HARARE – A local women’s rights organisation has made an undertaking to start equipping female politicians ahead of the 2018 elections as part of efforts to increase their participation in politics.
The Women’s Trust, which has held several programmes for female politicians including the “Women Can Do It” campaign which saw over 900 women give themselves up for public office in the 2008 harmonised elections, has embarked on a programme to prepare female politicians for the next election.
“We need to strategise and get more women to be confident to come out and take up these positions.
“Besides the 60 designated seats, we need more women to actually contest.
“We need a lot of women to be actually out there contesting as much as possible against the men that predominantly contest elections,” Women’s Trust director Memory Kachambwa said.
Her sentiments come as women failed to perform according to expectations during the last election.
This also disadvantaged them to land key appointments in Cabinet which only has three women.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily News last week, Kachambwa said a lot of women did not make it in the last election because their political party policies and regulations squeezed them out in spite of there being constitutional provisions which catered for proportional representation of women.
“We need to strategise and find out how we can let the women in. We should have women voting for each other in the Quota system because the party list submitted was not clear who goes where.
“We wonder what criterion was used in the selection process of those that were chosen under quota system,” Kachambwa said.
According to Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Rita Makarau, the number of women who contested in the last election was much lower as compared to the last election.
Only 90 women out of 608 aspiring candidates took part in the July 31 harmonised election.
There was however, an increased number of women taking part in the 2008 elections owing to the “Women Can Do It” campaign by Women’s Trust and the 50/50 campaign by Women In Politics Support Unit (WiPSU) which encouraged women to participate in the election.
Kachambwa said it was of utmost importance to encourage women to stand up as candidates as is evidenced by the two campaigns in 2008.
“It was very necessary to keep on encouraging them (women) because you see their participation is very low.
“Even when you look at the statistics in 2008 in the last Parliament, women constituted 18 percent then when you look currently yes, we have 35 percent including the Senate and the 60 seats but if you look mathematically it is 12 percent of the women actually won out of the 210 seats that are first past the post, so you find that we have actually decreased from 18 percent to 12 percent so it means that women’s participation is not as high as it should be,” she said.
Kachambwa said the ability of women to be voted into Parliament says a lot about their capabilities but they need to be equipped with skills on how to retain their seats in the next election.
Women’s Trust works with women who are already in and those that want to get into Parliament.
“We have a two-tier strategy, the first tier is to work with women in Parliament, train them and support them on community and policy issues.
“The women in Parliament are informed by what is in the communities so one of our key areas is to train them on policy formulation and understanding policy,” Kachambwa said.
Women parliamentarians need to fully understand the Constitution in order to align legislation to it, Kachambwa said.
“What is obtaining on the ground is that most people do not know what they said ‘Yes’ to. It is like getting into a marriage and not knowing what you said ‘yes’ to.
So isusu tisu ana tete manje (We are the Constitution educators), we want to tell you this is the Constitution and for it to work these are your rights, this is how we can turn them to reality, what are the legislations that need to be aligned to the Constitution,” she said.
Kachambwa said it was also imperative to know about new media and how to make full use of it.
“We are moving into a whole new area of social media, visibility, advocacy, working with the media it starts now, we built a momentum with our media platform Simuka and we want to keep that momentum till 2018,” she said.