Elvira Mabunda

Elvira Mabunda

Date: June 5, 2012
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 Elvira Mabunda, 53, joined the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) as a high school student just before independence in 1975.

She had the opportunity to study philosophy in Germany. When she came back she took up various roles in public office, including as Secretary of Civil Aviation in 1983. All her subordinates were men, but “they accepted me without any problem. I think the secret is to do your job without being authoritarian and to respect others.”

In 1999, she became Frelimo MP for the city of Maputo.

Mabunda is emphatic about the value added by women to decision-making. “It is important to have women MPs. It makes for a healthy democracy. The vision of women is different especially because they are responsible for bringing up the children. They have a different perspective, but that doesn’t mean that women can only resolve the problems of women and children. When I have to represent women, I can do so, but I can also represent the interest of all.”

Those interviewed about Mabunda said that although a lot remains to be done in the city, there have been visible changes. Estrelina Ndove, a member of the local Frelimo committee, said that more schools have been built. This has helped girls attending night school who used to be exposed to danger walking home late at night. “Before more schools were built, the girls would often have to sleep at friends houses at night. But now they can come home and so it is less of a worry for their parents. They have more control,” Ndove noted.

Mabunda appears popular as she strolls around a dusty Maputo neighbourhood, where informal trade thrives and people live in zinc-roofed housing. She stopped to speak to 15-year-old Sakina Sousa, who is in the 8th grade. Asked about the importance of having a woman MP, Sousa said, “It is good to have a woman MP, as all too often, women are put down, but we shouldn’t be as we can do the same as men. We too can be leaders.” She added that women MPs understand social issues better because they are mothers and commented about how more schools have been opened in her area. “It is important,” said Sousa who plans to be an economist in the future.

Vasco Salvadore, who is training to be a policeman, also welcomed having Mabunda as his MP. “Having women MPs gives a balance and reflects our society. She understands the situation of women better than a man. She also understands better the problems in society. She administers matters in her house which helps her to administer things in society.”

Rosalina Sambo, a mother of four who sells tomatoes and onions outside her home, emphasised that women MPs understand the importance of education. “My main worry is how to keep my teenage children in school and out of trouble. I worry they will get up to no good and with HIV/AIDS these days, it makes me worry,” she said.

Because of resource constraints, being an MP in Mozambique is not a full time job. MPs are obliged, however, to work in their constituencies for a minimum of 30 to 40 days a year. Those interviewed said that while both male and female MPs work hard, women are more conscientious and are especially good mobilisers in their communities.

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