WALPE to push for Sexual Harassment Act (NewsDay January 10 2019)

THE Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) says it will work with other civic society organisations to push for a law on sexual harassment to ensure perpetrators, including offences committed in Parliament, face severe penalty.


Walpe director, Sitabile Dewa, yesterday told NewsDay that sexual harassment of female legislators in Parliament, particularly in the past months, severely affected women in terms of contributing to debates in the House because of the unpleasant comments by their male counterparts about their body parts.

Last month before the National Assembly adjourned, MDC legislator Lynette Karenyi (Proportional Representation) raised a point of order with the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, complaining over the sexual harassment of female MPs by Zanu PF legislators Tafanana Zhou (Mberengwa North MP) and John Paradza (Gutu West).

Walpe, which was launched last month, aims to train women in political leadership and to increase women participation in politics.

“Sexual harassment in Parliament is mostly body shaming and name calling, whereby the moment a female MP wants to say something in Parliament, they start booing them before they even begin to talk,” Dewa said.

“In Zimbabwe, people are getting away with sexual harassment of women, and Walpe is in the process of working with other civic society groups so that we push for a Sexual Harassment Act to ensure there are consequences for harassment of women, not only in Parliament, but at different levels in society,” she said.

Dewa said Walpe will also begin advocating for extension of the proportional representation quota for female MPs in parliament so that it goes beyond 2023.

“The PR quota must be extended because the 2018 Parliamentary elections saw women MPs’ numbers dropping from 29 to 26. The number of young women leaders in Parliament is dismally low, and if the PR quota is extended it will give opportunities to young aspiring MPs to get into Parliament because their chances of getting seats are sabotaged by older women and men.”

She said women failed to make it into Parliament and council because they lacked knowledge and skills to effectively contribute to legislation.

“Walpe intends to build the capacity of aspiring female MPs through training, mentorship and coaching, which will cover areas such as political career development, public speaking and speech writing, etiquette and confidence building, campaign strategies, introduction to public service, campaign fundraising, and several other courses,” she said.