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WEPEP project launched towards women's active and full participation in electoral processes

by Stephen Jakes
29 Jan 2020 at 12:56hrs | Views
Women's Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) in partnership with Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) with the generous support of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Zimbabwe is currently implementing a "Women Empowered for Participation in Electoral Processes (WEPEP)" project.

WALPE in a statement said the initiative comes against a backdrop of outstanding electoral reforms which have inhibited women's effective, active and full participation in electoral cycles and processes, including in leadership, developmental and democratic processes.

"The project is being implemented in Chitungwiza and Epworth (Harare province), and in Murehwa, Wedza and Marondera districts (Mashonaland East province)," said WALPE.

"Women have been sidelined and seldom consulted around the electoral reform agenda hence the need to engage them in actively advocating for the full implementation of the specific reforms that have limited their participation in democratic processes."

WALPE said the Government through the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs publicly indicated that they are working on putting outstanding electoral reforms in place as suggested by organizations such as Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Election Resource Centre (ERC), observer missions such as the IRI/NDI report on the 2018 elections as well as local observers.

"This has necessitated the need to mobilize women to push for reforms that will allow them to freely participate in elections as voters, candidates and election administrators," WALPE said.

"In the month of January 2020, the consortium implemented the following activities in a niche to amplify the voices of women in demanding comprehensive electoral reforms that improve the electoral environment: Women led safe spaces for awareness-raising and sensitization on outstanding electoral reforms."

It said the consortium held two awareness raising meetings in Wedza which were attended by a total of 100 women.

"During the meetings, it was noted that women are underrepresented in key decision making bodies such as local authorities and Parliament and this is due to the fact that the electoral act has not been fully aligned to sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides for gender parity," it said.

One participant also indicated that: "…As part of electoral reforms, the Government must put in place laws to guard against sexual harassment and related violence. I was called 'hure' (prostitute) by my fellow party members when I indicated that I wanted to contest in primary elections. Such issues make many women shy away from contesting and there is need to change such conduct."

Her concern was widely shared and the women strongly felt that issues of sexual harassment were limiting their active and effective participation in elections. They also appealed to relevant authorities especially the police to address the issue of political violence throughout the electoral cycle.

Other reforms which were discussed included the need for traditional and church leaders to remain non-partisan and professional throughout the electoral cycle. They also called for the setting up of an effective and accountable election dispute resolution mechanism that swiftly and impartially addresses all election related disputes.

Source - Byo24News