The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Mentor Women for Political Office

opinion

Zimbabwe will this year hold its second harmonised elections. As such, Zimbabweans will be choosing who will represent them for the coming five years. Although no dates have been set for the elections, the declaration has already set the elective wheels in the different political parties in the country into motion.

All women and gender conscious people should take this opportunity to start canvassing and advocating for more women representation in the coming elections.

Though an increase of women participation is on the agenda of most political parties, they have failed dismally in implementation. This is evidenced by the few women who compose the country's two legislative houses and also the few females who occupy the top hierarchy of the political parties.

Despite the three main political parties in the country having done well by ensuring there is women representation in their top party hierarchies, it is now time that representation should be upped to reflect Zimbabwe's population composition.

This can only be enhanced through political mentoring.

According to 2012 Census preliminary results, Zimbabwe has 6 234 931 males compared to 6 738 877 females, a difference of plus 500 000 women. This is a clear reflection of the need to increase the participation of women in the country's socio-economic environment.

The few women who made it into the echelons of the three political parties are a result of years of hard work during the country's liberation struggle and the country's formative years must now impart that knowledge on the younger generations.

They have a reservoir of knowledge that should be tapped for the benefit of our women.

Unfortunately, very few have managed to pull other women up the ladder and as natural selection takes its course the number of women politicians does not become extinct.

This then calls for a deliberate mentoring programme to ensure that the electorate has enough candidates to choose for political office.

Analysts say despite being aware of the trials and tribulations women face on their way to the top, the older generation has failed to smoothen up avenues for young females wishing to have a dance with the country's politics.

It is regrettable that Zimbabwe's young women have not found proper mentoring to enable them to fill in the shoes of the departing women of the struggle.

Because our young women, the 25-40 age group lacks the prerequisite political education, they have been forced to be onlookers in the game they feel they should be part of. They are therefore in need of proper mentoring by those women who already are in politics.

Kram KE in the book, Mentoring at Work: Developmental relationships in organisational life, says mentoring involves an exchange between an experienced person and a novice where the mentor provides support and direction.

Mentoring is an ancient activity. In Greek "mentor" means advisor and mentoring is used extensively in work and non-work settings to support learning and development of an individual in a particular field.

As the clock ticks in 2013 and the election draws near, it is critical that those who have made it into national politics start nurturing young women to start entering the party politics and claim their position in the development of Zimbabwe.

Surely, Zimbabwe will take longer than necessary to increase women participation in politics if the current crop of women politicians fail to mentor youths to take their position later in life.

The country's politics has for long been dominated by men who have been making it difficult for young women to grow. This is why there is need for older women already in the different political parties to mentor aspiring women.

This will help them understand the tenets of national politics and thus increasing their participation in local politics.

As one political analyst said, an increase in participation of women in politics will reduce the prevalence of the political violence in the country during election period. This, he said, is because by nature they are soft hearted and will preach peace.

With Africa advocating for non-violent politics, the increase of women in the politics of Zimbabwe will help diminish force and violence and help build trust and effective public institutions that serve the people.

It is thus important for Zimbabweans to acknowledge the increasing role of women on the national political scene as peacemakers and proponents of social change by promoting the development of young women politicians.

If women are to increase their numbers in national politics, they should also avoid, at all costs the "pull her down syndrome".

Instead of fighting among themselves, women must come together and help build each other for higher offices. They should ensure support for their counterparts particularly those who are aspiring to enter into national politics. In fact they should use their number to claim political space.

Fissures within the women political movements can easily be exploited by the male folk.

Through a conscious decision to unite, women political actors can then help ward off male chauvinism as well as attract the support of some males.

With political roles increasingly becoming complex and demanding, it is important for women to support each other in ensuring that they build politicians who will compete with males. It is critical that they know that a dent on one will easily be translated to all.

Over the past decade, political spectrum has mutated, seen increased competition and now requires informed debates that will benefit Zimbabweans. As such, there is need for the women movements and gender sensitive individuals to support elected members and those hoping to enter the political race to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to perform their roles well.

Through proper political mentoring and training, young women can have better knowledge of the political context that is critical if they are to succeed in their political careers. Such an identity makes them marketable to the electorate and better able to articulate their political visions.

A properly mentored politician will have confidence in her political role, understand own strengths and weaknesses and be able to use them to own advantage.

Mentoring will encourage the young politician to think broadly about political problems and proffer better solutions. We have several women who have made it politically whose stories can inspire young women to enter the political field and help improve the country and region.

It is true that we have a lot of young women in society that have amazing dormant talent that is waiting to be exposed and hence need mentoring.

The call for 50-50 representation by 2015 in the country political landscape will be meaningless if the womenfolk do not produce suitable political candidates to take up the positions.

The Women in Parliament Caucus needs to spearhead the mentoring of young women politicians if the country hopes to increase the women participation in politics.

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