Mthwakazi must promote women political participation and decision-making capacity

There is little doubt about the dysfunction that continues to polarise our political discussion; gender disparity is disabling Mthwakazi systems; we are still a male dominated society with less women in politics and positions of influence; we remain a part of a less inclusive world in which women made up an estimated 49.6% of the population in 2016, but only occupied 23.6% (23.9% in Sub-Saharan region) of parliamentary positions globally.

We cannot start talking about turning our dream of controlling the Mthwakazi political space into reality when we are effectively protecting attitudes and policies that exclude our women. If we treat our women like strangers and keep them on the margins of our political space, they will not understand it, girls will not appreciate it and females will not embrace it.

Men and women are different but equal. The only measure of progress in Mthwakazi political space will be an equal visibility, empowerment, responsibility and participation of women and men in all spheres of life. Equal access to and distribution of resources between women and men and placing equal value on both is a need not an option.   

Skill and not sex must be central qualification in hiring people to roles in society. The societal influence of women in Mthwakazi is apparent for all who care to see; now let us ponder the political cost of making them sidekicks of males instead of transforming our sphere to allow them the leadership roles they deserve. Real progress can only be achieved by a total inclusion of women in every aspect of our political sphere.

Unfortunately, what we are witnesses to today are girls and women who continue to be marginalised from the political sphere. Whatever the cost of political education, it is never more expensive than the cost of denying education to women. The danger of excluding women in our political processes has been that they adopt a position of political resignation or blindly follow influential but clearly failing male leadership. Ever witnessed our Mthwakazi ladies donned in political garb of political failures from Harare?

Mthwakazi political formations must intervene immediately to ensure women engage in politics and do not unintentionally allow free reign of male incompetence by insisting on their right to remain ignorant and open to political fraud. Non-participation in politics is political suicide and must never be allowed to be a bragging point for our women. It makes them derelict of duty within the Mthwakazi political space.

We argue that if Mthwakazi formations genuinely believe in political change and are serious about the need for democracy, they must change the structures in society which contribute to maintaining unequal power relationships between women and men. This is central to the protection of human rights, the functioning of democracy; we recognise that the full and equal political participation of women is a prerequisite for a truly democratic governance.

As pointed above, let us appreciate that a key component of an inclusive society is active participation by women in political processes. Mthwakazi women are misrepresented in positions of power, in decision-making processes within our society not because of their inefficiency but due to social injustice that creates and maintains male dominance.

The days of women raised as only sidekicks in otherwise male dominated organisations must come to an end. We have a responsibility to dismantle the cultural attitudes and practices, economic and political barriers currently standing in the way of women taking up meaningful public roles in our society.  

Pro-Mthwakazi organisations must be accessible to women; they need to completely overhaul their culture, from attitude, the language used, to venues where meetings are held, up to actively introducing gender quotas to foster inclusivity in leadership roles within our organisations and the greater Mthwakazi society.  

Reversing discriminatory policies and practices is not impossible and is our duty, and a duty within our ability. If we objected to colonialism, if we are actively objecting to oppression by the ZANU PF/ MDC political regime, we have a responsibility to promote gender equality within the Mthwakazi social and political space.

We cannot only respect women because – owing to unjust laws – they are not threatening ill-conceived male privileges in politics and public life. It is as disingenuous and retrogressive to misdirect people and present women’s denied access to power as a reflection of their loyalty to men.

Transforming societal attitudes will be our primary goal; gender must never be the reason for not accessing leadership roles in Mthwakazi. Targeted education should be central in raising awareness among girls and women — particularly the most marginalised — of their rights and Mthwakazi power structures. When people understand power structures, they become valuable political contributors.

Together let us battle to address barriers in institutions, sociocultural norms and values, and individual capacity in order to empower all girls and women and amplify their voices in decision-making processes in Mthwakazi. We need more than women faces but their influence in our political formations because it is the right thing to do after years of unquestioned male injustice, an injustice that has protected an unhealthy male dominion.  

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