Young women must claim their space in politics

Date: April 25, 2012
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Politics and decision-making in Africa is largely dominated by men and young women are yet to claim their space in this field. In Zimbabwe and indeed in Africa, very few young women occupy positions in politics and decision-making. What has been lacking is the grooming and nurturing of young women to assume political posts within political parties.

Traditionally, politics has been known to be a male space. A young man is usually the apparent heir to a throne and as he grows up, he is groomed to occupy that space later on in life.

Currently, the struggle for women’s representation in decision making positions in all sectors has gathered momentum with state parties having committed to an all inclusive system, which fosters equal representation of both women and men. This inclusive system comes in the form of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development of 2008 which targets 50% representation of women and men in politics and decision-making by 2015.

The history of Zimbabwean politics shows that involving young women in politics and decision-making is possible. Vice President Joice Mujuru became a Cabinet Minister at the young age of 25 at independence in 1980. In 2000, Flora Bhuka the youngest of government ministers in Zimbabwe at that time became the Minister of State in the Vice President, then Joseph Musika’s , Office. In the 2008 elections, Anastacia Ndhlovu became the youngest Member of Parliament (MP) at the age of 28 under a ZANU-PF ticket.

However, the current politial field shows a low representation of younger women in politics as pointed out by Thabitha Khumalo, the Senator for Mabutweni and Deputy Chair of the Constitution Select Committee in the country.

Khumalo said that there has not been much effort in any of the country’s political parties to encourage and support young women in politics. “We have a handful of women but it is always the same women being called upon to wear different hats. So what happens when we retire?”, Khumalo asked.

Vimbai Nhapi, former Child President in Zimbabwe said that there is a huge gap and young women who are already in positions of influence in political parties are not very active.

Another young woman, Maureen Kademaunga highlighted that it took a lot of courage on her part as very few young women contest for political positions. Kademaunga is the secretary for international relations under the Movement for Democratic Change- Tsvangirai (MDC-T) Youth Council. She added that resources and resistance from men also impede on young women’s involvement in politics. Despite coming from the opposition party, Kademaunga is of the view that the challenges young women face in different political parties are often similar.

Fanny Chirisa, Director of the Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), explained that they have a programme called Empowerment and Capacity Building, where an MP identifies a young women to act as shadow MP and will be assisting the senior in all matters concerning the constituency.
“We encourage all women especially MPs to identify young women to groom in their constituencies. Young women can then tap from the older crop and be groomed for political positions”, Chirisa emphasised.
Kademaunga encourages young women to get organised and make their demands clear by pushing for reforms that recognise the imbalances young women are facing. At this point, deliberate steps need to be taken to get young women into positions of power.
“We should not allow the system to carry on excluding us but stand for our rights so that we can be counted and be included in the decision making of our nations”, Kademaunga concluded.
There are many young women who want to be the Johnson-Sirleaf’s or Joyce Banda’s of their countries. Unless deliberate efforts are put in place within political particies and also within political wings of these political parties, the gap in women’s representation at all levels of governance will remain.

In her presentation during the Women in Power Conference held in Adelaide in 1994, Joan Kilmer said that, “there is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you. And if you are alienated from the current political system, then by just staying out of it you do nothing to change it but simply entrench it”.

Thus young women should also take agency and ensure that they claim their space in the political field. In future, initiatives such as the Gender Links Gender Justice and Local Government summit should include young women in politics so that they also use the platform to share tips on how to change unequal power relations.

Sally Nyakanyanga is a freelance writer from Zimbabwe.


0 thoughts on “Young women must claim their space in politics”

Jackson Mwalundange says:

Same women called upon to wear hats? Yes, they’ve become indispensable to their male conterparts who put these hats on their heads.Of course, not because of their political or leader ship capabilities! Usually these are the weaker ladies who know how to surv ive. Building women’s leadership capacity is the way to prepare young women to take up the challenges. With a group of Namibian women, I visited Zimbabwe and Botswana Aug14 – 20, 2010 and was amazed by the progress Zimbabw ean women made (on their own!). And this was after Br Bob had taught them a leson! WIPSU is one of the organiza tions we’d visited, and, no doubt, what Fanny Chirisa and her team are doing is the right way. Many women in leadership positions, esp ministers, we’d met confessed to be a product of WIPSA. No favors to men had been used!

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