Gender Gender

Violence: Hurdle to women participation in politics

Women need to start taking politics and the whole electoral system seriously.

SITEMBILE SIWAWA, LUSAKA
BEATEN, stripped naked and pushed to the ground like a criminal brought shame to Namakau Kabwiku, United Party for National Development national chairperson for women.
Worse still, the violence she suffered was at the hands of boys old enough to be her children.
Mrs Kabwiku explained that that the experience was traumatic because scores of onlookers resorted to getting pictures of the scene.
“The pictures went viral and my son who came across them; I wonder how he must have felt seeing how his mother humiliated at the hands of boys his age,” she recounted.
Similarly, Patriotic Front founder member Charity Banda recalled that when the party was still in the opposition, she faced quite a number of humiliating episodes that her family thought she was embarrassing them all.
Mrs Banda recounted that her daughter would be called all sorts of names at school because of the violent attacks she experienced at the hands of political cadres from other parties.
She said “I was equally beaten, stripped and insulted because of my involvement in politics. Sometimes I was called a prostitute for participating in politics.”
Women across the world who have attempted to participate in politics have in one way or the other experienced political violence at the hands of cadres.
Politics across the world especially Africa are often marred with insults, mudslinging, character assassination and violence.
And such tendencies have deterred women particularly in Zambia from participating in politics for fear of being beaten, insulted or their character assassinated.
This explains why the numbers of women in Parliament and in the council have remained relatively low.
Currently, the number of women councillors’ stand at three and 24 for members of Parliament respectively.
Sometimes, women politicians are threatened with exposure of their private lives which can be a source of embarrassment to them and their families.
In today’s politics, violence has become the normal way of conducting politics and sad enough cadres who are in most cases men are paid to insult and beat women politicians.
Some women politicians are even accused of sleeping with men in the political arena to enable them ascend to the top and secure senior positions both at party and national levels. All in all the playing field for the participation of both men and women is not level.
Genderlinks media liaison officer Zambian chapter Madube Siyauya noted that it was time political parties denounced violence especially against women.
Mrs Siyauya said political parties must tame their party cadres against politics of insults, violence and character assassination if the participation of women in politics is to be enhanced and numbers increased in line with the Gender Protocol of 50/50 representation in leadership and decision-making positions.
She further noted that “violence has the potential to deter women from registering as voters and voting during elections due to the fragility of the environment at polling stations.”
Meanwhile, Zambia National Women’s Lobby executive director Juliet Chibuta said the on-going voter registration exercise has seen more men getting registered than women.
Mrs Chibuta said this is a concern for women movements in the country because women are not coming to the fore to participate in the electoral process; she attributed violence as one of the contributing factors.
She said the electoral and political fields are usually marred with violence which discourages women from participating.
“Women need to start taking politics and the whole electoral system seriously. There is also need for political parties to condemn violence in strongest terms possible. As well as continued sensitisation for more women to register as voters,” Mrs Chibuta said.
Mary Kamanga of Lusaka also said she did not see any need to register as a voter due to fear of the violence that is likely to erupt every time cadres from different political parties meet.
Mrs Kamanga said of the violence that occurs the most affected are women and children who cannot defend themselves from the brutality.
She said “political parties should learn to co-exist and live side by side in harmony. Women are scared to participate in politics because of violence; honestly I cannot imagine myself being insulted to the extent of having my ‘dirty linen’ being washed in public.”
And Cynthia Mapulanga also of Lusaka said women at times are not allowed to participate in politics by their husbands.
Mrs Mapulanga said “women politicians are viewed as prostitutes and some husbands can never allow their wives to take part in politics with such views as put by society; women politicians have been labelled.”


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