Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Women Can Do It

TOP del.icio.us

Between 14-15 August, the Women’s Trust held a post-election review conference with the theme “Celebrating women’s leadership: Mapping our future.” Over 350 women and several men congregated at the Celebration Centre to share experiences and challenges from the Women Can Do It campaign. Another objective of the gathering was to develop a national strategy for women’s overall involvement in national structures of governance and in the view of ongoing talks, establish a united position concerning women’s expectations and what they would like to see in a new Zimbabwe. The post-election review also focused on the process of lessons learnt and celebrated this first ever successful campaign to empower women in national political processes.

Here are a few of the challenges faced by women candidates:

- Male candidates used political platforms to de-campaign women sometimes using derogatory remarks such as women who delve into politics have failed as wives.

- Lukewarm political party promotion and support of their women candidates. Often constituencies and wards were dictated for them and these were sometimes either the most inaccessible or the opposition stronghold they would obviously not win.

- Women found themselves pitted against opponents who had more financial resources – an aspect that greatly reduced their chances of success. Sometimes they could not afford to hire campaign vehicles or buy beasts with which to feed people at rallies.

- Women vigorously campaigned against other women from their opposition, an aspect that defeated the initial endeavour to empower women in politics, whatever their political dispensation.

- Partisan voter registration and education.

- Limited media exposure and difficulties in mobilizing especially in regard to enabling grassroots women to stand for office.

An overall view shows that violence and lack of resources remain the biggest hurdle women candidates faced.

The Women Can Do It campaign played a crucial but limited role in resource and material mobilization by providing fuel and campaign regalia among other things. The campaign also actively trained all parties’ candidates in public speaking, communication and leadership skills. It also campaigned vigorously at the national level for the recognition of women participants, an aspect that bolstered a lot of women to be emboldened enough to stand for office.

The resultant 14% representation of women in parliament can be directly attributed to the Women Can Do It campaign. As the representative from the MDC-T Women’s Assembly, Evelyn Masaiti put it, the campaign was an eye opener for a lot of women.

The conference challenged women who made it into office to represent the homeless, faceless ordinary citizen on the streets of Zimbabwe and not see this as an opportunity to amass wealth.

However while the few successful candidates indeed had something to celebrate, the majority of ordinary Zimbabwean women have nothing to celebrate. The violence surrounding the elections is still fresh in their minds and the ongoing talks keep hitting a brick wall making the future less and less certain.

A challenge went to the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Hon. Oppah Muchinguri to expand dialogue on the issue of rape and violations of women’s bodies that characterized the elections. There was general consensus that little or nothing is being done to bring justice for victims of this and other kinds of violence.

Comments are closed.