Women politicians in Zimbabwe say political parties deprive them of their freedom to speak out on issues affecting them.
This came out during the meeting hosted by Gender and Media Connect in Bulawayo on Monday to discuss the experiences of women politicians during the 2023 elections.
The meeting was intense as some of the participants wept while narrating some of the experiences they had to go through during the election.
Their experiences were mostly characterized by victimization, violence, lack of funds, no support from political parties and no freedom to speak up.
Speaking during the meeting, Ward 17 councillor Sikhululekile Moyo said as women politicians they are demanding their freedom back.
“We are demanding our freedom back as women, it’s there in our constitution, but the leadership that is there in Zimbabwe through political parties, and churches, robs us of that freedom. We have heard some people saying they are going to church because they have no choice, but in politics we are there, no one brought us, we wanted to be there, and we want that freedom, we can’t be guided always, what have we done, can’t they be guided by us , we want to give direction also as women,” she said.
Moyo said the political space in the country does not favour women.
“We need our space as women, it’s closing up, we need our freedom. Some of us would not even be councillors, our own political parties don’t have the structure of supporting other women. Men use women to work against other women through money to de-campaign whatever you want to do,” she said.
She said during the elections, she was funded by the informal traders in her ward who supported her throughout.
“I appreciate women CSOs that have raised us and given us that mind of boldness and confidence. I had no money going to the campaign but the support from my ward from women and girls was amazing, I was funded by the vendors, the party didn’t give me anything.”
She said Civil Society Organisations must support women politicians as they are still facing challenges.
Nompilo Bhebhe who was campaigning under Zimbabwe African National Congress (ZANC) said she wishes that the situation can change for the next generation.
“People would ask you if you want something to sleep with me and when you do it’s your downfall, so you would rather walk away which it’s the reason why most women don’t want to be in politics, we are exposing ourselves. When you become a strong woman, they will torment you and the law doesn’t protect you,” she said.
“We wish things can change so that the next generation that comes in will have it the easy way. We are going through this harassment so that the next generation can work in a better environment,” said Bhebhe.
In addition, Soneni Moyo, who contested in Phelandaba-Tshabalala constituency said the change is far for most women in politics.
“Some women tell you straight up that if I don’t vote for that person my family will starve so for them to stand with us it’s difficult, thus the challenge we have,” she said.
Moyo said the situation is even harder for women who campaign without money, “even those young women who won, it was hard for them they will tell you about the hardships they had to go through being used,nothing will change for women”.