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Zimbabwean independence and women

The 34 years of Zimbabwean independence has brought little reason for women to celebrate. The pertaining socio-political conditions are abnormal; they render women’s status no different from the mid 20th Century; Zimbabwean women remain severely under-represented in positions of power.   The status quo has to be confronted head on; there is no justifiable reason why things should continue as they are.

The gender-gap in top political representation cannot only be explained in terms of ambition differentials between men and women; we need to account for this perceived lack of interest in politics by women. In fact there remain structural barriers that limit women’s options to run for political office; those need urgent removal. If it was necessary to wrestle land from white farmers to empower black farmers, I think it is even more desirable now to grab power off the grasp of men and ensure it is equitably distributed in our society.

Women make 51.9 percent of the total population of Zimbabwe yet make a minute percentage in positions of real power; it is unacceptable, women should make at least 50 percent of our Parliament and cabinet right now. That they currently make 35 percent of parliamentarians and even less in government and other powerful institutions has more to do with men and very little to do with women. I do not subscribe to the idea that women are not interested in top positions in society; the reality is that women’s path to the top is severely restricted than men’s. We live in a society that is more willing to give a bungling man chance after chance to commit the same horrors but would not want to try a woman because she is a woman!

There is no rationale in the indiscriminate confidence in male leadership qualities and assumption of women incompetence; our confidence in men is not based on objective reasoning just as much as our anxiety and resistance to the promotion of women to positions of power is unreasonable. We need to be in touch with the reality that in 34 years of Zimbabwean independence male leadership has been nothing short of a disaster. Men cannot be better simply because they are men and women incompetent because the same failing men think so. How do we justify our faith in a suspicious judgement from a failed judge?

While I do subscribe to the notion that chromosome arrangement is not relevant in leadership and that leadership qualities are, I believe equitable distribution of power between men and women is essential for Zimbabwean progress. Representative political institutions require equitable distribution of power between men and women; to this end I advance the argument that at least 50 percent, not a third, of cabinet posts should go to women, starting in the next general election.

A Zimbabwe based on what men perceive to be the best for society has been a disaster; we have no reason to believe the same men will turn things around. We have been conditioned to believe that where a man has failed a woman would be disastrous. Until women are tested in practice, the theory of male superiority remains subjective and dangerous speculation supported only by male chauvinism. If women are good enough to raise boys into men, at which point do they become incapable of leading a society, including men?

We can no longer objectively justify keeping Zimbabwean leadership configurations as they are, 34 years of male dominance have yielded nothing but suffering of all ordinary people, male and female alike. We can no longer justify keeping women out of positions of power; our leadership has to be representative of society. Having a cabinet and powerful institutions in society made up of at least 50 percent women will be a good start.


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