, Finance and Foreign Affairs?
It is more of an issue of competence rather than mere clamouring for equality. Of the female ministers in post-independent Zimbabwe, only former Education minister Fay Chung distinguished herself as a powerful minister.
Women’s Affairs deputy minister Jessie Majome said based on the Sadc Protocol on gender and development Article 12, women are supposed to enjoy 50% representation by 2015.
“We are not fighting men but we are hungry for equality,” said Majome. “We are fighting for democracy as we seek to harmonise relations between men and women. Women don’t want to undermine men in any way,” she said.
Parliamentary Women’s Caucus chairperson Beatrice Nyamupinga bemoaned the small representation of women in parliament saying the electoral system should favour women in the forthcoming elections expected next year.
“Let’s not politicise the 50-50 campaign because it doesn’t matter whether you are from MDC or Zanu PF; the issue is about women’s empowerment,” said Nyamupinga.
But even if the gender advocates are lobbying for equal representation, they acknowledged that it would not be easy to achieve the target. In Kenya, the coalition government is now contemplating scrapping the constitutional quota that women should make up a third of MPs. The Kenyan government says the requirement would be technically impossible given that polls are due next year.
The same scenario is likely to occur in Zimbabwe where the elections are due next year.
Observers say the patriarchal Zimbabwean socio-political and economic system was largely expected to resist the 50%quota for women. Women in Politics Support Unit head Fanny Chirisa said they would engage ministers, MPs and Copac, among other groups, to attain the 50-50 representation.
She argued that women made up 52% of the population but represented a small fraction in decision making positions.
Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda director Effie Ncube said women had the capacity to take up challenging portfolios but those serving in government could be weaker because they were chosen by men who wanted to maintain dominance.
Ncube said the 50-50 representation would add value to the social system and reform institutions dominated by men, some of whom were highly incompetent.
“Women must be accepted as decision makers because we have been governed by men since time immemorial,” said Ncube. “The problem is that men have been deploying women who are not so brilliant to avoid being challenged. But there are a lot of capable women who deserve better opportunities in government and business,” he said.
Women have been their own worst enemy because they support more male politicians than their counterparts. In Zanu PF, women are always donning regalia emblazoned with President Robert Mugabe’s picture.
The situation is the same in the MDC-T where women revere Tsvangirai more than Khupe.
Khupe said in the forthcoming elections, women should nominate female candidates starting from party primary elections. But the quest for equality between men and women is highly unlikely in the 2012 elections considering that the male politicians would not easily give up their careers to please women.
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