Over the past few years, Zimbabwe has witnessed a growing number of female activists stepping up the call for policy changes and actively participating in street protests and demonstrations.
It seems for women in the political field you either have to have impeccable levels of merit or be highly controversial to be noticed. For a long while, women have reduced themselves to dancers during political rallies, shaking their behinds at the cameras and singing their throats sore such that their presence during political gatherings is reduced to mere decorum and to make up in numbers.
A case of 68-year-old Nyanga woman Venencia Chitando a former member of the Zanu PF women’s league who collapsed and died while singing and dancing at a rally to welcome former VP Phelekezela Mphoko is a sad tale. Chitando who was believed to be asthmatic might have spited her condition for the benefit of party t-shirts and a bag of rice.
As Zimbabwe undergoes a political revolution, female activists have added their voice to the clarion call for an economic overhaul as they seek the chance to be elected to office and make changes.
Now, gone are the days were women in politics automatically translates to 50plus-year-old females who either participated in the liberation war or followed in their husband’s political footsteps. The coming in of younger female players onto the political scene has spiced up the political space, as with just 35% of women representation in Parliament, youthful female political enthusiasts have had to grapple with both gerontocracy and patriarchy.
Protesting and campaigning seem to go well together if one is to attain relevance, and for younger female activists becoming an iron lady and placing oneself at the frontline is one way to gain relevance in a highly congested field.
The #SheVotes2018 campaign has played a role in encouraging young female candidates to contest and register to vote in the 2018 harmonized elections, these activists have received their fair share of riot attacks, and other popular activists like Linda Masarira, Lynnette Mudehwe and Fadzayi Mahere have been arrested for inciting violence.
Turning from activism to politics, however, may cause many to lose relevance as they become confronted with real-life issues that demand change, while it might be easy to cast stones at those in power whilst spending time compiling and analysing gaps and loopholes, the culmination of real positions of power might be the beginning of an end.
Vimbai Musvaburi, Linda Masarira, Linda Sibanyoni and Fadzayi Mahere are some of the young political activists that come to mind who are now running for office, 2018 will serve to tell if their campaigns will be fruitful and add to the number of women in politics.