Kwekwe (New Ziana) – The under-representation of women in politics in the country has come up glaringly in the Midlands Province with only four out of 31 candidates running in next month’s parliamentary and local government by-elections.
This is against a national aspiration of a 50-50 gender representation in all aspects of life, particularly politics.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is on record encouraging women to take up the challenge of running for political office, especially for parliament, which would allow him to appoint more women to cabinet.
In the March 26 parliamentary and local government by-election races in the Midlands, the ruling Zanu PF party is fielding a female candidate in Chirumhanzu, the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change two in Kwekwe Ward 5 and 10, and the MDC Alliance one in Kwekwe ward 8.
A political analyst, Chido Manzini of the Midlands State University, said women shied away from running for political office because they faced more obstacles than their male counterparts.
Among the challenges, the analyst cited sexual harassment of aspiring female candidates, especially during nomination and campaigning.
“Women in political parties especially those campaigning for elections face a range of challenges which include discrimination in party procedures and practices and lack of gender sensitivity,” Manzini said.
“Political parties should adopt policies to combat sexual harassment by having effective complaint mechanism and penalties for offenders so as to create a conducive and safe environment for women.”
The sentiments were echoed by the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, which has launched a two-year project to support women running for elected office.
It said it was worried by the continuing low participation of women in electoral processes, and has launched the project ‘Enhancing Women’s Participation in Electoral Processes in Zimbabwe’ to try and reverse this.