The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says rather than extending the parliamentary women’s quota by a further 10 years, the government should reserve more constituencies for female candidates.
The cabinet resolved to extend by another 10 years the constitutional provision for the election of the 60 women members in Parliament under proportional representation.
Section 124 of the Constitution provides for the equal representation of women in Parliament through the appointment of 60 non-constituency legislators.
But MDC Vice President, Lynette Karenyi, argues cabinet’s decision was done in bad faith and must be condemned by progressive forces who strive to see gender equality in Zimbabwe.
She argued that the country was now going backwards instead of fighting to promote a 50/50 representation model.
“Indeed, why is our country now going backward from the SADC call of 50/50 gender representation in parliament? Added to that; there is the compelling need to respect our own national Constitution through its Section 17 and 56 calls for 50/50 gender representation. “Alternatively; in an effort to achieve 50/50 representation, the Women Quota may stay, but on condition that we further reserve more constituencies for women representatives,” Karenyi said.
Out of the 335 Members of Parliament, only 83 are women while only 11.5 percent made it into the current Cabinet, a sign that female representation is still low in Zimbabwe.
As one of the three MDC VPs, Karenyi noted it was incredulous that given women’s struggles in the country, the government wanted to be congratulated for simply extending the women’s quota by 10 years.
“It is my strong view that the government of the day must now come up with a clear process that will totally enable a 50/50 gender representation in our Parliament. Indeed, it is time that we as Zimbabwe went beyond mere rhetoric and start to fully resolve the issue of equal representation for women,” she said.
The VP noted that going forward, it was necessary the implementation process of the 50/50 representation principle place more emphasis on promoting the rise of young women leaders.
“The current women’s quota only gives 60 parliamentary seats to women out of the total of 210 national seats. It is my strong view that this system has actually not helped the issue of promoting gender equality since all political parties no longer give aspiring women candidates the desirable constituencies,” she argued.
Karenyi added that a negative mindset had been created, as other male parliamentary candidates made disrespectful remarks to those women who were elected under the quota system.
“Worse still, other Parliamentary candidates have started to label the women elected through the Parliamentary quota system as ‘Baccosi.’ This is a derogatory slang word used by some citizens when referring to things given for free. In short, the women’s quota now seems to be disadvantaging women more,” said the opposition leader.
As a way forward, Karenyi recommended that government resort to the demands of our Constitution and push to implement a 50/50 gender representation.
“The government should now put in place a mechanism that will make sure that by 2023, Zimbabwe will have 50/50 parity in terms of gender representation in our Parliament. It is common cause that a legislature full of women will help the nation in raising important motions affecting the women who are the majority in Zimbabwe,” she said.
“Indeed, the whole concept about 50/50 gender representation is meant to inspire women to start raising their voices, be it at work, on the streets or in classrooms. Women are suffering; women are still being discriminated; women are still being rated as second citizens.”
The time has come for everyone to work towards total 50/50 gender representation in all aspects across Zimbabwe, Karenyi added.
“In this regard, the Parliament of Zimbabwe must show true leadership by leading by example. I further call upon the Zimbabwe Gender Commission to also intensify its leadership role in terms of the initiative to achieve full gender equality in the country.
“I also call upon both male and female Parliamentarians to totally reject the recent Cabinet resolution to extend the women’s quota by 10 years. Last but not least, l strongly call upon our Cabinet to start working on mechanisms that will make sure that Zimbabwe totally achieves 50/50 gender representation by 2023,” said the opposition leader.