ZIMBABWE: Inclusive Government Falls Short on Gender Equality

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
All Africa
Southern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

THE formation of an inclusive Government in Zimbabwe has been welcomed by many people in the country who see it as the best framework within which to tackle the country's social and economic development.

However, it clearly falls short of addressing gender equality.

With a Cabinet of 35 ministers, five Ministers of State, 10 resident ministers and 19 deputy ministers, the Government, unfortunately, has only 10 women in Cabinet, a far cry from the total female population in the country.

Despite constituting 52 percent of the population, women who have made it to the new set-up only contribute a mere tenth of the Government.

This has made gender activists and women of high social standing call for increased women participation in governance issues.

Vice President Joice Mujuru has raised her voice over the low representation of women in the inclusive Government bringing together Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations; a situation that she feels has a bearing on the fight for the emancipation of the womenfolk.

Amai Mujuru argues female representation for the three main political parties in both the legislature and Cabinet has failed to meet the Sadc quota on gender equality.

Speaking soon after the swearing-in of one Cabinet minister, five Ministers of State and deputy ministers, Amai Mujuru appealed to women to take charge and be proactive in the pursuit of gender equality.

She said women need to elect one of their own as research has demonstrated that given an opportunity, women can deliver as good as, if not better than, their male counterparts.

One of the major problems, as rightly noted by the Vice President, in the uplifting of the status of women in public affairs was their own lack of confidence in their abilities and this has tended to be a perennial Achilles' heel.

"A shortage of resources and confidence has forced most women not to seek political office. The women should start supporting fellow women as this has played directly in the hands of the some cultural and religious beliefs that has aided the trampling of women in the country," Amai Mujuru said.

The Deputy Minister for Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Evelyn Masaiti, concurred with Amai Mujuru saying women had been severely marginalised in the new Government resulting in under-representation of women's voices in key decision-making positions.

"The under-representation of women in the inclusive Government violates the national gender policy which states that there should be equal treatment of men and women be it at home or at work," she said.

She added that one of the major tasks of the inclusive Government was to ensure a fair representation of parties that contested the March 29 general elections but at the same time the new administration was not a reflection of the female representation in the structures of those same parties.

The figures tell the whole story.

Only 20 female candidates from Zanu-PF managed to win seats in Parliament in last year's harmonised elections while for MDC-T just 11 of the party's 19 candidates were successful.

And then out of these, only five have been appointed ministers.
Gender analysts contend that the quality and number of women that were fielded in the March elections could have had a strong bearing on the people that could be chosen for the different posts.

An academic at Africa University, Mrs Pauline Sena, said under-representation of females in the higher offices has a bearing on the other institutions in the country.
"Government is actually a reflection of the broader society, from the rural to urban areas," she said.

Women, however, need to stand up and show men that they can also attain the same positions as anyone else.

The acting chief executive of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, Mr Bob Muchabaiwa, said education was key to the full emancipation of women that has been lacking and has affected women's development in the country.

"It is most likely that most of the women voted to the House of Assembly and the Senate could not be considered for ministerial positions because they do not have the requisite qualifications for postings. With the requisite qualifications, there is no way they can be sidelined in development issues," he said.

He said gender mainstreaming should be coupled with quality if real development is to be realised and if the country is to meet the various targets that it has set for itself as a member of the international community.

The truth that has to be realised is that no quota system or form of affirmative action will work for the women if they are not prepared to fight for their own emancipation.

Activists need to know that it is high time that they move from the blame game and start explaining and exploring the concepts of gender if there is going to be a buy-in from all sectors of the community.

It is also imperative that rural women, who form the majority of the underprivileged people in the country, should also own the struggle for their betterment.

The community, and women's organisations in particular, should use the few people that have been elected into influential positions to champion their cause and fight for their total emancipation.