The United Nations has rallied the nation to stamp out widespread violence against women in politics (VAWP) across the country’s political divide during election period.
Violence against women in politics occurs within the political domain targeting women, creating a barrier to women’s political participation.
The act is common world over and Zimbabwe is not spared from the scourge.
UN Women Country Representative, Ms Delphine Serumaga, said violnce against women was a major barrier to women’s political participation, which has hindered the realisation of gender equality and women’s empowerment. She made the remarks last week during a discussion on violence against women in politics convened by the African Women Leaders Network Youth Caucus, with support from UN Women as part of commemorating 16 days of activisms on gender based violence (GBV).
The discussion was centred on highlighting the plight of women and sought to identify key strategies for preventing and responding to violence against women in politics within the invited stakeholders’ mandates.
“Together, we must stand up against VAWP through different strategies and responses so that we enhance women’s political participation,” said Ms Serumaga.
“We know that women’s participation in politics makes a difference. Women bring different views, talents and perspectives in politics which help shape the political and democratic agenda. The positive impact of the presence of women in parliaments, such as prioritisation of issues and policies, gender sensitivity in all aspects of governing, including budgeting, and the introduction of new legislation and changes to existing laws cannot be over emphasised.
“We must therefore collectively fight for women’s effective representations in politics and decision making positions.”
The post-2018 election gender survey conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission highlights that women desisted from contesting in elections even though they were keen, because of the violence and intimidation which they were likely to face from their male counterpats and senior party members.
Ms Serumaga said the UN Women would continue to provide technical support and mobilise resources for the women in politics cause.
The African Women Leaders Network Zimbabwe Chapter said it was committed to meaningfully participate in the implementation of various programs and initiatives to end violence against women in politics, to be undertaken by the Government and stakeholders concerned in the matter.
“We recognise that VAWP is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect — a failure by all to recognise the inherent equality and dignity of women and that it is a violation of their fundamental human rights and reinforcing women’s intergenerational exclusion from the political sphere,” said Ms Chioniso Michelle Murinda, the caucus steering committee member.
“We acknowledge the adverse effects VAWP has on the country’s socio-political fabric, recognising the profound psychological and physical trauma violence has on women in politics, their families and on communities.
“Concerned by the impact VAWP has on the national economic growth and the quality of life for all, we therefore commit to growing awareness of VAWP, produce a set of recommendations and best practices to tackle this problem, addressing crucial systemic gaps, offering practical and innovative solutions in order to uphold the democratic principle of women political participation in Zimbabwe.”
Ms Murinda said as work progresses, the African Women Leaders Network would have stakeholders signing a pledge and committing to combating violence against women in politics.
“We developed the individual pledge because we were cognisant of the fact that participants might not have the mandate or capacity to make decisions on behalf of their institutions, but would need to present the AWLN pledge to their institutions then revert with the commitment to partner, collaborate with AWLN in ending VAWP; and sign the pledge,” she said.
The short individual pledge read: “As an individual, I reiterate my commitment to ending violence against women in an endeavor to not only fighting VAWP, but addressing the roots it emanates from.”
The participants to the round-table on violence against women in politics were drawn fro various political parties and other stakeholders among them the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, Zimbabwe Laywers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Zimbabwe Republic Police, among others.