WALPE Activity Update 05
i)Set aside areas for women only candidates to contest freely
The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) conducted Women’s Accountability Forums on Reforms in Hwedza from 26-27 May 2022.
The main aim of the forums which were supported by the Netherlands Embassy, was to set up accountability teams in the area that would monitor and report on gender inequalities and other issues that affect women’s full participation in electoral processes.
100 women were conscientised on the need to hold duty bearers and area political party leaders accountable if they did not field equal number of women and men as candidates for leadership and decision making positions.
During the meetings, some of the women stated that they would like to have wards and constituencies set aside for women candidates only as they feared intimidation and harassment from men.
One of the aspiring women leaders from Hwedza ward 5 stated that women were often sidelined from taking up leadership positions because they did not have adequate resources as men to participate in electoral processes.
She noted that this was one of the major contributing factors why women shunned actively participating in elections of any kind.
Some of the suggested recommendations they made were:
Women needed to be adequately resourced financially in order to participate in leadership and decision making processes.
Women also needed to be given protection from intimidation, harassment and violence perpetrated against them during election season.
Women with disabilities should also be included in all leadership and decision making discourse as they were also part of the community
After the two day exercise, women were more aware of the need to support each other regardless of which political party, their religious beliefs, practices and norms, totem, village or ward they belonged to.
Accountability teams were also set up in 5 wards each comprising of older women, youths and a person with a disability.
ii)We fear for our women during election period- Epworth and Chitungwiza men
WALPE conducted male engagement sessions that attracted 100 men in Epworth and 100 men Chitungwiza from 24-25 June 2022.
The sessions which were through the assistance from the Netherlands Embassy, were mainly conducted in safe spaces were men could talk freely such as work places and beerhalls.
At the sessions which were highly interactive, the men pointed out their different views on why women were failing to take up leadership and decision making roles in their community.
Some of the issues highlighted during the sessions were:
Women cannot lead as they do not have the time to attend all the meetings because of unpaid care and domestic work.
The political environment is characterised by violence, harassment and intimidation and women are not strong enough physically and mentally to handle it.
They feared losing their wives and partners to other men in power.
It was against their cultural and religious practices, norms and beliefs for women to lead men.
After the sessions, the men were more enlightened and keen to have women leaders as they saw the benefits.
They went on to recommend that in order for women to successfully and fully participate in electoral processes, they had to be capacitated for them to be better leaders.
This, the men said meant they had to be given adequate resources to contest against men who were financially stronger.
The men also emphasised the need for perpetrators of political violence to be brought to justice so that a safe environment is created for women to participate.
iii)We will defend any woman aspiring leader in our community, Seke women
With the aid of the Netherlands Embassy, WALPE conducted Women’s Accountability Forums on Reforms in Seke, Chitungwiza.
The accountability forums engaged 200 women from 22-23 June, 2022.
WALPE engaged the women on how to monitor and report incidents of politically motivated violence targeted at aspiring women leaders in Seke.
The monitoring and reporting process will cover before, during and after the election process in the various wards and constituencies that fall under Seke.
Among some of the concerns the women emphasised were:
The increase in violence against women political activists which in turn was now demotivating and demoralising aspiring women leaders in the area.
How political parties were not creating a safe environment for women to actively and freely participate in electoral processes while their needs were being catered to.
There was a lack of will from law enforcement to actively and speedily deal with perpetrators of violence against aspiring women leaders.
At the end of the sessions the women recommended that there be clear referrals put in place to ensure women’s cases of politically motivated violence, harassment and intimidation were dealt with.
iv)Electoral reforms training crucial towards run-up to 2023 elections
With the assistance of the Netherlands Embassy, 200 women were trained on accountability reforms which they would use to hold duty bearers and political party leaders in their area accountable.
The training which was conducted in Epworth saw the women forming eight accountability teams, which comprised eight women.
Among some of the concerns raised by the women was the need to have a representative of the youth and women with disabilities as they were marginalised in leadership and decision making processes.
The women emphasised that without including women in leadership and decision making positions, their area would not develop the way they want.
v)Align gender equality sections of the Constitution to Electoral Act- WALPE position paper.
WALPE produced a position paper that sought to uncap how political parties can achieve gender balance in elected leadership.
The paper outlined the current system of elections being used in the country which dictates how a candidate is selected to run for political office by their various political parties.
In the paper it was noted that Zimbabwe has been quite slow to evolve from the cartelism form of candidate selection to its current closed mass system.
This according to the paper, has however made the system to be controlled by the elite who are mostly men.
As such underlying traditional and structural barriers form the major hindrances for women to become equally represented in elected political spheres.
To remedy the situation, the paper highlighted recommendations which need to be made in order for gender balance and they include:
Aligning sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution to the Electoral Act to give power to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to reject political parties’ lists that are not gender balanced.
Introducing a non-constituency system for parliament to limit vote buying and allow MPs to be selected on merit.
Introducing full proportional representation in all elected positions with lists developed in zebra format.
Barring all forms of vote buying during primary elections and ensure that the perpetrators are disqualified from contesting.
Putting in place mechanisms that prohibit all forms of violence against female candidates and guarantee punishment of offenders.
Making sure that their primary elections are transparent, free, fair and peaceful.
vi)Implement electoral reforms for women’s full and active participation in leadership and decision making processes-WALPE survey
A survey was conducted by WALPE to figure out why women despite constituting 52 percent of Zimbabwe’s total population still record low numbers in leadership.
The survey, interviewed 100 women between the ages of 18 and 60 years-old from all 10 provinces of the country.
Respondents in the survey included outgoing women leaders, aspiring women leaders, women with disabilities and women from the communities who are not in any leadership positions.
Among some of the barriers to women occupying leadership positions, the respondents highlighted that:
There is a lack of political will by Government and political parties to ensure gender equality and gender parity in all leadership positions.
Political violence, sexual harassment and gender based violence are some of the barriers to
Unpaid care and domestic work
The women recommended that:
Government should align the Constitution and the Electoral Act
Government should put in place policies and frameworks that protect women from sexual harassment.
Government should put in place measures to ensure that women have equal access to resources as men.
Religious and traditional leaders should help and fight issues of abuse of women from all forms of violence.
Traditional leaders must raise awareness on the importance of having women leaders
Religious and traditional leaders must do away with ret6rogressive social cultures and norms that deter women’s involvement in leadership and decision making processes.
Civil society and women’s groups must continue to raise awareness on the importance of women leaders.
Civil society and women’s groups must mobilise resources for women candidates.
Women’s groups and civil society must vigorously lobby and advocate for the implementation of gendered outstanding electoral reforms.