The Research and Advocacy Unit, in collaboration with IDASA (an African Democracy Institute), the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), and the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) recently launched a report titled Women, Politics and the Zimbabwe crisis.
The report was the first of a set of findings from a survey taken in November and December 2009. The poll was conducted throughout Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces, and included 2158 individuals. Most of the women interviewed were from Harare, Manicaland, Mashonaland East and West, with the average age of the women being 38. Some of the women polled were located in the Diaspora, which is Botswana and South Africa.
The purpose of the survey was to gauge the opinions of women regarding four issues, namely: what women thought about elections; what women thought about violence; what they thought about peace and finally their thoughts on the Inclusive Government.
In general women believe that they should participate in politics. In comparison with previous Afrobarometer reports, this report found that an increasing number of women are voting, however they are still fewer than the total number of women eligible to vote. A small percentage of women thought that women should be involved in politics at all, or that they should only be involved in politics with the permission of their husbands.
With regard to elections and violence, the majority of women believed that violence was caused by political intolerance and the struggle for power. 68% of women said that they did not feel safe during the 2008 election period; 52% reported having experienced violence. Surprisingly, 9% of women from across the political divide said that violence during elections was acceptable. It is distressing to note that a significant number of women believe that violence and elections are inseparable because of the violence they have personally experienced over the last decade.
The report state that, in general, there was a greater frequency of violations reported at the hands of non-state agents. This corroborates the findings of several human rights reports over the past decade. Violations at the hands of non-state agents were twice as frequent as those at the hands of state agents. 3% of women reported that they had been subjected to sexual violence. Interestingly, the witnessing of rape was much more frequently reported that the actual experience of rape. It may be concluded that women in Zimbabwe are reluctant to talk about their personal experiences of rape. Credence is lent to this theory by the fact that Zimbabwean women in the Diaspora were more willing to report incidences of personal rape during elections.
Women were asked for their views on the Inclusive Government. 71% stated that Zimbabweans should have been consulted about the formation of the Inclusive Government; 43% felt that the new government did not represent the interests of women. The results of the report suggest that Zimbabwean women have significantly declining faith in the Inclusive Government compared with a previous Afrobarometer report. Apart from food security, education and health, the majority of women sampled expressed distrust in the Inclusive Government’s ability to deliver change. Popular support as noted by previous Afrobarometer surveys has significantly declined over the last 20 years. This report found that only 9% of those sampled expressed support for ZANU PF as compared to the 51% that expressed support for MDC-T. A significant number of respondents did not want to say where their party affiliations lay, indicating conditions of fear and intimidation.
In the discussion following the presentation, a few members from the floor feel that more needs to be done to help alleviate the situation of women in the country. One woman pointed out that NGOs were not doing very much to bring justice to women, with the Organ on National Healing and Reconciliation being largely felt to be redundant. It was also pointed out that very little research about the perpetrators of violence was being conducted by civic organisations, yet this information would be a necessary tool for addressing the root causes of violence. Among the criticisms of the report was that issues of patriarchy with regard to violence were not mentioned. It was noted that this is very critical in a culture that is buttressed by traditions that look at women as subordinate to men. Further, the report failed to identify the gender of the perpetrators, leading to the assumption that all the perpetrators were men. However, in some cases this was not so. It was reported during the discussion that women were also perpetrators of violence against women.