According to the the statistics recently revealed by the Gender and Media Connect Zimbabwe, 15 % of the parliamentary candidates running in the Zimbabwe elections on 30 July 2018 are women, again the gender analysis of the nomination court for 2018 elections reveal that 243 women and 1405 men will contest in the national assembly , 4 female presidential aspirants are running for office out of 23 candidates, where is the 50/50 gender equality? Is achieving sustainable development goal 5 of gender equality possible at this rate?
The 2018 harmonized elections have left many wondering about the seriousness of our government as well as the political parties which continue to shun women in participating in the democratic process of being candidates as well as voters. In the recent weeks we have seen female political candidates being labelled with names and some of the electorate vowing not to vote for a female leader, such gender stereotypes have further divided the country as in terms of achieving women and the girl child empowerment.
Gender stereotypes are socially constructed beliefs about men and women, but however in the context of the Zimbabwean narrative gender stereotypes seem to be affecting women and young girls. These beliefs are constructed through proverbs, songs religion, custom, culture, education. Jokes on social media as well as cartoons on many publications tend temporary women in a wrong way. Memes also have carried poignant messages which have largely affected women. During the electoral period in Zimbabwe female candidates have received the rough hot end of the stick as they continue to be harassed, even the media has not covered female candidates in a positive way.
According to Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) 60 % of women who were running for political office dropped before the nomination court, and only 20% are participating as candidates. Most of these dropouts have been largely accredited to the playing field which many believe is not level and continues to favour male candidates, women have been largely intimidated and threatened by their male counterparts , even the society tends to judge and label females when they stand up and take positions of power.
In the context of other countries, Rwanda it is the only country to have surpassed the 50% mark with 56.3% women in its current parliament. South Africa follows closely behind at 45% resulting from the 2009 elections. Political parties have not thrown their weight behind female candidates, however women continue to face a lot of challenges during the electoral cycle some of them include men as the bread winners of families not allowing women to go and register to vote during the Biometric Voter Registration exercise, in the rural areas women would walk long routes to go and register to vote whilst house chores await her at home, hence the apathy from other women. Again at the beginning of the voter registration exercise people were supposed to produce proof of residence and this was a huge hindrance and led to many women shying away from taking part in this process as they were not house owners.
When looking at the media coverage there has been a lot of gender imbalances in the stories published by the media, women suffer the extra burden of sexual violence as well as gender based violence which can be linked to political violence. Many media houses even journalists would describe a female candidate by what she is wearing, or her looks and this has been a huge bone of contention subjecting women to sexism and stereotyping.
Also in the recent weeks when a female candidate Dr Khuphe ran for political office as the president of the opposition party she was labelled “hure” by the male counterparts and this does not portray an even field in the politics of our day, again when Priscilla Misihairambi filed nomination papers for Dr Khuphe clad in a hoodie written “hure” in solidarity of Dr Khuphe social media was quick to judge her, we have seen young females aspiring for political office being pulled down by male counterparts because of how they looked, how they presented themselves and their past, the playing field has not been level when looking at the political landscape of Zimbabwe, it continues to pull female candidates down and supporting males.
The bigger questions one would ask themselves include: Are political parties adhering to the constitutional clauses regarding women participation in politics, what does the constitution of Zimbabwe say about Proportional representation in Zimbabwe? it is worth noting that both men and women are victims of political violence but however the violence is different , women suffer more than men during the election process , the society has contributed a lot in the violence imposed n female candidates be it physical , emotional and verbal violence.