Maputo — : Maria Helena Langa is one of the five women who heads a municipality, out of the 53 existing ones in Mozambique.
Langa began her career within the political arena, as a municipal councilor from 1993 to 2003 and in 2009 rose within the ranks and became president of the municipal council of Mandlakazi. She is serving her second term the president of the Mandlakazi city council, in the province of Gaza,
Langa, shared her experiences in politics in a discussion that brought together different women from the country’s three largest political parties. This gathering also served to raise awareness of the challenges that women face in decision-making and the opportunities that may arise from the decentralisation process in Mozambique.
Of the 53 municipalities that the country has, only five are women-led. This goes against the targets of SADC Protocol on Gender and Development of having equal proportions of women and men in areas of decision-making. However, the decentralisation process in Mozambique can be seen as an opportunity in the political history of the country, of women being able to fight and ascend to key decision-making roles.
From her nine years of experience, Langa shared some of the challenges and constraints that she would like to see in the coming elections. According to Langa, the conservative division of roles within the family, fragility of laws in the area of women's protection, cultural taboos and weak economic power are points that have a negative impact on the race for decision-making posts.
Furthermore, despite the intense preparation that women make in order to prepare for these positions, factors such as low self-esteem and the guilt of having to give up certain socially prescribed duties as a priority, such as their entire dedication to motherhood and family, to the detriment of other interests also hinders women's participation and ascension in politics.
Women constitute more than 50% of the Mozambican population, which means that they probably constitute more than 50% of the entire electorate. As such, it would be commendable of women supported each other. A critical number of women in key political positions might actually begin to change the face of politics and how in the politics field are potrayed.
The process of including women should be discussed at the highest level among political parties as a way of raising awareness of the importance of women's participation in the discussion of all processes, so that the current elections.
In this way, some of the challenges proposed by the women politicians are to consolidate male participation in the equal rights process; promote the education of the girl as a way of having more prepared women in the future; and the eradication of all forms of gender-based violence.
The work carried out by Gender Links Moçambique intends that the participation of women within political parties is not only quantitative but also qualitative, which means that women must express their ideas in the governance process.
The organisation is working with local authorities through the Centers of excellence that take 10 stages of the process where we do promotion of gender equality to ensure that men and women are involved in local decision making and opportunities;GL is working with political to influence in the prioritization of gender equality
Graca Maria is a media intern at Gender Links Mozambique. This story is part of the GL News and Blogs series.