HARARE – The Daily News reporter Wendy Muperi (WM) spoke to the 27-year-old Maureen Kademaunga (MK), the youngest candidate who has made it to the 60 reserved parliamentary seats for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC.
WM: May you give us a brief background and your relationship with Mashonaland East which hosts your reserved seat?
MK: I was born in 1985, bred in the capital of Mashonaland East Province — Marondera. My father drove for government while my mother was an agricultural extension officer meaning I am a girl from a typical middle class family.
WM: What does your nomination say of you as a person and your party?
MK: Firstly I want to say our party went at length in selecting women to represent the MDC-T on the seats reserved for female parliamentarians and I view the nomination as an endorsement of my political aspirations. Having 15 percent of the 210 parliamentary candidates as young people coming from the youth assembly proves that most of the barriers that were curtailing the inclusion of the group were actually removed.
WM: May you highlight some of those barriers?
MK: For instance the issue of resources, coordinators and senior party officials arranged common platforms for aspiring candidates to come and sell the manifestos to party supporters making it easy for youths and women.
That leveraged the participation of young people and women in intra-party elections.
WM: How have you been supported by experienced fellow women in building your career in politics?
MK: In terms of inter-generational dialogue whereby the young female contenders learn from the older female politicians, there has not been much happening. I think we have ourselves to blame for that as young women, because we have not initiated that or created platforms where we can dialogue with them and get to learn one or two things.
WM: In your experience, what would you say about the attitude of men in politics towards promoting female contenders?
MK: I believe they have been very supportive in shepherding our political careers, from all levels we have a number of generational heroes like youth leader Solomon Madzore, Nelson Chamisa and the (Morgan Tsvangirai) Prime Minister himself.
WM: How have you been able to deal with attached perceptions that come with being a female politician?
MK: My background helped me a lot, I had always been a student leader and that space was even more vicious and aggressive. I was once University of Zimbabwe (UZ) secretary-general for SRC, Zinasu councillor and Female Students Network chairperson.
I hear it everyday that women in politics are loose, do not value family unit as defined by our cultural values but I chose to remain focused.
WM: To what extent do you think you can influence change?
MK: We need political instruments that speak in perpetuity on the need to promote affirmative action so that we feel safe in politics. The quota system is a good starting point. It would have been even beautiful if it was permanent.
WM: When did you decide; now I am joining mainstream politics?
MK: The moment I said I am getting into student politics, for me it was more like a training ground for politicians.
WM: Is there anything that sometimes makes you think twice about your career choice?
MK: We are here to re-fire, rebirth, regenerate the struggle and give a new life to the women’s movement.
But for me this is a struggle within a struggle, the bigger struggle is about emancipation of the people of Zimbabwe, restoration of good governance, economic revival and the restoration of people’s faith in their government is just all about it.
The MDC led by Tsvangirai is the party whose vision and founding values I believe resonate with the needs of Zimbabwe.
WM: Do you think we are going to meet the Sadc guidelines on gender parity?
MK: In the last Parliament, we had just around 18 percent and in this Parliament we know there will be an increase due to the reserved seats.
WM: I understand you hold a BSC Honours in Sociology with UZ and a Master’s in International Relations and Transnational Governance courtesy of Vrije University Amsterdam. What next?
MK: I am planning to go for my PHD as soon as I stabilise, likely after elections but I believe politics goes beyond education.
WM: What are your chances of landing the parliamentary seat in Mashonaland East considering it is Zanu PF stronghold?
MK: I believe if our elections had gone beyond being free and fair to credible, MDC-T would officially be the dominant force in the province.
I know a resounding victory is certain for my party in the impending election.
WM: What are your plans beyond this?
MK: Well, I do not even plan to get a reserved seat after the 8th parliament.
After these first five years I will be prepared to run in a constituency. Now I do not have enough resources and believed that the reserved seats were a good starting point.
After this coming term, I have a generational mandate to pass this on to another young woman, which is the essence of this system anyway.
WM: Do you agree with the general perception that resources are the major drawback for aspiring female politicians?
MK: Though resources and patriarchy are deterrent, I do not think they are the biggest problems, but a culture of violence that has been promoted in recent years, that for me is the biggest impediment. Prospects of being raped, beaten and even murdered make women stay away especially in rural areas as such barbaric acts are more pronounced.
WM: Your last word?
MK: To the women of Zimbabwe, I would like to congratulate them for their ability to organise themselves and speak with one voice especially during the constitution-making process.