8 June 2012

Zimbabwe: We Need More Women in Politics


A few years ago, Liberia made a giant step towards women empowerment by voting for the continent's first female President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Her election positively contributed to the increasing number of women who have made it to the top in Africa over the years. President Johnson-Sirleaf is the first elected black female Head of State in Africa while also being the second female leader of Liberia after Ruth Sando Fahnbulleh Perry, who was chairwoman of the Council of State assumed the leadership of the country after President Samuel Doe.

In sub-Saharan Africa, progress toward achieving gender equality and women's empowerment has been modest, where several countries have been spearheading policies that address women's needs.

One of the most notable achievements has been to elevate the debate on gender to the national level, with countries like Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso and Liberia integrating gender concerns into their national development plans and poverty reduction strategies.

Even progress in women's political representation has also been remarkable. The South African election of April 2009 saw women's representation in Parliament rise to 45 percent from 34 percent in the previous poll.

Uganda's parliament is now comprised of 30,9 percent women, whilst in Rwanda the proportion of women legislators is the highest in the world at 56 percent.

Zimbabwe is slowly edging towards that, following recommendations to the constitution making process, where political parties are advocating the creation of more seats in the House of Assembly through proportional representation to accommodate more women as prescribed by the Sadc Gender and Development Protocol.

Parties in the inclusive Government have suggested that Parliament seats be increased to between 250 and 300 from the current 210. Of the new total 210 seats will be contested with the remainder allocated on a quota system.

Copac says regulations to form the new seats would be created through an Act of Parliament.

If that happens Zimbabwe will join countries like South Africa, Mauritius and Rwanda, where women have achieved a milestone in politics and actually have the majority seats in Parliament and decision making bodies.

While local political parties map their strategy to achieve the feat in Parliament, the media needs to set the motion rolling by engaging women at different social, economic and political levels through giving them space to share their stories.

We want to give visibility to women's concerns, voices and participation in different spheres of life by highlighting these and other issues in our paper.

Women's participation is fundamental to democracy and essential to the achievement of sustainable development and peace in all contexts -- during peace, through conflict and post-conflicts, in addition to their biggest role of caring and nurturing families -- which is the cradle of humankind.

They have also been playing a critical role in society for generations and their painstaking contribution cannot continue to be ignored, especially by the media, which has got a fundamental role to highlight and broaden their issues.

As The Herald, we want to be actively involved in the reshaping of Zimbabwe's economic and political arena by giving extensive media coverage to women who feel they have what it takes to contribute to Zimbabwe's political, economic and social landscape.

We would like to hear their stories, share their joys and sorrows, something we will be able to do in the most captivating and motivating manner.

We believe that there are a lot of women leaders in our communities who have amazing stories to share but have not been given the opportunity to do so.

There are hundreds of women in Zimbabwe who have been actively participating in Zimbabwe's developmental pedestal, but their contributions have gone unnoticed.

They include writers of repute, activists, politicians, business executives and ordinary women, who have made a mark within their communities, albeit in the most unfavourable conditions.

We will definitely welcome their stories, which we hope will inspire more women to take their rightful positions and play their part in reshaping the country's economic and political landscape.

From next week, we will be featuring their stories, trials and tribulations and we will also help them to celebrate their success through giving them space to highlight their achievements, while motivating their peers to work towards achieving their dreams.

We will also use this column, to disseminate information on different developmental issues taking place across the globe.

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