Do Quotas affect Women’s Participation in Parliament?

“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.

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Vicious and Virtuous Cycles: Development and Freedom in Zimbabwe.

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?

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Policy Brief No.4/2021 Dealing with the Youth Bulge through Proactive Policy

This policy brief explores the challenges faced by youth as a result of the deteriorating socio-economic and political violence and effects of exclusion. It also highlights the importance of understanding youth social networks in building resilience in relation to addressing the challenges of unemployment. The challenges are made worse by the contextual environment where policymaking is characterised by a top-down approach, tokenistic to youth issues, and best described as creating a charade that youth are the future of this country. This kind of approach aims at managing youth and promise them a future whilst justifying their exclusion and failure to address youth vulnerability largely caused by unemployment.
In a research project, Active engagement, social innovation and resilience among young people in Zimbabwe, the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) sought to understand everyday experiences by youth, and how they are adapting and coping with the socio-economic and political environment can inform the development of new initiatives. These initiatives are leading towards resilience to vulnerabilities caused by unemployment, and understanding these should inform policies on youth. The research is anchored around the understanding that Zimbabwe, like other developing countries faces a demographic youth bulge, which if not adequately addressed, can result in young people engaging in violence.

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Do middle-class women defend democracy?

It is a frequent assertion that the staunchest defenders of democracy come from the middle classes, underlining the advantages of education and formal employment. However, recent work in Zimbabwe suggested that this might be the case for the country. Examining active citizenship amongst Zimbabweans, RAU‟s analysis indicated a group of citizens that could be described as “disconnected democrats”, urban, educated and employed, but largely non-participant in the socio-political life of the country. Gender was not a factor, as also suggested by other work in Africa that showed women being little different to men in their political attitudes. However, class and gender were not an explicit aspect of this research and hence it was decided to look at women, class and active citizenship. Two hypotheses were advanced in order to test these relationships:

 Middle-class women will be more likely to support democracy and opposition political parties;
 Middle-class women will be more likely to show greater agency seen as higher frequencies of social capital, political participation, and political efficacy.

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The middle class has been a growing class within Africa over the past 10 years with growthranging from 4.4% to 6.2% owing to their growing economies. After a period of substantialdecline from the 1990s, there were signs of this being the process too in Zimbabwe following the period after the signing of the Global Political Agreement between the warring parties, Zanu PF and the MDC when the US dollar became the official trading currency. Since 2013, this trend seems to be in reverse with the dramatic decline in the economy and the closing of many companies and businesses, and the massive informalisation of the economy.

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Zimbabwean politics: Very Constrained and Confined. The lack of middle-class young women’s voices in political discourse*

Women‟s participation in the political arena has always been fraught with tension and even the right to vote was a hard-fought battle across the world. That struggle took over a hundred years with New Zealand being the first self-governing country in the world to give women the right to vote in 1893. However, it still did not allow them to stand for parliamentary elections. A year later, the colony of South Australia gave women, both, the right to vote and the right to stand for election. In contrast, women in Saudi Arabia were only accorded the right very recently – in 2011 and women eventually got the opportunity to vote in their elections this year (2016).

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Policy Brief No.3/2021 Youth and their Agency: How to foster this

There is continuous discussion about the need to engage the youth in the national narrative and address the needs of this increasingly large demographic. Most discussion focuses on livelihoods, and too little on the young as citizens, a not trivial issue in this patriarchal and age-dominated society. The present policy brief, based on several year’s work by RAU, examines agency in the youth and some of the impediments to this.

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Prison personnel: At risk group for COVID-19

Close to 11 million prisoners worldwide, as well as the officers who are charged with ensuring their safe, secure and humane custody, must not be forgotten during the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries should recognize the particular risks which COVID-19 poses to confined populations for which physical distancing is not a possibility. This is all the more the case in light of the weaker health profile of prison populations. COVID-19 prevention and control mechanisms in prisons that are evidence-based are needed urgently, and should be implemented in full compliance with United Nations Minimum Standards for the Treatment of Prisoners in order to protect people in and outside of prison. In doing so, the State must also ensure that more attention is paid to marginalized groups in prisons who are particularly at risk of infection, in particular when they live close together, with a high potential for transmission. Places of deprivation of liberty undoubtedly constitute high-risk environments for those who live and work there.

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