2018 Zimbabwe Elections: What will the outcome of the Zimbabwe election mean for women’s SRHR?
As results trickle in after the Zimbabwe harmonised elections, the AIDS Foundation of South Africa-AFSA and Sex Rights African Network-SRAN note that the electoral environment, assessed through the levels of political contestation and participation by women in particular, in and between political parties dynamics, government, as well as historical evidence of conflict in previous elections and governance; continue to isolate women from varying racial, class, ethnic, sexual orientation and gender identities.
AFSA through its SRHR programme under SRAN works through solidarity relationships around sexual and reproductive health rights-SRHR that have been built over years, and shares the perceptions, hopes and fears of the women of Zimbabwe.
The constitution of Zimbabwe in line with regional and international best practices on gender issues mandates the State to promote gender balance in all spheres of life. However, the Electoral Act is silent on the matter of women being equally represented in political spheres.
In the 2018 harmonized elections, none of the contesting political parties attained 50-50 representation between males and females for the National Assembly elections. Worryingly, 91% and 90% of the candidates for the major contending parties, namely ZANU-PF and the MDC Alliance respectively, are male. There are 1,648 candidates vying for National assembly and only 237 are women. Hate language on social media especially targeting female candidates and officials is continuing.
AFSA is concerned by continued political, social and economic vilification of women of Zimbabwe. The election campaigns, policy manifestoes, political slogans and post-election discourse hardly mainstream and address the plight and needs of women.
The SADC Treaty, in Article 5, commits the Member States to “promote common political values, systems and other shared values which are transmitted through institutions, which are democratic, legitimate and effective”. Central to this, is the recognition of the important role that women play in deepening democracy. SRAN is concerned that Zimbabwe is in danger of violating this collective agreement, a bedrock of regional cooperation.
supports the following demands as put forward by the women of Zimbabwe in a recent National Women’s Pre-election conversation convened by Just Associates Southern Africa (JASS SNA) and the Institute for Young Women’s Development-IYWD: (From political candidates at all levels of governance)
- Public Services That Work: A Zimbabwe where public services are responsive to our rights and needs. This includes: Clean water, sanitation in both rural and urban areas, safe and affordable housing and refuse removal. Quality health care services (affordable treatment centres and medicines), maternal health facilities, cancer (cervical) screening and HIV treatment), and particularly Sexual and Reproductive services. State provision of responsive, accessible and affordable child-care facilities and quality public education from early childhood right through to tertiary. Social protection for the most marginalised and those made vulnerable and impoverished by the unjust macro-economic system.
- Economic Justice: A Zimbabwe where economic needs are met in a just and equitable manner. Recognising the inequalities that exist in our society that have excluded women from the mainstream economy, we demand equal access to and control of land and other productive resources, decent jobs, equal pay for equal work, better working conditions and access to cash and finance. The State must actively eliminate the very wide economic inequalities and disparities in present day Zimbabwe through a redistributive policy agenda. Younger women want an economy in which they can dream and thrive.
- My Body, My Choice: A Zimbabwe where all women in our sexual diversities and all people can fully exercise their sexual rights, bodily autonomy and agency without fear of reprisal or attack.
- Infrastructure That Works: A Zimbabwe with quality housing, an improved road and transportation networks and street lights that enable us to pursue livelihoods of our choice and live dignified lives.
- Women in Public Life: A Zimbabwe where women have a right to participate freely and meaningfully in all decision-making spaces and processes. We want to exercise our rights as voters, or as leaders without fear of any forms of violence, including verbal attacks. We want space to organise in our social movements and organisations. The State must stop persecuting our organisations and remove all legislation that has closed our space since 1980. Religious leaders and institutions as well as the State must keep their beliefs and values out of the public arena and off our bodies and choices! We want a secular State founded in fundamental human rights values, principles and practices, to which Zimbabwe has voluntarily acceded via the African Union and the United Nations.
- Deep Accountability: A Zimbabwe free from militarisation, where minerals and resources are used to enrich the country as a whole and the people residing in it. Decision making on public rights, resources, interests and services must be open and transparent so as to not cede, mislead or expedite decisions in the interests of vested individuals, companies or elites.
- Cultural Production: A Zimbabwe where women are free to engage in the artistic expression without fear of reprisals and where our work in this sphere is valued and seen as a contribution to the legacy of Zimbabwe’s herstory.
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