Amending laws or changing mindsets

9 May 2019

Women’s movements have been advocating for the extension and proper functioning of the Quota System in Zimbabwe to go beyond the year 2023. After realising the gap that was in the politics and governance system of Zimbabwe, Constitution Parliamentary Commitee (COPAC) which was mandated to draft the constitution of Zimbabwe took note of the low representation of women in politics. This led to the adoption of the Quota System, during the constitution making process. This adoption was in line with relevant international instruments relating to full political rights of women, among them the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the Political Rights of Women.

To fulfil these international obligations and commitments as well as to empower women, there was the inclusion of a clause in the Constitution which provides for the equal representation of women in Parliament through the appointment of 60 additional non-constituency female legislators. For the life of the first two Parliaments after the effective date, an additional 60 women members, 6 from each of the provinces into which Zimbabwe is divided, elected through a system of proportional representation based on the votes cast for candidates representing parties in a general election for constituency members in the provinces is part of the clause in the constitution of Zimbabwe which clearly covers the way in which the quota or proportional representation system works.

However, it is worth noting that from a female representation of 15 percent in the 2008 Parliament, the figures jumped to 32 percent in 2013 after 83 women made their way into Parliament from both the Lower and Upper House when the Government implemented the proportional women representation quota as stipulated in the Constitution.

However, the provision which was only valid for the first two terms of Parliament, comes to an end in 2023, a development that has been met with apprehension by majority of women. The Zimbabwean society can be described as highly unequal in terms of gender. This has a great impact on income distribution, political participation, power relations, access to control and ownership of economic and productive resources. The Quota System is a means to change the unequal power relations between men and women and to eliminate all negative practices that impede equality and equity of sexes. There is need to push for enactment of laws that protect women and girls like the Child Marriage Bill. It is notable that fewer women were voted into power, and in 2023 the Proportional Representation (PR) quota will be removed (Section 124 of the Constitution). Zimbabwe is known to be a signatory to many conventions that do not live to be realised for instance the SADC Protocol 2015.

It is known to be progressive but dictatorial. The golden question, therefore, is should we amend the law or change mind sets? We should hold accountable the political parties and level them against their own constitution.

In Senegal, women representation in the Parliament went from 11% to 44.6% and this was made possible through gender quotas. Recommendations that came up from the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe Mutare Chapter Dialogue on the Quota system touched more on the extension and rebranding of the quota system in Zimbabwe. Some of the participants mentioned that there is need for social accountability from the women who are already beneficiaries of the Proportional Representation (PR) and equal representation (gender parity) should be practised by all political parties so that we use a bottom-top approach in implementing this system. Failure to exercise this should result in the concerned political party being ineligible to participate in elections. The quota system should not be limited o a specific time frame as we are still far from reaching gender parity in Zimbabwe.

 

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