By Daniel Chigundu
GENDER equality advocacy group Gender Links says women deserve 50 percent representation in local authorities as it is closest to their needs.
Women representation in the country’s 92 local authorities fell from 19 percent to 16 in 2013 elections.
This is despite the fact that Zimbabwe is a signatory to the SADC Protocol on Gender, the African Agenda 2063 and the UN Beijing plus Twenty which all call for women’s equal and effective participation in decision-making.
Gender Links chief executive officer Colleen Lowe Morna said partners in the 50/50 campaign need to redouble their efforts to ensure women’s increased representation in local government in the 2018 elections.
“Our work shows us the very real ways that women contribute to gender responsive governance.
“It would be a great pity if we do not use the coming elections to press for women’s equal representation at the level closest to women’s needs,” she said.
The call forms part of Gender Links Zimbabwe’s launch of “At the Coalface, Gender@Work in Local Government Zimbabwe”, a review of efforts made to mainstream gender in local government through 68 out of the 92 councils in the country that have elected to become Centres of Excellence (CoE) for gender in local government.
According to Gender Links, the CoE program, that covers 74 percent of the councils serving 10 million people, has registered significant gains.
All these councils now have gender focal persons and gender champions, the drivers of change who create multiplier effects through gender action plans and gender responsive resource allocations, albeit within tight economic constraints.
The proportion of women mayors in the CoEs has increased from 4.3 to 15 percent; deputy mayors from 4.3 to 29 percent and women chairs of committees from 19.5 to 23 percent.
Gender Links added that across Southern Africa, and in Zimbabwe itself, there is overwhelming evidence that the only way to achieve dramatic increases in women’s political participation is through a combination of electoral systems, constitutional and or legislated quotas.
The Zimbabwe Constitution instituted a quota for women in parliament resulting in 32 percent women at that level. This did not extend to local government, where women’s representation declined in the last election.
Article 17 of the Constitution provides for women’s equal representation in decision-making at all levels.
The CoE program is a partnership between the councils, GLZ, the Ministry of Local Government, Ministry of Rural Development, urban and rural councils under the Zimbabwe Local Government Association (ZiLGA), the Women in Local Government Forum (WLGF), and the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ).