WALPE Activity Update 08.

i)Women continue to push for outstanding electoral reforms in Gutu.

The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) with support from the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (ZESN) under the Women for Electoral Reforms campaign conducted women- led dialogues on electoral reforms with 50 women from Gutu on August 14,2022.

The discussions focussed on how young women, women and women with disabilities can push for the full implementation of outstanding electoral reforms that affect women’s full participation in electoral processes. The participants discussed what electoral reforms are, what they entail and how best they can advocate for their full implementation.

Following the dialogue sessions, the participants present had a full appreciation of the outstanding reforms and stated that there was need for:

  • Adequate resources for campaigning for aspiring women leaders.
  • Laws and policies that protect them from cyber bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, violence and intimidation.
  • Alignment of gender equality constitutional provisions section 17, 56 and 80 with the electoral Act to guarantee equal representation of men and women in all elected leadership positions.

ii)Male engagements continue drawing in gender champions across the country.

On 13 August and 27 August 2022, WALPE with the aid of the ZESN under the #LetsGo5050 campaign hosted male engagement sessions on equality in Gutu and Hopley respectively. 200 men of different age groups attended the day-long meetings.

The meetings which were conducted during pool, darts, draft and social soccer tournaments were done in a safe environment for the men to openly speak about issues hindering the achievement of 50/50 gender balance in leadership. They also discussed how to end all forms of violence against aspiring women leaders as well as outstanding electoral reforms and how they affect women’s full and active participation in leadership processes. The men also discussed how they can be involved in pushing for the implementation of the outstanding reforms.

Participants at the discussions noted how:

  • They felt threatened by women who aspired to become leaders.
  • They felt uneasy for their wives, sisters and mothers aspiring to become leaders with all the harassment, violence and bullying that comes with the leadership terrain.
  • They feared their wives and partners would not respect them once they take up leadership or decision making roles in the community.

After the discussions, the men were more enlightened on the positives of having women in leadership roles and pledged to support women in their communities who strive to become leaders.

iii)SADC Summit opens up on challenges CSOs face in their countries.

From 16 to 18 August 2022, WALPE attended the 42nd SADC Summit under the theme “Challenging extractivism and reclaiming our resources for people centered development” in Kinshasa, DRC. The summit was a safe space for civil society organisations from the SADC region to open up and table the major challenges that they are facing within their operating environments. These were then packaged together with demands which were submitted to Heads of State for review.

Countries with economies backed by mining such as Zimbabwe highlighted their major challenges such as corruption, poor working environments, lack of adequate hygiene facilities and little pay and highly inflated local currencies, budget deficits in the social service sectors which includes education and all-round poor governance. The implications of these challenges on women, young girls and women with disabilities were discussed and possible solutions proffered.

WALPE presented its documentary on the research findings of the implications of the Private Voluntary Organisation Amendment Bill to women across Zimbabwe. The documentary brings out the achievements of women and youth led organisations over the years and how their work has positively impacted women and youth across the country. The closure of CSOs through the bill will reverse all the efforts made over the years towards women and youth empowerment.

iv)Women demand 50-50 representation as per the Constitution at Transformative Feminist Leadership Solidarity Indaba.

On August 25, 2022, WALPE in partnership with Women and Law Southern Africa-Zimbabwe (WLSA) with support from the Netherlands Embassy hosted the Transformative Feminist Leadership (TFL) Solidarity Indaba in Kariba.

The purpose of the TFL Indaba was to get insights into how prepared political parties are for impending primary elections and candidate selection processes ahead of the 2023 elections and how they will adhere to provisions of the Constitution which states that there should be gender balance and inclusion of the youths in all leadership and decision making processes.

Participants were drawn from aspiring women leaders from across the country as well as representatives from the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), ZANU PF, the Ministry of Women Affairs, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission as well as officials from civil society organisations such as the Election Resource Centre and the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network.

WALPE Director Sitabile Dewa opened the Indaba with a presentation on the history of women’s participation in politics and narrated how women have been historically under-represented in leadership positions since 1980.

Her presentation showed that when women from the major political parties are elevated to influential positions such as Joyce Mujuru and Thokozani Khupe, they are easily demoted and replaced by men further perpetuating their marginalisation in influential political positions.

The youth representatives from CCC and ZANU PF spoke on how lack of resources and a general lack of will from the main party leadership are some of the hindrances for them taking up leadership and decision making roles. The women leaders came after and mentioned that they want parties to have women only constituencies and wards were they only contest against each other.

ERC Director Barbara Bhebhe said women candidates during primary elections are not supported as they are considered weak, while ZESN senior advocacy for electoral reforms officer Heather Koga said if political parties were registered, achieving gender equality would be achievable as they would be obligated to do so in their Constitutions. WLSA programmes coordinator Patricia Muganhiri emphasised the need for political parties to take a leaf from other countries’ strategies on achieving gender equality such as Rwanda.

The Ministry of Women’s Affairs district development officer Kudzai Chidhume cited how women representation in politics has declined in the last two elections as well as how worrying it was for women’s leadership prospects in 2023. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission Commissioner, Mr Obert Matshalaga closed the Indaba with a presentation on how the Commission wants is in support of 50/50 gender representation and urged political parties present to do all they can to ensure gender balance.

At the end of the Indaba it was suggested that:

  • Political parties should form youth and women inter-political party forums or council where they collectively push their issues and strategies on how to push for more representation in key leadership positions.
  • A joint statement by women from political parties be issued expressing their need for gender equality and the respect of the Constitution.
  • Men should hold a separate indaba and enlighten each other on the importance of equality.
  • All political party leaders should have a gender pledge where they will ensure that there is equal representation within their parties.
  • Women’s and youth wings must be dissolved and allow women and youth to be well represented in key leadership and decision making platforms.

v)ZEC should reduce its fees for nomination of candidates as it disenfranchises aspiring women leaders.

WALPE with assistance from ZESN hosted a TV programme on Bustop TV’s Facebook page with four aspiring women leaders under the title “The commercialization of electoral processes. ZEC nomination fees and their implications on aspiring women leaders’ participation in electoral processes.”

The TV programme raised awareness on the implications and effects that the ZEC nomination fees have on aspiring women leaders. Participants on the programme highlighted that the fees were extremely high, dampening the dreams and aspirations of ordinary and marginalized women in the community on becoming leaders as they could not afford the amounts required.

They went on to explain that women have the burden of Unpaid Care and Domestic Work as they are care givers with no income thus they will not be able to pay the requested amounts. One woman said “the charges are inhibitive’. The poor will not manage to pay and this means that political participation is now reserved for the rich.

Some explained that, women who are genuinely concerned about the development and welfare of their communities will be left behind because of the ZEC charges as the majority of them cannot afford the steep fees. Political parties will simply shift the burden to aspiring leaders and women will be affected more.

The aspiring women leaders urged ZEC to re-evaluate the fees, while also asking for WALPE and other women organizations to help them lobby and advocate for the reduction of these nomination prices.

vi)Unpaid Care and Domestic Work needs to be recognised and included in National policies.

From 29 August to 02 September 2022, WALPE with support from Oxfam monitored the public hearings on Unpaid Care and Domestic Work (UCDW) that were conducted by the Parliament of Zimbabwe in Marondera, Mutare, Masvingo, Bulawayo and Gweru.

The public hearing were conducted after the Portfolio committee on Women’s Affairs, Communities, Small and Medium Enterprise Development had received a petition from the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) to recognise UCDW as an economic and development issue in the national agenda.

The hearings were well attended and all citizens who attended were given enough time to express their views. In all areas more women attended the hearings. A total of 692 citizens attended in all the 5 cities, with 565 being women.

Cross cutting issues that were raised in all the hearings were:

  • Electrification of rural homes, i.e provision of tsotso stoves, localization of solar companies and removal of duty on washing machines, dishwashers and biogas to enable time saved to be used on improving the women’s status.
  • Allocation of UCDW on the national budget.
  • Re-introduction of feeding schemes in schools.
  • Formalisation of domestic care work such that domestic workers get pension benefits.
  • Introduction of social service grants for single mothers, pregnant women, senior citizens and orphans and community care workers.
  • Consistent disbursement of devolution funds to Rural District Councils to implement community projects that address UCDW.
  • Incorporate UCDW in workplace policies.
  • Grants to aid retired and incapacitated informal traders.
  • Paternity leave for men to assist women with post-natal care.
  • Reduction of medical costs for pregnant women, children, senior citizens, widows and orphans.
  • Establishment and opening of children play centres in both urban and rural areas to relieve care givers and at market stalls for informal traders.
  • Equal inclusion of women and men in leadership and decision making positions at all levels.
  • Provision of proper and adequate ablution facilities for street vendors.
  • Improve access to social services such as quality and affordable health care services, access to clean and safe water through establishing solar piped water schemes in communities to counter time spent at public water collection points. 
  • Provide disability compensation for women and girls injured undertaking UCDW duties in the family institution.
  • Provide compensation or grants for women taking care of people with disabilities.
  • Cost the UCDW in the national budget as contribution from unemployed women towards the Gross Domestic Product.
  • The Minister of Finance must set up a budget to support women in the informal sector during humanitarian emergencies for example COVID-19 cushion funds.

vii)Women’s representation in politics remains low- WALPE report.

WALPE in partnership with WLSA and with the support of The Embassy of Netherlands released a report titled “History of Women Political Participation in Zimbabwe”.

The report looked at how women have been represented over the years since gaining Independence in 1980, how many have attained significant leadership positions and what challenges they have faced in their political careers.

Of note in the report is how many women who rose through the political ranks, were demoted and replaced by men for example Joyce Mujuru and Thokozani Khupe. In the report, it states that while political parties have women as the bulk of their membership, they have failed to make women equal partners with men in the occupation of leadership positions at all levels. The report also highlighted that the financial costs and the risks of violence associated with Zimbabwe’s political playing field made it unfavourable for women to actively and freely participate in leadership.

This left women with no choice but to rather spend more of their resources caring for families than buying voters and hiring thugs to strengthen their political aspirations. On the other hand, under representation of women also emanated from the fact that women do not vote other women.

The solution to some of the issues of under-representation of women would be:

  • Unity by women from all political divides to work together, campaign and vote each other.
  • A change of attitude by men that can encourage political parties to respect sections 17, 56 and 80 of the constitution of Zimbabwe in their internal processes and achieve gender equality.

viii)Culture and socialisation determining factors in why women get low votes to men-WALPE national opinion poll.

WALPE with support from Oxfam commissioned a national opinion poll titled “Why the electorate prefers male than female candidates in elections in Zimbabwe”, were it sought to unpack the reasons why the electorate prefers to vote for male than female candidates in elections in Zimbabwe despite the existence of constitutional provisions such as sections 17, 56 and 80 compelling the equality of all.

The poll was brought about by concerns over the marginal representation of women in political leadership positions, e.g, in 2013 elected women in parliament constituted a mere 10.9% while the figure marginally rose to 11.9% in 2018.

The opinion poll noted that:

  • The constitution of Zimbabwe adopted in 2013 provides for gender equality and equal representation of women in politics.
  • There were very few women candidates that contest and win local government and lower house of assembly seats and Zimbabwe has never had a female head of state.
  • Women occupy the bulk of senatorial seats, some are appointed under proportional representation or as special interest representatives.
  • The electorate has limited choices on who to vote for, because Zimbabwe’s politics is polarized, the electorate votes for candidates presented by political parties.
  • There are rare instances where the electorate defies their allegiance to political parties and opt to vote for a different party based on either gender equality or the quality of the candidate.
  • Political parties hardly offer safe spaces for women to equally contest and participate in primary elections and candidate selection processes.
  • Violence deters women from declaring their interests to representing their parties during internal candidate selection processes or primary elections.
  • Primary elections and candidate selection processes are often led by male counterparts who often are biased towards their male counterparts.
  • Political parties either do not have sexual harassment and safeguarding policies or they are simply not enforced.
  • Political parties’ activities are mainly dominated by women but evidence shows that this presence is in non-leadership portfolios (or simply as supporters).
  • While religion was a dominant socialization phenomenon, it plays a lesser role in determining whether or not the electorate votes for a female candidate.
  • The bulk of citizens did not believe that voting for a woman candidate was tantamount to committing sin.
  • The bulk of the people were convinced that if elected, women possess the capacity to lead in society.
  • Culture at the levels of ideas and social behaviours seem to be dominant factors in determining whether or not a person can vote for a woman candidate.  However culture at the level of customs was capable of deterring people from voting for a female candidate.
  • Women have limited access to campaign financing.
  • 67% of respondents believed that women have to do more to prove themselves than their male counterparts.
  • Time use remained one of the biggest barriers for women’s entry in political leadership positions with most women utilizing almost 80% of their time performing unpaid care work and home duties.
  • Zimbabwe has a risk of either maintaining low presence of women in leadership positions or may slide to none existence.
  • Indications showed that local government and lower house of assembly may continue to be dominated by men.

As such, findings drawn from the research indicated that:

  • Culture and socialization were barriers to the participation of women in leadership, as they experienced patriarchy both in society in general and in political leadership spaces.
  • Women complained that they were not treated equally by men and not taken seriously by some authorities, for instance, female councillors often complain that male councillors bring their patriarchal attitudes from home to council business.
  • Male domination in councils, parliament, senate and presidium makes political leadership spaces a patriarchal site where women have to continue to fight their way by resisting public patriarchy on a daily basis.