Emily Sikazwe, a commissioner of the Zambia Electoral Commission, says the practice of democracy is beyond holding periodic elections but about inclusiveness. We agree.
Sikazwe says the state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue where elections are viewed as a measure of democracy despite the elections not being inclusive and leaving out the majority of women.
Indeed, women have a right to fully participate in politics and contribute to the nation’s democratic dispensation.
And as Sikazwe correctly observes, our politics that are increasingly becoming violent don’t encourage women’s participation. Political violence is deterring women from meaningfully participating in politics.
Without the full and meaningful participation of women elections have very limited value.
Real freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. All of us take this on board that the objectives democracy will not have been realised unless we see in visible practical terms that the condition of women in our country has radically changed for better and that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life equal with any other member of the society.
The possibility for all citizens to participate in the management of public affairs is at the very heart of democracy. At the same time full and equal participation of both women and men in political decision making provides a balance that more accurately reflects the composition of society, and may as such enhance the legitimacy of political processes by making them more democratic and responsive to the concerns and perspectives of all segments of society.
Despite these facts, our political arena remains largely dominated by men.
As we know in democracy the voice of all ought to be heard equally. But, throughout our post-independence history, women who constitute more than fifty per cent of our population are underrepresented in decision-making processes at all governance levels.
The participation of women in political decision making positions was recognised as a political right after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. UDHR Articles 2 and 21 stipulate equal enjoyment of political rights without discrimination on the basis of one’s sex or any other ground.
Like many world countries, the majority of women in Zambia have also been deprived of social, economic and political rights and hold low status in the society.