The Marginalised Majority: Zimbabwe’s Women in Rural Local Government

Much has been written about gender and the involvement of women in
politics, and convention upon convention has been written to address gender
inequalities. But hitherto, in Africa, it has all been much ado about nothing. In
Zimbabwe, and indeed many other countries, local government elections are
open for all to vote and be voted into office, but the superstructure militates
against the free participation of women in these elections. This article examines
the limited participation of women in local government elections and decision
making, as evidenced by the fact that only 2.76% of councillors elected in
1998 were women and 13.25% in the 2008 local council elections. Sadly, the
upper echelons of political power have remained a remarkably resilient bastion
of male exclusivity and efforts undertaken to redress the gender imbalance
have been superficial. This article juxtaposes these efforts with Zimbabwe’s
Rural District Councils Capacity Building Programme (RDCCBP), which
used a holistic approach to institutional development but failed to address the
unequal gender relations in the rural district councils (RDCs). As the major
targets of RDC policies, women were coerced into submission. The article
argues that where women constitute more than half of the voting population it
is in the interests of democratic and egalitarian principles that they should be
represented in proportion to their numbers (that is, descriptive representation).
Women have a stake and an interest in politics. The political violence seen
during the elections strongly militates against the free participation of women.
Using the case of Zimbabwe’s RDCs I argue that peaceful elections and the
unequal gender relations should be at the heart of any capacity-building effort
for meaningful and sustainable institutions.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
Tags: Association of Rural District Councils (ARDC), Declaration on Democracy and Equality, Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), gender and development (GAD), rural district councils (RDCs), Zanu-PF National Consultative Assembly, Zanu-PF politburo
journal of african elections vol11 number 2 transparent democratic governance in africa