Zwnews Chief Correspondent
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) in its preliminary election monitoring report for the 2018 harmonised polls just released, has expressed concern over low participation by women in the just ended elections.
ZGC says lack of legislation to compel political parties to comply with constitutional provisions and ensure implementation of the gender parity principle in drawing party list creates a gap for the promotion of equal access to leadership and decision making by women.
Although women constituted the majority of voters, their participation as candidates was limited from primary elections within political parties (15 per cent at parliamentary and 17 per cent at council level. Results show that overall, only 12.4 percent outside the quota for National Assembly.
On the positive, there was an increase in female presidential candidates, however it was noted that they were subject to hate speech, inflammatory language, unfair media and public scrutiny compared to males.
ZGC also says that on election officers, women occupied mainly administrative offices, while men occupied decision making posts, like Constituency Elections Officers or Presiding Officers, and urged promotion of gender parity.
The issue of unfavourable infrastructure that were not gender-inclusive e.g. sanitary facilities to meet specific women needs was also raised.
The Commission commended the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for making provision for separate queues for men and women to safeguard bodily integrity, as well as preferential treatment for pregnant, older persons, persons with disabilities, and nursing mothers.
ZGC recommends for the consideration of gender parity in appointment of next Cabinet, and other senior government positions in line with Sections 17, 56, and 80 of the Constitution. A call was also made for ZEC to improve infrastructure to cater for different gender needs, parity on appointments of senior officers, and all stakeholders to explore and adopt measures to increase participation of women candidates.
In a related matter, ZANU PF Women’s League meeting held early this year also revealed low participation and unfair treatment of women. It exposed that women fell by wayside in the ruling party primaries because men used violence, bribes, hate language, and intimidated them into silence.