Zimbabwe female MPs demand more parliamentary seats

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Women legislators across the political divide are demanding that the male-dominated Parliament approve a bill giving women a stronger political voice in this patriarchal country.

The women are pushing for amendments to the Electoral Act so that it provides for half of the seats in National Assembly and Senate to be reserved for women.

If the amendments sail through, it has the potential to become one of the most empowering laws for women in Zimbabwe, female legislators said.

"This Parliament must ensure that before the next election, we change the Electoral Act to ensure that in delimitation, 105 seats are demarcated to women," MDC MP for Harare West Jessie Majome said.

"We must move with speed and ensure that we effect necessary electoral reforms that make sure that for the 210 seats that are in this august House, at least 105 of them are occupied by women and at least 105 are occupied by men, because that is what the Constitution says.

The new Constitution, overwhelmingly approved in a 2013 referendum, provides for women's equal representation in decision-making at all levels.

Majome said there should be more women, "that is 105 seats plus the 60 seats for women but right now, we are only at 34 percent".

"What can be done in the Electoral Act is when the Delimitating Commission starts, it actually delimits, and we make provisions in the Electoral Act to indicate that there are certain seats we demarcate and delimit 105 seats to say these are for women."

Women constitute 52 percent of the population but they only constitute 22 percent in politics.

Majome said for women to make a difference, they must be able to access decision-making in sufficient numbers to have an impact, and be able to participate effectively.

Zanu-PF MP for Goromonzi West Beatrice Nyamupinga called for the election of "women chiefs in the next elections and even in the Chief's Council, we want to see women there".
"Even here in Parliament, if we look at the proportional representation, we thought it was proper for us to have 60 women but we shot ourselves in the foot because now the 50/50 representation is not being recognised," Nyamupinga said.

"Come 2018 elections, we want the 105 constituencies plus the 60 so that in 2023, we will have achieved equal representation.

"We do not want a scenario where when the 60 facility comes to an end, we see ourselves having only 16 women in this house.

"Let us not be hoodwinked by this 60 as it does not add up to 50/50, which only comes out with 105 constituencies.  We should get into the constituencies and rule in there.

"We want to get into constituencies without asking for permission from anyone.  I want to get into my own constituency as a woman and engage in various programmes freely," she said, adding that they could consider "approaching the Constitutional Court if we are not given the 105 constituencies".

Female politicians called on the government to stop seeing women as just housewives and recognise them as leaders.

MDC legislator for Bulawayo East Tabitha Khumalo rubbished the notion that women cannot participate in politics because they are not economically empowered.

"So ladies, 2018 is our year and come 2018, every single woman from Zanu-PF, MDC, Ndonga, et cetera, our problems is the same. Our goal is 105 seats," she declared.

While male MPs supported the idea, Shamva South Zanu-PF MP Joseph Mapiki said women in the legislature through the quota system do not add value to Parliament.

"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," 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."


Cross-posted from: http://bulawayo24.com/index-id-News-sc-National.html