By Tariro Senderayi
In what many may call a pleasant gatecrashing, attendants were sent into wild cheers ululating for the opposition party leaders who had unexpectedly made an appearance at a women’s election conference held in the capital recently. Running under the banner #HerVoteWins2018, the conference organised by Matabeleland South Member of Parliament, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC-T) received an overwhelming turnout by women from opposition political parties and civic society.
The conference was meant to map a way forward in preparation of 2018 and ensure the voice of women made a mark.
Political party presidents present at the conference included, Movement for Democratic Change(MDC-T)’s Morgan Tsvangirai; People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s Tendai Biti; Transform Zimbabwe (TZ)’s Jacob Ngarivhume; Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe(RDZ)’s Elton Mangoma; National People’s Party (NPP)’s Joice Mujuru among many others.
The male opposition leaders pledged their support of the conference’s agenda citing that they welcomed and encouraged more women to be involved in the political scene.
The general consensus at the conference was the dire need for electoral reforms that will level the playing field.
Speaking at the conference former national vice president and reigning NPP president, Joice Mujuru said, “Even if I am NPP, women from MDC will be looking at me to see what I have done for the woman, thus we need to talk as women and have conversations regardless of political outfit.”
MDC-T Vice President, Thokozani Khupe, painted a picture about the majority Zimbabwean women. “Poverty, discrimination and inequality wear the face of a woman in Zimbabwe. Let us fight for what rightfully belongs to us.”
She added, “We are a formidable constituency that will determine the outcome of the 2018 election,” a bold statement that prompted participants to cheer her on in support.
Harare West Member of Parliament Jessie Majome weighed in citing the need for gender equality in parliament, “We demand a 50/50 representation,” she said. Women representation in parliament currently stands at 37%.
Majome also highlighted that the 4-6 months timeframe for registering voters by Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was not enough. She added the requirement for proof of residence to register as a voter would discourage prospective voters from registering as most people who didn’t own property would have to go an extra mile to secure a proof of residence.
The conference provided a great platform for political party leaders to give an insight on how they would cater for women when elected into office. Tsvangirai said his party would ensure equal representation in his cabinet.