Southern Africa: Zambia misses the 5050 by 2015 target

Date: October 7, 2011
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At the very moment that women’s representation in parliament should be shooting up, Zambia took a nose dive in its recent elections in which women’s representation plummeted from 15% to 11.3%.

Zambia is now one of the several Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries that will not achieve the gender parity target by 2015 as required by the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

According to the Electoral Commission of Zambia, a total of 5 167 154 citizens registered to vote with 50.1% being women and 49.8% men.

Only 17 women out of 150 who contested seats (11.3%) managed to get into parliament. Newly elected Zambian President Michael Chilufya Sata also dismally failed the 50/50 test when he appointed only two women to his 19 member cabinet (10.5%) on 29 September 2011.

Out of the nine provincial ministers, only one, Josephine Limata Limata is a woman. This is despite the fact that Zambia is one of the thirteen countries (excluding Botswana and Mauritius) that have signed the 2008 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. The Protocol came into force in August this year when South Africa became the ninth country to ratify the instrument. However, Zambia is yet to ratify the Protocol.

The Gender Protocol obliges Member States to meet a target of 50% women in all decision making positions by 2015. In the 2011 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer, the SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) for governance (that takes account of women’s representation at national and local level as well as in the public service) places Zambia number 13 out of the 15 countries. After the recent elections Zambia is likely to have fallen further.

Zambia now stands at number 12 down from number 11 out of 15 SADC countries with regard to women representation in parliament.

The battle had already been lost before the election took place because women constituted only 14.7% of nominated candidates from all political parties. Women candidates stood in only 51% of the 150 constituencies. In most of these cases two women competed against one or two men, reducing their chance of success.

With a 3.5% drop in women’s representation in cabinet to 10.5% Zambia has slipped from number 13 out of the 15 SADC countries to rank last in the region. The 2011 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer notes that the regional average stands at 22% women representation in cabinet.

The two women in cabinet are Professor Nkandu Luo who is Minister of Local Government, Housing, Early Education and Environmental Protection and Inonge Wina, Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs. Both ministers have female deputies.

Both these women are long standing and well known gender activists. Luo has broken new ground in her work with creating alternative employment for sex workers. In previous elections, the women’s movement in Zambia has put Wina up as a candidate with the aim of getting a strong gender voice in parliament. Wina’s appointment to head the ministry responsible for traditional affairs could either be read as strategic or highly cynical.

The disappointment that has come with Sata’s first few days in power is contrary to what the Patriotic Front (PF) 2011-2016 manifesto outlines. The new ruling party criticised the outgoing Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) for failing to achieve the prescribed threshold of women representation in decision- making. The PF noted that failure to integrate women in decision making undoubtedly affects the role that women should play in contributing to national development.

The exclusion of women in Sata’s cabinet is a clear sign that his party is far from making the PF manifesto a living reality.

The outcome of the Zambia elections demonstrates the urgent need for special measures to attain the 50% target for women in political office in SADC countries. Zimbabwe women’s organisations say they will lobby for a no-vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum if the new Constitution does not guarantee 50% representation of women in parliament. In Namibia there is a call from Women’s Action Development for the Electoral Act to be amended to ensure gender equality in line with the gender protocol provisions. Mauritius is on the verge of passing a legislated quota system for local government. Beyond SADC, in Egypt women have made it clear that the nation will only become inclusive when they are given a say in its future.

The Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance governance cluster is redoubling its advocacy efforts to make sure that the 5050 campaign yields results in the face of upcoming elections in the region as the clock ticks to 2015. Next up will be the local government elections in Lesotho and parliamentary elections in Seychelles (October). Elections are also expected in the DRC, Angola and Zimbabwe by next year. There is definitely no room for complacency.

Loveness Jambaya-Nyakujarah is the Gender Links Alliance and Partnerships Manager. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, bringing you fresh views on everyday news.


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