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Women politicians discriminating against each other

23 Jan 2021 at 22:43hrs | Views
BEHIND every successful man is a woman, is a tired cliché in reference to the fact that a man's achievements are made possible by the support and work of their wife or female partner.

In one of the Shona dialects and loosely translated into the Queen's language, an axiom goes like this: "There is no home without a woman."

Conversant of their important role in society, the sad part is that women in society generally and female politicians in particular have been known to undermine themselves, as they fight petty and trivial wars, leading to the domination of men.

While women have played a huge role in lifting up their male counterparts, the same cannot be said about them in terms of supporting each other.

According to UN Women, women make up more than two-thirds of the world's population yet their participation in electoral and governance processes where decisions regarding their lives are made remains peripheral in many countries.

In Zimbabwe women constitute 52% of the population yet they are missing in decision-making positions.

While the now common pullher-down syndrome cuts across the generality of women, the trend has become more pronounced in their political participation.

A classic case in Zimbabwe was in 2014 when the then first lady, Grace Mugabe, went on a crusade, shellacking and humiliating former vice-president Joice Mujuru, who was ultimately forced out of the ruling Zanu-PF.

The fall of Mujuru, a liberation icon and a veteran politician was largely influenced by another woman, Grace, a political novice, whose only claim to politics was being the wife of the then president, Robert Mugabe.

This and many other "fights" involving women in politics has greatly worked against the country's commitment to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 of achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.

This is also despite the fact that many developing countries have ratified regional and international conventions and protocols on gender equality and women political participation, Zimbabwe included.

In her address ahead of last year's district coordinating committee (DCC) elections in Gweru, Zanu-PF secretary for Women's League, Marble Chinomona, appeared to endorse the widely held view that women do not support each other.

"President Mnangagwa is prowomen empowerment and it's unfortunate that women are not voting for other women despite constituting 52% of the population. We will continue to engage women at workshops to encourage them to be active and contest positions in the party and the economy," Chinomona said.

As noted in the 2030 Agenda for SDGs, women's equal participation with men in power and decision-making is part of their fundamental right to participate in political life, and at the core of gender equality and women's empowerment.

Top MDC Alliance official Thabitha Khumalo blamed Zimbabwe's patriarchal society that tends to favour men ahead of women.

"Women pull each other down because they are not empowered in skills and ideologies on how to tackle political issues. There is a thin line between men and women, men have always been the decision-makers both home and away," Khumalo argued.

"The greatest challenge is that our socialisation taught us that we should submit to men. Half the time, most fights among women are activated by men especially when they are gunning for whatever they want at that particular time," Khumalo said.

The coming into effect in 2013 of the women's quota system in Zimbabwe was applauded as a progressive step towards opening up the political space to women, while also addressing women's macro and micro societal needs.

The quota reserves 60 seats for women in the National Assembly while senators are elected based on a party list in which women and men are listed on an alternating basis with women always topping the list.

In Zimbabwe, Parliament is divided into two chambers, the Senate and the House of Assembly. However, despite the quota system, after the 2018 elections there was still low representation of women. Of the 210 parliamentary seats, only 26 went to women mainly in the ruling Zanu-PF and the main opposition MDC-Alliance.

The situation was no better in local authority elections where the figures were more or less in the same margins, totally derailing all the expectations that the nation was edging towards gender parity in politics.

An analysis by Darlington Tshuma in 2018 titled Looking Beyond 2023: What Next after Zimbabwe's Parliamentary Quota System? revisits the exploitation of women leaving them politically weaker.

"Another challenge levelled at quotas is that they have a tendency to bring to parliament ‘unqualified' women who are more concerned with toeing the party line. Politics of patronage work to the disadvantage of experienced and qualified women who lack the necessary political capital to get into parliament," Tshuma argued.

"The argument here is that "token representation" brings to parliament women more concerned with toeing the party line than advancing the interests of other women and society at large. They essentially become political proxies for male politicians who ride on their blind loyalty to entrench male dominance and leadership."

As the fights among women in politics continue unabated, the then MDC-T interim president Thokozani Khupe has lately been a subject of ridicule by fellow women politicians, particularly those in parliament, senate and local government recently recalled for not toeing the party line.

They accused her of weakening women representation in politics.

Khumalo is on record celebrating Khupe's fall from grace after she lost the party's presidential race to her secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora.

During the same elections, Khupe was allegedly slapped by an unidentified party member as the voting process turned nasty leading to women organisations speaking out against the attack.

"It is mind-boggling that we have women organisations who claim to be fighting for women's rights and we only hear about them when Khupe's rights are violated," Khumalo said.

"In this country, 52% of our population are women. Is she more woman than the other women in this country whose rights are violated daily and the so-called women's organisations are nowhere to be seen or heard?"

Also responding to Khupe's election loss, another recalled MP, Senator Lillian Timveous from Midlands province, had no kind words.

"Khupe has never done anything to advance the emancipation of women. To the contrary, she has been aligning herself with men than women.

For example, when she was the party's vice-president, her handbag was always carried by a man," said Timveous.

Emthonjeni Women's Forum director Sikhathele Matambo felt patriarchy was women's biggest let-down.

"The context, is not pull-herdown syndrome but patriarchy and what patriarchy has made us to believe about ourselves," she said.

Analyst Englistone Sibanda said it was a common phenomenon among women not to support each other "but rather attack each other because the playing field and the environment is not to their favour. More often for them to make it in politics it would be at the benevolence of some powerful man or men, obviously at a cost."

He added: "If you analyse the deep-seated causes of these conflicts, dissecting through the conflict circle analysis, they will be fighting over interests that are driven by undisclosed underlying needs.

"It takes a lot of effort and leadership development to help them. However, in politics there is no school of grooming politicians that will help them to deal with
intra-personal disposition issues that often spill over into inter-personal and eventually intergroup conflicts," he said.

Source - the standard
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