After the violent elections in 2008, which saw the losing party keep its grip on power in a shaky government of national unity, Zimbabwe is expecting to go to the polls again in 2013. Considering that no justice has been done to the many women who suffered the state sponsored violence, harassment and rape, what do women think about the next election?
“It is evident that the events of 2008 have taken something from the women. Some have lost the zeal to vote, others their freedom to express which political party they support and to freely campaign for the party…. These events have taken away their power to assert themselves and state clearly their choices.”
These bold words are from the recent report Empower a Woman, Empower a Nation! from the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) about women’s preparedness for the next election given their experiences in the last election.
According to the report, “The violence of 2008 was a reality check of what state-sponsored violence looked like to a woman with political aspirations. Would a woman ever want to take part in politics having seen the reality of what could happen to them?” Security remains the biggest concern Zimbabwean women, who find it hard to see how they can participate freely in the next election. Experiences from the 2008 elections are clear evidence that there is no hiding place for female activists. Women remember how neighbours told the perpetrators of violence which party they belonged to and how people shied away from helping victims, fearing for their own safety.
Since the last elections, women have been denied justice for the crimes committed, and today they feel hopeless and unable to protect themselves. In the current situation where there is no effective and non-partisan system for conducting elections and protecting women there is a high risk of the population taking the law in their own hand. “My children saw the way I was beaten up and they saw me injured. Once in a while I hear them say if they come back again this time around we will have petrol bombs ready to retaliate if they try to harm you again” said one of the women in RAUs survey. This shows a gloomy picture of the future if the government does not make serious efforts to restore law and order in the country before the next elections.
In spite of the fear and apathy, Zimbabwean women remain committed to fight the battle for their rights and they have clear opinions on what needs to be done. In addition to ensuring peace and security and ending impunity, women need education on their rights and economic empowerment to be able to claim their space in the political arena. Equally important is the solidarity between women to jointly fight against the cultural and social perception of women, power and politics.
Download the report Empower a Woman, Empower a Nation!
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