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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • WiPSU newsletter – September 2013
    Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU)
    September 19, 2013

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    Quota system increases number of women in Parliament

    With the marriage of reserved seats and a proportional representation, zebra listed system in Senate, 122 women were sworn into Parliament on the 3rd of September 2013. Of these 60 women were members of parliament whose mandate in the next 5 years will be to represent the interests of women of Zimbabwe in the legislature and in the Provincial councils. This is a big increase on the 57 women that were sworn in to Parliament in 2008.

    The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development is an instrument that has not only been signed but ratified by the Government of Zimbabwe. The provision of 60 reserved seats in the Constitution was in line with implementation and domesification of the Protocol which calls for 50/50 representation of women in public office by 2015. The protocol provides for the use of affirmative action in order to achieve gender parity in different areas by 2015. Precedent for this has been set in Uganda where “women’s access to politics is primarily through a system of special reserved seats.” As a result since 2001 at least ¼ of the Ugandan Parliament has been women.

    Although the seats and other constitutional provisions have come a bit late for Zimbabwe to meet the 2015 deadline, representation of women has increased from 18% to 34%. The number of women in Parliament has increased by 114% due to the provisions that were lobbied for by women in the Constitutional Reform Process.

    Political parties continue to be the main stumbling block in increasing women’s representation. They failed to ensure that as prescribed by the new Constitution of Zimbabwe sufficient women candidates were forwarded in the constituency seats to ensure that the National Assembly reached gender parity. In fact the numbers of directly elected women representing constituencies decreased from 34 in 2008 to 25 in 2013. As much as women had seats reserved seats, this was supposed to increase the space for women in Parliament and not limit their access to the 60 seats alone.

    Political parties continue to remain spaces in which the men primarily influence and make decisions. As such there is a need for women in all the political parties to set out clear criteria for candidature for the reserved seats for 2018. This to ensure hat the seats are not hijacked to fulfill other agendas. A lot of work will need to be done to ensure that these women’s mandate is understood clearly. It needs to be understood primarily by the citizens of Zimbabwe, within political parties and within Parliament. These 60 women have constituencies; their constituents at Provincial level are the women of that province.

    Women’s economic status in Zimbabwe provides a huge barrier towards their access to public office. The creation of reserved seats of women increased women’s to access Parliament while limiting the economic burden that campaigning in the first past the post constituency system brings with it. Paired with this, the seats will provide a grooming ground for women in which they can prove their ability as women leaders to the electorate. In this way creating by 2023 a pool of 120 women who are willing and able to contest in the first past system and have a clear documented history of ability and will to work and deliver. They become the best tool in popularizing the participation of women in public office.

    The 60 seats as was also intended have ensured that political parties were able to put for-ward, as well as retain, women who have a documented history of pushing women’s rights issues in various ways. These women will be able to articulate and push for the needs of women in the spaces that Parliament of Zimbabwe influences. Oppah Muchinguri, Priscilla Mishiharabwi-Mushonga, and Thokozani Khupe are example of such women who have clear documented histories of pushing for women’s access to their rights in different areas over the years and are members of parliament under the reserved seats. It is women like these who will effectively be able to use the increased space for women in Parliament to lobby for state delivery of services to women across the country.

    The 60 female MPs who represent the women across the provinces of this country, with appropriate support, have the opportunity to influence the political landscape of this country. Ensuring that politics delivers a development agenda that has women at its center to communities across the country; whilst forever proving that women political actors can and will ensure that real development will take place at community level.

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