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Parliamentary performance and gender
Rumbidzai Dube, Senior Researcher, Research & Advocacy Unit (RAU)
November 13, 2013

This is Part 2 of 3 of RAU's analysis of the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe

Read Part 1 - Attendance in Zimbabwe's 7th Parliament June 2012 - June 2013
Read Part 3 - What happened in Parliament? An analysis of the participation of MPs 2012 to 2013

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Executive Summary

A gendered analysis of the last year of the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe indicates that the general facilitatory and inhibitory dynamics affecting ordinary women’s participation in politics and decision-making are the same dynamics that affect women in Parliament. Women who take an active role in governance and political life are confronted by inhibiting factors including patriarchy and the violent nature of the political terrain. Women who manage to attain political office would have clearly overcome enormous hurdles relative to their male counterparts. In Parliament, women still have to deal with the pervasive patriarchal attitudes that at times prevent them from fully participating. Even the President has proven himself not to be immune to the prejudices of his gender with recent remarks that the limited number of women appointees in ministerial posts was due to the lack of educated and qualified women. With this broad context in mind, this report examines the performance of female parliamentarians versus their male counterparts, and is complementary to and draws from RAU’s earlier report on parliamentary attendance. Some key findings highlighted in this report:

  • Women were a significant minority in the Seventh Parliament 34/210 in the House of Assembly and 23/93 in the Senate;
  • As a group, female MPs attendance was more impressive than that of their male counterparts. All of them, except one, scored attendance rates above 25%. The exception was the Vice President with a 23% attendance rate. Given her enormous responsibilities outside Parliament, she still did better than most non-executive male MPs;
  • In the House of Assembly, Honourable Margaret Matienga of the MDC -T party held the highest record of attendance, 47 out of 48 (98%);
  • The female MP who had the least attendance rate in the house that she represented; Senate was Senator Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga of the MDC party who recorded a 100% absentee record in the whole year;
  • On average, women spoke 9.7 times in Senate and 6.5 times in the House of Assembly the whole year (June 2012-June 2013);
  • Most female MPs seemed generally afraid to voice their opinions and speak boldly on technical matters as much as the men did in Parliament. This included even some female parliamentarians who hold very senior positions in their parties and have considerable political clout;
  • An important milestone achievement for women in the Seventh Parliament was the inclusion of provisions seeking to achieve gender equality within all spheres of life in the new Constitution

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