The allegations of gender based violence and sexual abuse on female politicians by their male counterparts are very disturbing.
If true, they certainly explain why there are so few women willing to get into politics, in spite of the country being a signatory to several gender protocols that are meant to see equality for women in all decision-making positions.
We sympathise with women who have had to put up with this disgustingly crass behaviour from the men, and we want to applaud those who have persevered against the stacked odds and still made it into office.
Speaking at a workshop organised by The Women’s Trust and the Research and Advocacy Unit in Harare earlier this week, female politicians — across the divide — listed several ways in which they were victimised by their male counterparts ahead of last year’s elections.
Some men are reported to have demanded sexual favours in return for letting women run for office or contribute to their campaign chest. The female politicians also alleged that some of them were cowed into remaining at home through the threat and actual administration of violence on their persons.
A third manifestation was that of men using the better economic status to control the political field by refusing to support women who did not play ball.
If a woman rises on patronage can she ever be a real representative of women’s interests and can she ever be a role model for other women to follow her into the field?
It is a fact that there are many representatives, both male and female, who make it into the corridors of power but prove to be liabilities instead of assets for the constituencies that they represent.
Such MPs do not make meaningful contributions during debates and never bring any discernible development to their areas.
But we feel the female politicians should go a step further because simply chronicling abuse is not enough, they must lead by example by naming and shaming the perpetrators so that all who look up to them can be empowered against suffering abuse in silence.
Those who made it into Parliament must also come up with effective solutions to protect their colleagues outside the house.
The next stage is to put in measures to ensure that these barriers are removed so that other women can find a more level playing field.
And this has to come from women themselves as that is the only way that they can unequivocally assert their power.
MDC-T legislator for Harare West Ms Jessie Majome hit the nail on the head when she said the new Constitution has several provisions promoting gender equality and women’s general upliftment and that it is up to women to take advantage of those factors:
“Women are the highest beneficiaries of this Constitution. While we may have this Constitution, the reality of life continues as it was.
“But this document will take us to Constitutional heaven . . . We are not using this Constitution.
“We need to conduct civic education so that women out there may understand this Constitution,” she said.
VP Joice Mujuru constantly tells people that Government is only there to put policies but it is up to an individual to then rise up and use those policies for empowerment in any sphere.
So women politicians must use this opportunity that they have to push through laws and policies that will ensure that the country meets the targeted gender quotas in the next election and also that politics is amenable for female aspirants.