Campaign wheels are already in motion right across the length and breadth of the country. Unlike previous years, when women would line up to vote, without making their intentions clear, this time the situation has certainly changed.
Women legislators across the political divide have already set the tone, and are making it clear that they want an equal share of the cake.
Through aggressive awareness and empowerment campaigns, women have come to understand that their fate lies in their own hands, and not in the ever persistent patriarchal society.
The alarm bells have started to ring for discerning women to take possession of their own lives.
Although they are still revelling in the 34 percent increase in representation of women in Parliament in 2013 courtesy of a quota system that saw 60 women getting seats in the august House through proportional representation, they now feel it is high time they get equal representation in both the Lower and Upper Houses come 2018.
They are demanding that of the 210 seats in Parliament, 105 should be set aside for women, a situation which will only be achieved through delimitation, once the august House has amended the Electoral Act.
The amendment of the Electoral Act will give birth to a Delimitation Commission that is expected to delimit and set aside constituencies women can compete among themselves to ensure equal representation.
Although the majority of sitting Members of Parliament and like- minded individuals have since welcomed the idea of equal representation in Parliament, the move is already under siege from some legislators, who feel the system promotes mediocrity.
Shamva South zanu-pf MP Cde Joseph Mapiki recently brewed a shocker in Parliament when he said there was no need to increase women representation in Parliament, including those from quota allocation saying they do not add value to the august House.
“We are saying all people are important, but when it comes to this quota issue, we should not look at just adding numbers when those people are not adding any value,” Cde Mapiki said.
“When we say women should come to Parliament, we should look at their contribution, because if we put 400 women here — they should not spend the whole year here without tabling any motions.
“They just come here to warm the benches, not different from the women we have left in our rural areas,” he said.
Such thinking from opinion leaders, who should be at the forefront of supporting gender equality, is worrying.
Instead of pushing for the ascendancy of women in political leadership, the legislator is showing disdain for women, more so the rural female populace that he vilifies as intellectually challenged and cannot engage in meaningful discourse.
Cde Mapiki is not alone in his wanton disregard and low perception of women. These patriarchal attitudes are inherent with several community and opinion leaders.
History has shown that one’s level of academic achievement and even exposure can do little to deconstruct the socialisation that we once received about women, whilst growing up.
Basing on Cde Mapiki’s perception about women’s participation in politics, there is no doubt he belongs to the school of thought which believes that women cannot make good leaders and are best confined to the kitchen.
It is this kind of thinking that has numbed our society, to such an extent that they cannot imagine being led by a woman, let alone vote for one into power.
While the decision by female politicians across the political divide to demand equitable power sharing is progressive and should be lauded, women should begin to socialise their children to become the change they want to see when they grow up.
It is the socialisation, stupid!
Women leaders need to restore their grip on family values, and socialise the young girls into leadership.
Family is the first and most influential agent of socialisation. The gender roles that a child learns set the tone for the child later on through life and make it increasingly difficult for a child to later change their thought processes.
Families have been bringing up their children differently and yet expect them to perform the same way when they grow up. Most girls are taught to avoid failure and risk. They are taught to smile pretty, play it safe, excel in their academic education and are schooled into believing that leadership is an ordained territory for men.
On the other hand, boys are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then jump off head first. They are constantly reminded that they should take care of their families and the community at large. And by the time they are adults, they would have long learnt the terrain and are willing to vie for political office without hesitation.
That level of socialisation has impacted on the thinking process of generations of politicians we have today, with men gravitating towards political leadership, while women are happy playing second fiddle.
The socialisation of perfection for girls and that of bravado for the boys has contributed in no small measure to the power dynamics at play in today’s political arena.
They might not be enough time left for women to garner the support they need to upset the status quo in Parliament in next year’s elections, but there is ample time to build on the next generation of leaders, through proper socialisation of the girl child.
Girls would need to be taught to find space for themselves on the political round-tables and input in decision- making.
And when that happens, the nation will be assured of gender-balanced political structures that contribute to national development, without anyone having to demean those sitting on the table, as currently is the case.
For all intents and purposes, a gender-balanced political field is critical for national development as each sex can make their contribution without fear or favour.
In the absence of other fundamentals on the ground such as campaign funds, a total shift in mindset among women is mandatory so that they can vote for their own and the importance of gender equity on the political arena with contenders working round the clock.