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Inclusive government - Index of articles
of equality: Time to fulfil the GPA's promises to women
Luta Shaba, OSISA
It comes as no surprise that women have been grossly short-changed
in the years since the Global
Political Agreement (GPA). Women have always been short-changed
in Zimbabwe, despite their critical contributions during both the
first and second Chimurengas the struggles against colonial rule.
Some women did voice optimism back in 2008 but despite committing
the three parties to take steps to promote equality and to ensure
that women would wield more political power, very little has changed
since the GPA was signed.
GPA was never going to transform society and women's lives
overnight but the coalition
government has made no real attempt to address the numerous
issues that continue to limit women's participation in politics
and in the decision-making process.
Zimbabwe has acceded to international conventions and ratified protocols
that address the concerns of women but these instruments have not
been domesticated, so they have no force within domestic law leaving
the operational arms of government at liberty to ignore these standards
and continue to discriminate against women with impunity.
find themselves at a massive disadvantage when trying to participate
in politics or run for public office. Traditionally, they own and
control less resources. They also have to contend with political
parties that remain largely male enclaves, where women are viewed
as supporters not leaders, are excluded from senior decision-making
positions and are allowed to exercise leadership mainly in the women's
wings. When they run for office, they regularly face hostility and
are under no legal obligation to ensure gender equality or representation
in their parties. The manifestos and constitutions of Zimbabwe's
two major political parties mention gender and generally demonstrate
good gender analysis in relation to development issues, but the
parties fail to develop or consistently implement firm measures
to reflect commitment to gender equality and a systematic approach
to women's political involvement and participation. (SADC
Parliamentary Forum, 2008)
system also conspires against women. Zimbabwe uses the first-past-the-post-electoral
system, which does not facilitate women's participation. It
provides for elections based on constituency representation and
winner-takes-all, which encourages parties to opt for male candidates.
Under proportional representation, parties draw up party lists,
which are not voted on directly and make it easier to include more
women. In addition, the nominated parliamentary seats that were
part of the pre-GPA constitution could be used to increase the number
of women but all seats are now contested. And finally, there are
no quotas in place.
society in Zimbabwe does not speak with a unified voice on women's
issues or indeed on women's issues very often. For some 'mainstream'
human rights organisations, gender is peripheral to the democratisation
and governance debate. Many organisations are only dimly aware of
instruments such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Protocol on Gender and Development. 'Malestream' organisations
hardly ever mention them at all. And it is difficult for women's
organisations to focus attention on broader issues of women's
rights and empowerment when there are so many bread-and-butter issues
for civil society and citizens to address a fact that partially
explains why Zimbabwean women are generally not adequately mobilised
So what can
be done? The following would all help to enhance equality and the
participation of women in politics and go some way to fulfilling
the hopes of those women who optimistically thought the GPA would
usher in a more equal era for all.
of women's rights in the democratisation agenda:
Women's organisations should take the lead in articulating
a clear position regarding women's rights and embark on mass
mobilization, conscientisation and advocacy work to ensure that
women's rights are high on the national institutional agenda.
Donors supporting human rights and democracy work should ensure
that a percentage of their funds are allocated to these women's
and Electoral Provisions in the New Constitution: There
is a need for clear commitments in the new Constitution to equal
representation for women in decision-making positions. The Constitution
should incorporate key provisions of the SADC Protocol and other
regional and international instruments that Zimbabwe has already
ratified. The Constitution must provide for a new electoral system
based on proportional representation.
of political Parties: The electoral laws should be amended
to regulate the operation of po- litical parties to end intra- and
inter-party violence and enforce internal quotas. There is need
for the gender awareness training for the leaders of political parties.
Given the scorn with which older party men treat women, it may be
useful to have SADC institutions conduct round tables to increase
gender responsiveness in political parties.
Violence: The justice system must ensure that perpetrators
of election violence are brought to book. There must be monitoring
of the prosecution of offenders and tracking of cases that enter
the justice system. There should be penalties for political parties
that use or sanction violence during elections, and these should
include the loss of seats for convicted perpetrators. The Organ
on National Healing and Reconciliation must be made effective.
mobilisation of women: Civil society organisations must
engage in aggressive outreach programmes to mobilise and inform
women. Information must be disseminated widely. Critically, the
Constitution must be demystified and human rights must be more carefully
explained so that they have relevance to people's lived realities.
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