From the 18-19 of August 2014 women representatives from Political parties, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Civil Society came together to take the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) module on Gender and Elections. This happened as His Excellency President Mugabe signed into law the Electoral Amendment Act that transfers the full administration and management of elections to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
The three days provided a platform for women to dialogue and engage on issue pertaining to women’s participation in elections as voters and as candidates. It continues the journey of relationship building between the Electoral Management Body and women from political parties, Parliament and civil society organisations, while building the capacity of the women to understand the standards and principles which underpin good electoral administration.
The workshop investigated the following themes; Women and the media; Women in the political world, Primary elections, Women in Parliament, Gender responsive governance, Political Financing; Electoral Violence; Electoral Systems and Quotas and special measures; Typologies of Election Management Bodies; Challenges and Barriers encountered by Women; Voter Registration and Voter and Civic Education.
Challenges identified included constraints of the legal framework, patriarchy, stereotyping, negative publicity of women, and violence in all its forms against women, internal party processes including primary elections, lack of financial resources, voter registration and the nomination process. The voter registration process, the Political Parties Finances Act, Quotas were identified as issues which need further reforming. The dialogue within the training reaffirms that women continue to face barriers in their bid to participate as voters and candidates. There continues to be a need to deliberately put in place systems and practise that mitigate these challenges.
Participants called on Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) to conduct more workshops of this nature as they also promote cohesion amongst the diverse political parties. One participant commented: “Bringing ZEC to this workshop has assisted me in understanding its role as an election management body. I feel encouraged that ZEC has been given the constitutional mandate to conduct voter registration, this will enhance transparency and independency of the body in running all election related roles”.
The engagement of the women in the BRIDGE training continues to demonstrate women’s commitment to rise above organisational interests to ensure that the women of Zimbabwe are able to claim their right to equal participation in democratic process that impact on their lived realities.
As the country begins the new election cycle under the 2013 Constitution counting down to 2018, women from different areas of life need to continue to collectively craft relevant and implementable strategies together with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to ensure that women are able to fully participate in all aspects of the elections.
The workshop was organised by the ZESN and facilitated by Rindai Chipfunde Vava, Molly Nawe Kamukama and Rejoice Sibanda. Given the polarisation in the political space in Zimbabwe, the workshop was a big success because it brought together women politicians from all the major political parties in Zimbabwe and civic society.