HARARE – Thanks to the new Constitution which came into effect in March this year, women’s representation in the country’s Parliament doubled from 17 percent following the 2008 general elections, to 35 percent in the elections on July 31, 2013.
On September 3, 124 women were sworn in. The youngest of them is Tionei Melody Dziva, 29, who represents the Zanu PF of long-standing President Robert Mugabe.
She joined Parliament as part of the Zanu PF women’s quota for Midlands Province.
While there are mixed feelings in the country over the election results — the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims massive fraud in Mugabe’s favour — Dziva says she’s happy with the outcome.
“The people spoke, people voted for what they wanted and they did that in a secret ballot voting,” she says.
Dziva stands at 1,60 metre tall and talks hesitantly, wearing a wide smile while avoiding to look straight into your eyes at the same time.
“I feel respected by the people of Zimbabwe, as a woman who has been elected to represent my fellow women and the youths as well.”
While not underestimating the difficulty of the task lying ahead of her, Dziva says she’s looking forward to being mentored by the senior politicians in the house.
Her age, she claims, is actually an advantage in that it will be easy to seek advice from senior Parliamentarians, who will likely be tolerant in case she makes mistakes.
Although her parents come from Chivi in Masvingo, Dziva was born in Marondera and grew up in the Midlands.
She holds a BSc Honours degree in Administration from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and a Masters in Development Studies from the Women’s University in Africa.
However, it was at the UZ where she first entered full-time politics in 2004 after being elected gender secretary in campus Zanu PF branch.
After graduating from the UZ she returned to the Midlands where she joined the party’s provincial structures as deputy secretary for production in the youth league.
Last year, she was co-opted to the national youth wing executive as deputy secretary for economic affairs.
Dziva has monitored political events unfold since her childhood days and has spoken to several politicians.
All this motivated her to enter the political arena with a desire to right long-standing wrongs.
She says it is important to “prioritise youth issues, because the youth is the generation that brings development and therefore needs the most attention.
“There is a high unemployment rate and the economy is ailing, so many young people have so many challenges, and they need to be empowered.”
Dziva is also very much conscious of the plight of her fellow-women and says she needs to work hard to make sure that they will also benefit from the country’s indigenisation policy.
She encourages women to take advantage of female politicians in Parliament to bring forth their issues.
“I would like to advocate … the empowerment of women in our country. Of course, most women come from patriarchal societies where they have not been given the same opportunities as their male counterparts, at school and in the workplace, and a lot of them now have to create their own employment by other means,” says Dziva.
While she acknowledges the importance of venturing into agriculture to alleviate poverty, Dziva is a strong believer of women’s participation in all sectors of the economy.
As an example, she feels that women should be allowed to work in the mining industry.
The youthful Parliamentarian adheres to the Zanu PF ideology to the bone and is happy with what the party has brought women and youths. Zanu PF, she says, “has promoted women’s rights with a domestic bill passed in 2006 and it has been a very positive move for women in Zimbabwe; our party has been there for the people.”
While the Zanu PF is appointing an increasing number of youths within the party ranks, it is expected that this will change the way the party will go about its business.
Although 52 percent of the population are women, they are highly underrepresented in the decision making bodies of the different sectors of the country.