Patriarchy obstructs women from electoral processes

By Lubalethu Ndlovu

Memory Nzula (24) of Iminyela suburb in western Bulawayo says as the country draws close to the national elections in 2023, the free participation of women and girls continue to be compromised by the dominant patriarchal system in the country.

Memory says the different roles that women and men play in their daily lives hinder women from actively participating in elections. This she adds, reduces their chances of occupying influential positions in the country.

“It all starts from gender inequality, where many women are still relegated to domestic roles while men go out to work outside the home environment. Women have a lot of household chores and duties that hinder them from participating in electoral processes,” says Memory.

Memory says married women are tied to the home where they are expected to care for the family.

“Women are expected to be at home all the time doing all the household chores. There is no way a woman will leave these aligned duties to attend political gatherings or register to vote since the partner will be expecting to find a cooked meal at home each time he comes back,” says Memory.

Rutendo Ngara (22) is a young woman from Emganwini suburb in Bulawayo. Rutendo says many women experience domestic violence and have no self-confidence to interact with people outside their limited spaces. Rutendo says abuse is rampant in many households and this makes women feel like the whole world can see through them. This forces them to stay at home and avoid public spaces.

“Survivors of Gender Based Violence lose confidence. The aftermath of the violence makes women feel as if the whole world knows hence they think there is no way they can be voted into power,” says Rutendo.

Rutendo adds that most men have a superiority complex that makes them think they are more important than women. She says this leads to all forms of abuse being inflicted on women.

“Men think women are inferior. They think being a man is everything, so they find ways of belittling women through emotional abuse including cyberbullying. Opportunities are not easily availed for women. This forces women to go an extra mile or use the side door to venture into politics,” says Rutendo.

Mandlenkosi Ncube (24), a young voter says political violence during elections in Zimbabwe scares women away from the electoral process.

“Political violence, especially towards and during elections is motivated by the desire to wrest dominance and power. The effects of political violence are diverse and include women’s reluctance to participate in the electoral process. The bloodier the electoral process, the more women who step back,” says Mandlenkosi.

Noxolo Sibanda (23), a young woman from Pumula suburb in Bulawayo says there are many barriers that block women from participating in elections.

“Issues like economic challenges, financial intimidation and sexual harassment stop women from being active in politics. Threats of divorce, and other familial and social sanctions that women experience reduces the likelihood of one being involved in elections. Those involved in politics live at the mercy of patriarchal powers and are always in fear,” says Noxolo.

According to the Africa Portal, a research institution on African affairs, Zimbabwe’s constitution provides a quota of 60 seats set aside for women for proportional representation in Parliament, increasing the number of women in Parliament from 16% to 34%. Noxolo says there is need for ongoing political reforms to enable women and girls to freely participate in elections.

This article was written as part of the Creative Centre for Communication and Development (CCCD) project that seeks to strengthen the voices of women and girls, especially under the grim impact of the Coronavirus (COVID 19). CCCD has used the WhatsApp mobile application to train women and girls so that they express their voices on what is happening in their communities.

Creative Centre for Communication and Development, Zimbabwe