17 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Young Women Decry Lack of Representation

YOUNG female politicians from the three main political parties have called upon women to be more aggressive, demand political space, grab opportunities and shun political positions handed over to then on a silver platter. Speaking during a consultative and consensus building meeting of

the Zimbabwe Young Women's Network in Harare on Friday, the women from Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC unanimously agreed that young women were the "missing piece in politics".

They said they would come up with a taskforce and identify the number of women who want to participate in the next elections since they all faced similar challenges, including gender discrimination and sexual harassment.

Member of Parliament for Shurugwi South, Anastasia Ndhlovu, who spoke on behalf of Zanu-PF, said the Young Women's Network was long overdue. She said young women in Zanu-PF were fortunate because their constitution stipulated that one in three positions should be held by a woman.

"However, the numbers of women become narrow in the Central Committee and Politburo where decisions are made. The women's league has made a conscious decision to involve young women in their structures," said Ms Ndlovu.

"We now have space in the women's league. Oppah Muchinguri (Zanu-PF Women's League secretary) took it upon herself to kick-start a project where older women would be deputised by young woman."

Kimberly Bhebhe, who represented MDC-T, said women in her party were not participating effectively and there was lack of formalised relationship between the youth assembly and women's assembly.

"There is no female MP under 30 in MDC-T, we just have councillors. Reasons include the political environment, which is not conducive," she said.

Bhebhe said people should demystify that only men could make it in politics. MDC representative Cecilia Chimbiri described the under representation of young women politicians as disheartening.

"There are issues like violence and lack of support from other women. We have been in many forums and talking about the challenges and are happy that we have a network that will enable us to find a way forward. Mentoring still remains a challenge. Mentoring will bring great confidence to young women. Sadly not much is not done though there is room to maneuver."

Speaking at the same occasion, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said young women were underestimated for too long in politics, yet they constituted the majority of the population.

"Women are in the majority and I do not know why we do not have them in leadership. When young people from various political persuasions come together, they are breaking the barriers," he said.

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