The constitution of Zimbabwe, in articles 17 and 18 states that the State has a duty to ensure full gender balance in Zimbabwean society, the full participation of women in all spheres of society and in all institutions and agencies of government including political parties of their choice, Commissions and other elective and appointed governmental bodies established by or under the constitution or any Act of Parliament.
Over the last few decades, women have made historic gains in politics and political life as civic leaders, voters, political party members, candidates, elected representatives and appointed officials bringing with it a host of positive effects for women, democracy and society. Yet even as more women step forward, they are too often met by discrimination, harassment, psychological abuse increasingly projected on- line and physical or sexual assault.
Against this backdrop Women’s Institute For Leadership Development (WILD) conducted a Radio Program focusing on the Impact of Violence Against Women (VAW) on their participation in electoral processes in Zimbabwe.
Speaking during the program 21 year old Aspiring Candidate and Community Champion Moreblessing Chere said it is critical to note that there are different forms of violence that may hinder their effective participation in electoral processes.
“Violence has been primarily limited to physical or sexual violence. However there is also verbal violence, emotional violence psychological violence and cyberbullying which can dissuade women from effectively participating in electoral processes.
“It is also important to note that these different forms of violence have a bearing on one’s mental health as well and this may affect their participation in electoral processes.”Chere said.
The youthful Aspiring Candidate also urged Young Women to break the bias remain and demystify societal beliefs that women can not take up leadership positions.
“Our society has been heavily patriachal over the years. I am very grateful to the Women Mbokodos who raised me and always made me believe that I Can achieve anything i put my mind to.
“There is need for a mindset shift interms of demystfying patriachal beliefs that politics is a “dirty game” that can be handled by men, the notion that women do not have what it takes to take up leadership positions.
“ I think there is need for change of the mindset pertaining to the roles women play in society and leadership positions they take in different sectors because as long as stereotypical narratives are being pushed, women will always be subjected to various forms of violence,” Chere said.
Ambassador for Albinism Konnect Program Marvellous Tshuma said discrimination has been one of the biggest hindrances.
“People living with albinism have been subjected to all forms discrimination emanating from societal ignorance concerning their well being. There is need to break stereotypes as women with albinism are discriminated by virtue of them being albino. The stigmatisaion that comes verbally, sometimes online and physical often times discourages women from effectively participating in electoral processes.
There should be mechanisms in place to ensure that there is freedom after speech as women are afraid of just vanishing after speaking out,” said the Queen of Batonga.
Violelnce against women is also prevalent within the media sector and female journalists covering political bits have been subjected to different forms of violence.
Speaking during the Radio Program Journalist and Women’s Rights Advocate Marvellous Matswimbo said the operating environment remains volatile.
“The environment in Zimbabwe is not safe considering the violence that has been perpetrated on women in politics and women female journalists covering political events as well. This month alone 3 cases were reported with one involving harassing, intimidation and assalting of female reporter Ruvimbo Muchenje at a CCC rally.
“There is need to strengthen policies that protect female journalists from all forms of violence be it phsyical, sexual or verbal particularly now as we are going towards the 2023 elections,” said Marvellous.
While all violence against women is unacceptable, violence against politically active women has two additional effects: it discourages women from being or becoming politically active, and it undermines the integrity of democratic practices. It is not the “cost of doing politics.” Rather, it costs politicians the benefits of the sustainable and responsive democratic governance that an inclusive political space can create.
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