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Young women must take leadership



THE Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) has expressed concern over the low number of young women taking up leadership positions in Zimbabwe, amid revelations that they constitute less than 5% of current legislators.


WALPE says this is not only a local challenge but a regional and global one, despite young women comprising the majority of young people’s demographic. The African Union describes the young as people below the age of 35.

Young women’a participation in politics remains low despite the women’s and youth quotas in Zimbabwe.

“There are no strategic and intentional safe spaces where young women could effectively take up and occupy leadership positions without the fear of all

forms of violence, harassment, threats and intimidation,” says WALPE media and publications officer Helen Kadirire.

Globally, political leadership and representation remain heavily dominated by men, with only 26% of national parliamentarians being women and only 1% of the women under 30 years of age, according to a 2022 report by Plan International titled “Equal Power Now: Girls, Young Women and Political Participation”.

The report shows that only 21% of government ministers are women, only 10 countries have a woman head of state and only 13 countries have a woman as a head of government.

The gender gap further disadvantages young women who remain less represented than their older counterparts.

In the Southern African Development Community, women’s representation in Parliament remains below 30%, according to the Sadc Parliamentary Forum. Some countries have as low as 20% women’s representation, and the ratio is even lower for young women’s parliamentary representation.

In Zimbabwe, following the August 2023 general elections, young women’s political participation had improved compared to previous years. However, the political instability and party conflicts reversed these gains and many young women lost their political posts during the recall wave.

Several women who were elected into Parliament or local authorities under the CCC banner were recalled by self-imposed secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu.

WALPE, which launched a campaign to improve young women’s political participation, says there is a need to prepare for the 2028 elections now.

“While numbers are important, we are also striving for a quality pool of young women leaders who are confident and can make motions and debate in Parliament and council meetings and debates from informed positions,” Kadirire said.

WALPE and its partner organisations have committed to identifying, coaching, mentoring and grooming young women interested in taking up leadership positions.

“We will be mobilising young women in their various communities to join the campaign. We will also be reaching out through advocacy initiatives to the community gatekeepers and duty bearers such as chiefs, headmen and men to get their buy-in. This is because we understand that women and young women do not live in solitude. We need support and encouragement from men and boys,” Kadirire said.

Kadirire said other African countries have pledged solidarity to this cause.

“We have young women in politics like Namibia’s honourable member of Parliament Inna Hengari whom we engaged not only to offer solidarity but also to show young women in Zimbabwe that with adequate politics but in organisations and boardrooms, so they can make important economic and fiscal decisions that promote national development,” Kadirire said.

*This article was supported by the Canadian Embassy in Zimbabwe in partnership with the Centre for Public Interest Journalism (The NewsHawks)

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