By Sukuoluhle Ndlovu
MASVINGO- THE just ended March 26 by-election proved that indeed the Zimbabwean political space is not conducive for women aspiring to takeup leadership positions despite continuous calls to shun sexism.
Victimization of women has always been the case and this has derailed efforts by many women to venture into politics as issues of gender discrepancies continue to pop up.
Political parties have been accused of paying lip services to the issue of proportional representation of women in politics, there is need to rethink and address women’s participation in Zimbabwean politics.
Former Vice President Joyce Mujuru, Thokozani Khupe and Linda Masarira to mention just a few have been reportedly verbally victimized and at some point assaulted by the public and fellow male politicians as othering takes its toll in the political space.
In respect of the above challenge faced by women politicians, CentreNews caught up with one female candidates who participated in the Masvingo urban by-elections and suffered the same fate.
She narrated harrowing ordeals and lamented untamed political victimization which she says has now gone into overdrive.
23 year old Everyjoy Chidindi, who represented LEAD party in Ward 7, alleged that she suffered massive discouragement due to gender stereotyping which depicts women as unfit for politics, since time immemorial.
“As a female candidate I suffered a lot in terms of getting people to accept my candidature in the society, some failed to accept me due tomy feminity while other because of my age.
“There was a lot of discrimination, people said a lot of words and this all comes when you become a politician as a woman. It was even difficult for me to speak to male figures, most people were not accommodative,” said Chidindi.
As if that was not enough, the electorate allegedly did not welcome her the same way they did with her male rivals; Prosper Dohwai of Zanu PF and Citizens Coalition for Change(CCC)’s Richard Musekiwa, who eventually won the seat.
She said even fellow women could not buy in her idea to lead and that people totally rejected to give her audience as she tried to charm them with her manifesto.
“I thought my support was going to come from women, but they also failed to accept me saying politics is for men. As l distributed my fliers, they were rejected and people would not even welcome me in their homes.
“The world of politics is very stereotypical and women are not viewed as people who can make it to top leadership positions,” she added.
Another losing female candidate for Ward 4, Thokozile Muchuchuti, from the newly formed high riding opposition CCC also had a fair share ofthe same fate.
The poor lady who was forced to withdraw her candidature in 2018 general polls to pave way for recalled former Councilor in her ward, Godfrey Kurauone, on controversial youth quota grounds was a victim once again this year.
This time around, the lady bulldozed her way and declined to pave wayfor fellow CCC candidate Aleck Tabe, who was reportedly anointed by the party leadership to contest.
Muchuchuti is on record claiming that she was forced to withdraw her candidature, nonetheless she vehemently denied this time around and went on to contest but she lost to Tabe.
She also claimed that her campaign posters had been removed and defaced, adding that on nomination day rowdy party youths assaulted her, allegations that have since spilt into the courts.
Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) Masvingo Provincial Coordinator, Blessing Chimombo criticized the society for lacking trust in female politicians.
“The participation of women was very low and it’s because of different perceptions and attitudes the society has on women in politics. Our society does not believe in the potential of women.
“Political parties also contribute to low participation of women because they do not support female candidates therefore that discourages women from contesting,” said Chimombo.
Statistics proved that for the 28 parliamentary seats which were up for grabs, 118 candidates participated and 102 were male while apaltry 16 were female.
For 122 municipal seats male candidates also dominated the statistics with 15.5 percent being female while 84.5 percent were male.
In Masvingo, 3 candidates were females out of 14, an indication that women are still lagging behind as the electoral process is not yet conducive for women, and hence they end up victims of violence and discrimination from both the male and their female counterparts.