Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals is to ‘promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development’. And we recognise in Mthwakazi that a key component of an inclusive society is active participation by women in political processes. We believe that the equitable participation of women in politics and government is essential to building and sustaining a fairer socio-political climate. Significantly, we acknowledge that at present the weakest element of the pro-Mthwakazi political process is the poor involvement of women and thus poor female representation.
Vital demographic figures
Latest estimates as of 2020 July put females at 50.7% of Zimbabwe’s total population of 17 397 557. In 2019 41% of households were headed by women.
Women in politics and leadership positions
As of February 2019, only 24.3% of all national parliamentarians were women. In June 2019, 11 women were serving as Head of State and 12 were serving as Head of Government. At the same time (February 2019), globally there were 27 States in which women accounted for less than 10% of parliamentarians in single or lower houses including 3 chambers with no women at all.
In sub Saharan Africa only 23.9% of parliamentarians were women in 2019. Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide with women occupying 61.3% of seats in the lower house.
Increasing Women Political Participation in Mthwakazi
Active participation of women in the pro-Mthwakazi politics is important if we are to build an inclusive society. We recognise that women’s political participation does not exist in a vacuum, rather it affects and is in turn affected by many social and environmental factors. It is important that organisations identify these barriers to women political participation.
We have identified the following five factors as deterrents to women’s effective participation in pro-Mthwakazi politics: domestic duties, cultural attitudes regarding the role of women in society, lack of family support, lack of confidence and lack of finances.
Develop Competency of Women Candidates
Pro-Mthwakazi political organisations need to actively prepare women so they can be effective participants. We want a shift from women’s organisations that seek male approval to competent ones that confidently and effectively participant in the decision-making process in our political space.
It is important that women are fully involved in the critical decision-making processes. Thus, investing resources to build skills levels of women is essential. Mentoring and training programmes that prepare women for political work and enhance their political skills would be vital.
Start local, give women local positions to equip them with the skills necessary for higher levels of public office and careers in regional and national politics. Initiatives focused on encouraging women to enter local politics would be particularly effective at raising women’s participation in political processes.
Another targeted effort would be for organisations to build women’s platforms, networks, and pools of potential candidates. Engaging local women leaders or trainees to share their knowledge to others is important in increasing the relevance and impact of training.
It is important that women elected to positions of leadership have real opportunities to enhance their influence and leadership. Relevant efforts will include conducting orientation programmes, governance skills training, networking opportunities and providing opportunities for policy dialogue.
Increasing Political Party Participation
Establish Quota Systems
There must be workable ways of increasing women’s access to political processes; the three basic types of quota regimes that can be used are: 1. Candidate Quotas 2. Reserved Seats 3. Voluntary Party Quotas.
It is hoped quotas will help to promote a “critical mass” of women into the pro-Mthwakazi political processes. It is essential however, that the participation is more than just numerical presence in decision-making forums but the effective articulation of issues that matter to women and men and the ability to influence and monitor policies.
Increasing Political Party Support for Women
Necessary practical efforts to eliminate barriers to women engagement in politics must be taken. This calls for major overhaul in parties’ daily operations, e.g. meeting at convenient and friendly places and at practicable times for women to attend.
Let us prioritise the tackling of sexist language and practices that reinforce dominance of particular groups. Gender-sensitive training programmes must be central to our internal operations. Separate women’s organisations within parties must be at the core of decision-making process.
Intentional programmes that focus on female candidate preparation (training, mentoring and support of women identified with potential and desire to run for positions) and media exposure must be undertaken and targets set for female participation in party conventions.
Mthwakazi women’s organisations need not be mere options in what are otherwise men’s groups but be independent and equal partners. We realise women’s groups have been left behind so training has to be provided to candidates in such skills as fundraising, message development, campaign leadership, media relations and effective communication with the electorate.
For a successful pro-Mthwakazi political agenda, women must not be an option but an integral part of the system; equality should be their daily experience not just a dream within the political space. We have a duty to invest in programmes that raise women’s political standards to those of men. Politics has to be relevant to women; information provided to voters must include specific messages which highlight the importance of women’s votes and women’s right to vote as equal members of society.