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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • 2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles

  • Women seek to play bigger political role
    Charles Rukuni, Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
    March 20, 2008

    It has been a silent campaign, largely ignored by the media, apart from the advertisments that the organisation has published in the media.

    But the Women's Trust's "Women Can Do it" campaign could have a serious bearing on who controls the next government if women candidates pull through. The campaign for next week's harmonised elections has focussed on the three presidential aspirants who are all male, but the Women's Trust has not been dissuaded by this. It still believes women can do it. The trust, for example, argues that if all women candidates make it, they would have a 50 percent representation in the House of Assembly. They would constitute almost a third of the senate and 38 percent of local government seats.

    Parliament has been given more teeth under Constitutional Amendment Number 18, which means that women could have more say in government if they make it. "At 52 percent of the population, the power of numbers is on our side," the trust says in its campaign, which is promoting women candidates without looking at their political affiliation. "With so many women already nominated and standing as candidates, the goal post is in sight. We need to cross that finishing line with resounding impact." At first glance, the numbers are not impressive. Of the 1 958 candidates contesting council seats, only 740 are women. The situation seems worse in the House of Assembly where only 118 women out of 710 candidates are contesting 210 seats. The senate battle looks much healthier. There are 61 women candidates out of 196 contesting 60 seats.

    But the trust seems quite happy. "The two main objectives of our campaign were first to get more women to stand as candidates and secondly to get people to vote for women candidates," Women's Trust campaign manager Lydia Mavengere said. It achieved the first goal because there was a 49 percent increase in the number of female candidates contesting parliamentary seats. Only 58 women contested House of Assembly seats in 2005. A total of 919 women are contesting the elections next week. The trust will only know the impact of its campaign on the second goal when the results are out. But some observers say, the women's vote should not be ignored because it cuts across political lines and could upset some party heavyweights if women take heed of the campaign. "It is in your interest to make sure that the woman standing as a candidate in your constituency is elected," the campaign says. Indeed women can do it, if they use their numbers.

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