Call to address gender parity
EDITOR — In the week April 20-24, 2020, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) moderated a discussion on the participation of women in electoral processes on two WhatsApp platforms, The Electoral Reform Advocacy Cluster and the Zesn Electoral Dialogue groups.
Issues discussed included the 50/50 provision of women representation in the Constitution, the Women’s quota for National Assembly and Local Government. Participants in this discussion hailed from different Civil Society organisations.
It was noted that Section 3 of the Zesn Electoral Amendment Bill contains provisions requiring Parliament and council to reflect gender parity at all times, contrary to the current status quo. It was agreed that there is a need to address issues of gender parity more comprehensively.
A number of proposals were put in place to find remedies of ensuring improved representation of women in decision making bodies.
Many of these recommendations centred on the need to give the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) powers to regulate political parties and other bodies to ensure compliance with the Constitution’s 50/50 requirement.
It was noted that it may be difficult for Zec to enforce compliance as we do not have a law for the registration and regulation of political parties in place.
However, Zec can take the role of stipulating the need for clarity on the penalties for non-compliance in law, for example by listing non-compliance with 50/50 requirements as an illegal practice; using the nomination process to penalise those parties that don’t comply with the 50/50 requirement on their nomination lists; enforcing the need for party lists should represent both genders.
It should be mandatory for Zec to reject party lists that do not include women; ensuring gender equality in the composition of election officials; using public funding as an incentive or penalty for non-compliance to gender parity.
Examples of countries that use this approach include Burkina Faso, Albania, Ireland, Panama and Portugal. However, it was noted that this approach can only work where there is allocation before each party gets into Parliament.
The current laws in Zimbabwe reward parties in Parliament after they reach a particular threshold; adding enforcement mechanisms to the Code of Conduct.
Reforms should include sanctions and measures to whip into line those parties that go against these measures; more effort should be put in place using existing civil society space, tertiary institutions, legal framework and influencing the political parties to accommodate more women in their structures and; using Civic Education and
Leadership Development programmers to empower women to take up leadership positions.
In conclusion, it was agreed that there is a need to do away with the quota system as it has failed to improve women participation in electoral processes. It was suggested that the best way forward would be to adopt ways and means of ensuring equal participation of men and women (50/50) in electoral processes.