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Padare advocates for female vice-president

07 Mar 2021 at 08:12hrs | Views
Female participation in politics has remained a contentious issue with various women organisations and pressure groups pushing for adherence to the Zimbabwean constitution that stipulates equal representation of men and women in politics.

While Zimbabwe is a signatory to various regional and international human rights protocols on gender equality, women participation in politics remains a challenge. One such declaration is the Sadc Gender and Development Declaration which aimed for at least 30% women in political decision-making by 2005 and 50% by 2015.

The Parliament of Zimbabwe still has males dominating their female counterparts while the presidium, has remained male-dominated following the departure of former Vice-President Joice Mujuru in 2014. With the recent resignation of former Vice-President Kembo Mohadi from office over allegations of abuse of office, various organisations and ordinary citizens have added their voice to the call for a female vice-president.

Padare Enkundleni Men's Forum on Gender, an organisation which seeks to challenge the status quo in gender relations of power and to promote a gender-just society, has added its voice to the call for a female replacement for the vice-president.

National director of Padare Walter Vengesai said a female vice-president would not only give hope to the fight for emancipation of women, but demonstrate political will on the part of the second republic to respect the rights of women and accord them a platform to contribute to national development.

"Women have for a long time borne the brunt of political exclusion owing to a largely patriarchal society that takes women participation in politics as retrogressive. It has been very difficult for women in politics to express themselves let alone contribute meaningfully to national development.

"Dating back to the days of Margaret Dongo, women in politics have not had it easy with serious backlashes to their desire to self-determine. The rise of former Vice-President Joice Mujuru was a ray of hope for Zimbabwe with some hoping she would over time rise to the top office in the land. As gender rights practitioners, we would want to state our desire for a female vice-president given the new void in the presidium," he said.

Vengesai said the elevation of a female candidate to the presidium would not be a victory win for women alone, but all progressive citizens that respect the rights of all regardless of gender.

"Given that women constitute more than half the world's population, it is imperative that they are represented in a way that is commensurate with such demographics. Women's participation in electoral and governance processes remains far from adequate despite so much work having gone into advocating for their inclusion and participation.

"We are happy that we have seen a 50–50 representation in ministers of State for Provincial Affairs allocations with Mashonaland West, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Manicaland and Bulawayo provinces having female ministers in office, but we will be a lot happier if the Vice- President replacement will be female. This will be a victory not just for women, but for all progressive citizens that value gender rights for all," he said.

Educationist and ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) scholar Saymore Masaisai, who is currently doing research in Educational Management, School Leadership and Administration at Tokyo Gakugei University in Japan, said a female vice-president would be good for women empowerment.

"Having a woman as the new vice-president will not just be a celebration of the gender of being female, but a story of liberation. Women have been vulnerable species in society and for long could not sit on decision-making platforms and having them represented in the presidium will also help fight discrimination of women in politics.

"Having a female VP in Zimbabwe though not a first in the country will be a move in the right direction and will certainly give us hope as a nation. The fight for women emancipation started from as far back as the Beijing conference and it is important that as a country we move to empower them," he said.

Masaisai's sentiments were also echoed by musician and Padare Enkundleni Men's Forum on Gender member Peace "Bashupi" Ndlovu, who said rights for women must be everyone's concern and as Padare men they were advocating for the President and government to consider a female Vice-President candidate.

"As a musician and a member of Padare Enkundleni Men's Forum on Gender, I join the call for a female Vice-President. The role of women in community and national development cannot be overemphasised and I challenge the President and our leaders in government to seriously consider a female Vice-President.

"Even more important is the fact that this call is coming at a time everyone is hoping for a change in the way we do our politics and engagements at all levels. Gender parity is a key aspect of national development," Bashupi said.

Padare board chairman Jonah Gokova said the call for women inclusion and gender parity in politics and governance dates back to the 90s and there is no better time for the President and his government to elevate a woman to the Presidium and he is happy that Padare is pushing for this ideal after the resignation of the former Vice- President.

"The push for much greater attention on the place and role of women in public affairs came to the fore of politics and policy in the period from the early 1990s when, at about the same time as domestic pressures were mounting on authoritarian regimes for far-reaching governance reforms, a new round of global awareness on activism about women's rights was brought into national conversations in different African countries about uplifting women's positions in governance.

"This was in a context where an excess of obstacles, including conservative cultural beliefs and religious doctrines, combined with patriarchal practices to perpetuate the exclusion of women from the public sphere in any significant and meaningful roles. In view of all this, a female vice-president among a host of other progressive changes would do well to foster gender rights and inclusion of women in politics in Zimbabwe," he said.

Padare programmes development and fundraising manager Thando Makubaza said the resignation of the former Vice-President presents an opportunity for the Presidium and the Executive to consider a female VP in respect of the constitution and other regional and international level protocols on gender.

"As Padare, we are making an appeal for the President and Executive to consider having women in the presidium and to demonstrate implementation of the 2013 constitution and all the other statutes at the national, regional and international level. The SADC protocol on gender demands women representation.

"The President must replace the retired vice-president with a woman candidate of virtue to push our country in the right direction. The time is now and there is no better time than now to achieve this. As Padare and the men of Zimbabwe, we are making this plea," she said.

Makubaza's sentiments were echoed by Padare programmes officer in charge of the Women in Politics programme Paul Vingi who said for Padare, a female vice-president was good for development and as Padare they were happy to add their voice to the call because they had always advocated for gender rights and the inclusion of women in politics

"We have clear frameworks that advocate for women inclusion including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), known as the women's international bill of rights, the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights (ICCPR),  and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) to the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and, more recently, the  Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"Padare together with other women's activist groups have spared no effort to mobilise opinion and pressure governments and other institutions of public policy to respect the international obligations on women's rights to which most African countries voluntarily committed themselves. It is our hope that the recent resignation of the vice-president presents an opportunity for that positive shift," he said.

Padare is a pro-gender parity organisation which has conducted  research around women's political participation and the results show that, from the presidium women are not represented. Zimbabwe used to have a female vice-president, but has taken steps back in terms of inclusion. The same applies in cabinet, the judiciary and legislature, local government, public service, traditional leadership, private sector and political parties.

Source - the standard
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