HARARE – Like members of a single family, women from across the political divide gathered in Harare to plot their ascendancy to power in the upcoming elections.
Dubbed “Vote for a woman campaign”, the project aims at boosting women’s numbers in Parliament and Cabinet irrespective of political affiliation.
In a country heavily polarised by successive violent elections, politicians from Zanu PF and the MDC usually describe themselves as oil and water.
But at the meeting held at a local hotel, women from the two parties and other fringe political movements joined in song and dance on Friday while committing themselves to rising above partisan interests to achieve one goal — gender equity.
Women constitute 52 percent of Zimbabwe’s population but currently make a mere 18 percent representation in Parliament.
Building on the recent achievement that saw government reserving 60 seats in Parliament for women for the next two elections, the female politicians seek to accelerate the participation of women in Parliament and councils under the initiative of umbrella body Women In Politics Support Network (Wipsu).
Gender and Community Development minister Olivia Muchena, her deputy Jessie Majome, Labour minister Paurina Mpariwa, minister of State Flora Buka, Goromonzi MP Beater Nyamupinga and Sibusisiwe Masara, a senator were some of the women who committed to the camping through their solidarity remarks.
Regional Integration and International Cooperation minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga sent a solidarity note.
Nyamupinga said her experience in Parliament had taught her that women were equally important for national development hence the need for both sexes to push for 50-50 representation.
“Women enhance governance issues, address poverty, appreciate women’s issues,” she said.
“They are less prone to corruption and are peace-loving, those are the reasons why people should vote for a woman,” Nyamupinga said.
Women usually shun seeking political offices citing abusive counterparts and lack of financial capacity.
But other quarters argue that it is because of poor knowledge levels and fear that limit women.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said women should use the quota system to build a viable generation which will continue taking up powerful positions.
“The reserved seats are just for two terms (10 years) therefore the beneficiaries should use them as a stepping stone and graduate into electable candidates otherwise the exercise will be in futility,” she said in a speech read on her behalf.
Muchena, speaking on Zimbabwe’s commitment towards gender balance mainstreaming, said the country will present a “picture that has never been presented before at the next African Union summit”.
“Through the 60 seats we are conscientising Zimbabwe’s critical masses that women are capable, caring, committed and loyal. We have our demonstration plot and let us use it,” she said.
In addition to the 60 reserved seats, women need 75 more women candidates to win if a balance is to be achieved in a Parliament that has 210 seats, said Muchena.
Wipsu director Fanny Chirisa said the campaign is focused on building a balanced society in which all voices are heard without necessarily replacing men with women.
“We are not pushing men out of power but we are saying let us share the cake which is rather big enough for both of us,” said Chirisa.
Awareness programmes will be run to conscientise primarily women on the need to participate through contesting or voting for women.
Males were there too to offer support.
Murehwa West MP Ward Nezi, representing male MPs, said women should support each other.
“As we do our bit, we urge you to vote and support each other. Women of this country have come of age and Zimbabwe should now have 50-50 representation,” he said in his solidarity remark. – Wendy Muperi