Strengthening women’s advocacy for inclusive governance is a process whose time has come. This is in pace with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal Number 5 (SDG 5) seeking to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The international policy framework is getting tighter and serious. The United Nations Security Council has adopted 10 resolutions on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS): Security Council Resolutions (SCR) 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2008), 1889 (2009), 1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), 2122 (2013), 2242 (2015), 2467 (2019), and 2493 (2019). The general international mantra is “leaving no one behind” in development. Elizabeth Stuart and Emma Samman explain the mantra to mean ending extreme poverty in all its forms, reducing inequalities among both individuals (vertical) and groups (horizontal), and the prioritisation and fast-tracking of actions for the poorest and most marginalised people – known as progressive universalism (Stuart & Samman. 2017).
The SCR guides work to promote and protect the rights of women in conflict and post-conflict situations. There is a strong recognition that gender is central to national and international peace and security. However, accountability, implementation, and action remain seriously lacking. There are many gaps, ranging from increasing the number of women at the highest levels of decision-making, covered in the first issue of the Gender Lens, to ending impunity for gender-based violence, covered in the second volume. Zimbabwe is unfaithful, it is not living to its vows on strengthening women’s participation and their inclusion in all spheres of life.
There is no doubt that young people across Zimbabwe can play a critical role in, economic social, and political development at a national level. A close examination of Zimbabwe’s history will reveal that young people have been active as agents of social change since the struggle for Independence. However, over time, young people in Zimbabwe have become increasingly exploited as a vehicle for violence by diverse political actors regardless of race, party or ideology.
The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) is currently implementing a programme entitled “Creating Demand for Devolution by Young Women”. It seeks to empower young women to lead advocacy efforts calling for devolution within their communities. Devolution, which is provided for in Section 264 of the Zimbabwe Constitution, enables citizens to have greater agency in effecting better, autonomous representation, which, in turn, will ensure better accountability. Under the project, six community-working groups were formed made up mainly of young women between the ages of 18 and 35 years old. Amongst the objectives of the working group is to hold duty bearers to account on the use of public resources and delivery of services to citizens.
Increasing women’s representation in the parliaments of the world has become an increasing field of debate: not about whether this should happen anymore, but rather about what is the most effective method to achieving this. This a slowly developing consensus that some kinds of electoral processes are more effective than others, but there is still a good deal of complexity surrounding both the best electoral method and the factors that impinge on getting women elected. Zimbabwe in the past two parliaments adopted a reserved seat, proportional representation, approach. This has resulted in more women being elected to parliament, but it seems at the expense of less women being directly elected. In 2018, there were few women selected by political parties as candidates and voting for women candidates was extremely low. The reserved system is due to expire in 2023, and there is active debate on the way forward for the future, especially in the light of the constitutional requirement for equality in representation and office. This article reviews the arguments and evidence for proportional representation and quotas. It concludes that, for Zimbabwe, proportional representation and a 50/50 quota will be the most effective way to honour the constitutional requirement of Section 17.
“What remains contentious however is the extent to which the PR Quota system has transformed social and gender relations beyond the narrow interests of the political parties and those who have benefited….While the experiment with the quota presented an opportunity to increase representation, on its own, it has not been enough and without political will and accountability by political parties, will not deliver equality in the medium to long term.” (WALPE. 2019. p20) Internationally, studies show a range of other factors that inhibit or facilitate the representation of women (RAU. 2020 (a)). These are structural, economic, social and cultural, and it is evident that there are enormous differences in the effects of these factors in countries across the world, and especially in sub-Saharan Africa (Yoon. 2004; Yoon. 2001). It is also evident that women’s representation has increased in many countries in the absence of any marked changes in these factors, but also evident that representation of women can be low even where these factors have changed dramatically (Krook. 2010). For example, the United States has reached the 20% threshold only at the last election, but Namibia and South Africa have achieved 45% representation for women: it cannot be argued that these two latter countries have an absence of patriarchy, high education levels for women generally, and are economically developed such that there are many employment opportunities for women. Zimbabwe has achieved a 32% threshold, and clearly all the factors operating in Namibia and South Africa apply.
Does freedom lead to development? This notion, strongly argued by Amartya Sen two decades ago, built on the idea that democracy was gaining ground across the world, an idea that seems no longer as evident as it was then. John Gay tested Sen’s theory in 2003, and concluded that the belief in democracy was a “virtuous” cycle for those experiencing the benefits of democracy, whilst those not benefiting were more likely to be part of a “vicious” cycle, and leaning towards support for anti-democratic rule. We tested this finding for Zimbabwe using the Afrobarometer data for 2017. Developing an equivalent measure of Gay’s “Sen Score”, we examined whether Zimbabweans still believed in democracy and were not in favour of autocracy, but also whether they still had political trust in the state, worried about corruption, were socially and politically active, and affected by political fear. We found some support for Gay’s thesis, but the major factor differentiating Zimbabweans is whether they are rural or urban. Paradoxically, rural Zimbabweans are more likely to be those in the “virtuous” cycle, and this is most likely because they have been and are the major beneficiaries of government largesse. This raises the question about how deeply democratic are rural Zimbabweans, and would removing the immense patronage of the state shift them into a “vicious” cycle?