Violence is a major barrier for women to enter into politics, but there are many other and less visible challenges to overcome for politically active women.
Speaking at the seminar “African Spring – also in Zimbabwe?” Jestina Mukoko from Zimbabwe Peace Project explains how female candidates are disadvantaged in politics, because they have inadequate knowledge and capacity to campaign effectively. Furthermore women are often victims of character assassination, and female activists are often labelled as prostitutes, when they enter the political battlefield.
Women’s participation is also intrinsically linked with issues of social-economic stability as well as equal access to resources and social services. At a structural level “the issue of women in politics is not only about political position, but also about the lack of a strong social-economic position of women in our society” says Takura Zhangazha, Voluntary Media Council.
Seen in this perspective political violence against women is only the top of the iceberg. It is an enormous problem in itself, but at the same time it is also a symptom of the underlying root causes, in particular the social acceptance of targeting women, not only because of their political affiliation but also because of their gender.
To see an “African Spring” for Zimbabwean women there is a need to address the underlying cultural and social discrimination that contributes to marginalising women in Zimbabwean politics. And the Government of National Unity must take a lead in developing a culture of equality and social justice.