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ZANGOSE Chambwa.

Let’s adopt more female candidates

WOMEN cons t i tute more than 50 percent of voters in Zambia and their participation in governance issues should be considered cardinal to development. On the provisional list of voters, as at May 2016, about 50.3 percent of a total of 6,710,455, are women.
As Zambia goes to the polls on August 11, all political parties should seriously consider adopting more female candidates to represent their parties by deliberately trying by all means to remove the hurdles that have continued to block women from taking part in elections.
The number of female members of Parliament in the last legislature, which was 22 women, translating into 17 percent, and the six percent female representation at local government level, according to Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) findings, leaves much to be desired. These figures clearly show that women are not being given an opportunity in their various political parties to compete favourably with their male counterparts.
The adoption process in most political parties seems to be favouring men than women, which should not be the case.
All political parties should therefore start working on how they can contribute to change the face of Parliament after the August 11 elections in terms of having a fair representation of both men and women.
Development without a gender perspective is only half of development. If one gender is left behind, there cannot be real development, not even for the dominant gender. When women are economically and socially empowered, they become a potent force for change. This has made many countries to realise the important role women and men play in development.
The intent by President Lungu to continue pushing the agenda of having women in decision-making positions is therefore highly commendable and sets the pace to get more women involved.
Last week during the press conference, the President maintained that his running mate will be a woman. When I heard him maintain his earlier pronouncement made on February 20, 2016, I was filled with elation to note that women are still being considered for such higher positions in political parties.
It is gratifying to observe that President Lungu is still in the forefront of taking such a step of ensuring that more women are in decision-making positions, which is a great achievement for the women of Zambia who have been pushing the gender agenda.
The gender and development approach which women are advocating now is not concerned with women exclusively, but with the way in which gender relations allot specific roles, responsibilities and expectations between men and women, often to the detriment of women.
Many gallant women of Zambia who have gone before us and those still alive are able to tell a story of how women have fought their way through to be recognised as equal partners in development, especially in the country’s political arena – despite falling behind from achieving the Southern African Development Community (SADC) threshold of having 50 percent women representation in decision-making positions, of which Zambia is a signatory.
President Lungu is also the first President in Zambia’s history of politics to appoint a woman to hold the second highest office of the land as vice president (Inonge Wina), who has contributed to the development of this country in her own way.
During his tenure in office, the President has exhibited his understanding and importance of having women in leadership positions. Many women have been appointed to higher offices of the land. To mention a few, the judiciary is one such institution which has benefited from the appointments in that it is being headed by a woman. Also, the recent ratification of nine judges to the High Court by parliament last week showed how women are being valued in the judicial system in that five women were appointed as judges.
It is, therefore, important to note that women’s participation in governance systems in Zambia is improving looking at a good number of top positions being held by women, although more still needs to be done.
From a general perspective, women face numerous obstacles in achieving participation in governance. Their participation has been limited by the assumption that women’s proper sphere is the private sphere as opposed to the public domain which is heavily dominated and contested for by men. The private sphere is associated with the family and a home. By relegating women to the private sphere, their ability to enter the political arena is curtailed.
Most women in Zambia shun engaging in politics because the path is rough for them and most political parties prefer to adopt men compared to women. Women were and are still perceived to be weaker opponents than men. This scenario would be reversed if political parties could adopt more women to run in the August 11 elections.
All political parties should change the way they adopt candidates by giving preferential treatment to women who have shown interest to contest in various positions.
As a young democracy, Zambia needs to have more women holding positions of governance and the political parties are good starting points.
An African adage notes that “when you educate a woman you educate the whole community” – therefore, empowering women with an education in a home means that the chances of children getting an education are higher than when a woman is not educated. All this shows that a woman is fundamental in the political arena because they understand better what other women go through in the communities to meet their daily needs, especially that the majority of the poor and most vulnerable in society are women and children.
By appointing a first female vice-president, President Lungu set a good foundation of exposing women to hold the highest office of the land for which, in future, we expect Zambia to be governed by a female president. Truly the day is coming when we will see Zambia being governed by a female President. Therefore, women should be seen as equal partners and not as objects that men use to rise to power.
In addition, more needs to be done still to have a fair representation of women even at Cabinet level. From the first Cabinet at independence, women have never had an equal opportunity to hold influential positions. We want to see more women in ministirial positions than it has been in the past.
Political parties should also find ways and means of ensuring that women are appointed to higher positions in their structures.
As the adoption process by the various political parties is under way, it is my sincere appeal that they seriously consider balancing the equation so that women can also feel that they are part and parcel of these political institutions.
Last but not the least, I urge the women of Zambia to offer support to fellow women because, in most cases, women tend not to get the required support from their own kind despite the fact that statistics generally show that women constitute a greater portion of voters worldwide.
Viva women, abash intimidation!
The author is a development advocate and Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor.