NGOCC meets UNIP, discusses women participation in politics

NGOCC has bemoaned the low women participation in political leadership.

Speaking when the NGOCC coordinated Elections campaign strategy steering committee paid a courtesy call on UNIP in Lusaka, NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale said despite Zambia’s commitment and being a signatory to AU and SADC protocol on equal gender on national leadership, the number of women participating in politics was still low.

She said a more coordinated and harmonised effort was needed to increase the number of women that would take up leadership positions in the country.

“Political parties are the gatekeepers of our political discourse in Zambia, and therefore the commitment that the political party would have towards the participation of more women in different political positions…” she said. “You will agree with us as political parties that women leadership in general has remained very low within the political arena. We are still talking about 18 in Parliament and nine per cent at government level when Zambia is committed and signatory to both the AU and even the SADC protocol on gender – committing itself to 50 per cent representation of women and men.”

Mwale said the steering committee was formed based on the women movement’s lessons learnt from previous elections where they had supported women participation in the political arena.

“Working on our own as women organisations may not give us that positive outcome. We need to deepen our intervention with a few political players and political parties to be able to see the outcome that we are looking for,” said Mwale. “Of course UNIP was among the first political parties that we selected by virtue of it being the longest serving political party in the Zambian landscape, but also we believe that there are lessons that we can learn in collaborating with you.”

Coordinated Elections Campaign Strategy steering committee chairperson and Zambia National Women’s Lobby executive director Juliet Chibuta said women need financial support to help them participate in political competition.

She said her committee had received funding to help women who were aspiring for national leadership position.

And UNIP deputy secretary general Alfred Banda said his party was happy with the committee’s aim at working with women in politics.

He said his party was geared to adopt more women in leadership position to achieve the 50 per cent parity.

Banda said historically, UNIP had been known to be observant of the 50 per cent gender parity, as it is symbolised on the Coat of Arms.

“In our Constitution, Article 13 on gender, it says we will work towards improving gender mainstreaming in all aspect of our national life, in recognising the important role that women play in national development and our aim should be to achieve 50 per cent parity in all decision-making positions in the country. Even at party level our constitution is very clear, we believe in making sure that we adopt as many women as possible to the key decision making positions,” Banda said. “Apart from that, we also have a deliberate policy as a party to help the womenfolk in terms of giving them capacity, campaign resources. In the 2016 elections, we funded all our women who stood on the UNIP ticket. We even paid their nomination fees. It is a deliberate policy that we have as a party. We look forward to 2021, I think we will do a little bit more in adopting more women. We strongly feel that going forward, women should now be taking a centre stage. But again we have also seen a trend which is obtaining in our political parties of women with capacity shunning political parties like UNIP. We have seen women clamouring for adoption for parties like the Patriotic Front and the UPND.”

Women for Change executive director Lumba Siyanga urged the UNIP leadership to take a leading role in denouncing political violence in the country.

She said political violence discourages women from participating in leadership competition.

Siyanga encouraged UNIP to rebrand the party to attract more women that aspire to participate in national leadership.

“What is important is we need to create safe environment for women to participate. For as long as there is violence in the country between political parties or among the membership, women will always be discouraged to participate,” said Siyanga. “So as UNIP, you are a parent because you have more experience in this political arena. We never saw this type of violence even when UNIP was going down to MMD. We never saw this type of violence that is there now between the Patriotic Front, UPND and other bigger political parties like NDC.”

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