THE GENDER LENS Volume 1, Number 1 Proportional Representation for Women: the Way to Equality
It is evident that gender-friendly policies are most likely to emerge from governments in which women have a strong say in developing policies. For many generations in the modern era, women were deprived of the right to vote, and the tendency to reverse this only began in the late nineteenth century, but it was very slow: between 1893 and 1944, less than 1% of countries in the world had female suffrage. The change post Second World War was startling, and, by 1966, 83% of the world’s countries had female suffrage. However, quantity is not necessarily quality, and, while 83% allowed women the vote, only 51% had women parliamentarians. By 1990, all countries had women parliamentarians, by only 38% had achieved a level of 10% of women in parliament: women had a foot in the door, but hardly were getting into the main room.
It is obvious that there are many factors that inhibit women’s representation; structural, economic, social and cultural. Most of these factors can be addressed by women-friendly policies, but this obviously takes time, and is wholly dependent on how important such policies are to men and countries. Thus, the issue of electoral systems takes on great importance, and creates the possibility of short-cutting the “trickle-down” approach to gender equality.
This is the focus of this first volume of the Gender Lens. As part of the SIDA’s programme for Strengthening Women’s Advocacy for Inclusive Governance (SWAG), this volume addresses the problem of representation for women in the governance of Zimbabwe. It follows on the efforts made by the women’s movement to increase female representation in the 2018 Harmonised Election. As will be remembered, this election saw women voting in very large numbers, but with few women directly elected, and a paltry vote for female candidates. Zimbabwe does have more than 30% of its parliamentarians as women, but this is the consequence of the quota system introduced in 2013.