08 March 2024

On March 8th, we commemorate International Women’s Day, a global event that recognizes the significant contributions of women in shaping society and highlights the challenges they face in fulfilling their duties. In Zimbabwe, the government has made strides towards investing in women by ratifying major international and regional conventions and incorporating women’s rights into the constitution. The constitution guarantees women equal opportunities in politics, society, and economics, and provides for their full participation in all spheres of life.

Despite notable progress, the effective implementation of advancements continues to pose a significant challenge. The persistence of harmful traditional practices, religious beliefs, and entrenched patriarchal norms perpetuate the subjugation of women across various facets of society. Notably, within the political sphere, the declining number of female candidates in the recent general election indicates that political power structures remain deeply patriarchal, with only one female presidential candidate securing a place on the ballot after the court’s intervention. The decline has been primarily attributed to gender stereotypes and societal barriers that impede women’s success to inherent bias

Moreover, the prevalence of male candidates nominated by political parties for direct election, compounded by the financial exclusion that women suffer in the wake of increased costs of political participation and representation, as seen in the case of Linda Masarira and Elisabeth Valerio further exacerbates the declining representation of women in democratic processes. The August 2023 elections reveals the stark underrepresentation of women in the political landscape, with only 68 out of 633 aspiring parliamentarians vying for direct election being women.

While we acknowledge the steps taken to promote women’s participation, it is crucial to address the reasons why political parties are not investing in women by fielding more women for direct election. It is important to invest in women by going beyond the quota obligation that provides for women nomination. It is crucial that we break down gendered prejudices informed by cultural, social, and religious beliefs rooted in patriarchal values that view women as second-class citizens, especially in the political sphere.

As the Legal Resources Foundation, we firmly acknowledge that women’s representation and participation in politics is a democratic right. The constitution gives women above the age of 18 years the right to vote and stand for election for public office and to promote multi-party democracy. As we celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, let us not only celebrate women who take up spaces and make differences in the political sphere but also, let us individually and collectively continue to champion for measures that wholeheartedly invest in women.

We make the following recommendations:

a)Government: ·Need for political parties to make the political climate more favorable to women’s participation in politics. ·Reduced cost of political participation and representation.

b) Media: ·Embracing gender responsive reporting practices ·Amplifying women’s voices to foster a more inclusive and equitable electoral process.

c)Civil society: ·To build more capacity for women on participation and representation in democratic and governance processes

d)Traditional leaders: ·To champion in the fight against harmful gender stereotypes and cultural practices that limit women participation and representation in decision making, and leadership processes.

e)Women: Take up leadership roles, participate in decision-making to ensure representation in all spheres.

The Legal Resources Foundation (LRF) is a registered Non-Governmental Organization that is committed to improve access to justice and promote human rights in Zimbabwe. The LRF works with the marginalized, and vulnerable groups, offering free legal education, rendering legal assistance, contributing to Law and Policy reform through advocacy; and works with state institutions such as the Judicial Service Commission, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Parliament of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, and Traditional Leaders, to strengthen the justice delivery system; and building capacities of officials responsible for the administration and delivery of justice through its lawyers and paralegals who are located in all of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces. For more information, visit the LRF at 16 Oxford Road, Avondale, Harare or call 0242334732.

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