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Women participation is key to our democracy

THE Carter Center says it is unfortunate that despite constitutional provisions for gender equity in the National Assembly and local councils, women’s participation and representation in Zambia remains below international and regional standards.

It notes that political participation in the August 12 presidential and general elections was restricted by prohibitive candidacy fees and a minimum education requirement that disproportionately affected women, as well as by the lack of compliance with progressive regulations on the part of the government and political parties and by gaps in the overall regulatory framework.

This is one aspect that all political parties must pay attention to. Women participation in elections and representation in our Parliament and local authorities will not come by – attained – by mere pronouncement. It requires political will. Parties must deliberately empower women financially and physically campaign for them to ensure victory. We must appreciate that gender equality is essential for economic prosperity. And we are also told that societies that value women and men as equal are safer and healthier. Equality must take centre stage.

According to Karoliina Paakkinen’s thesis Gender

in Zambian Politics – Zambian FemalePoliticians’

Experiences, “gender is very significant in Zambian politics, but it can have both negative and positive influence depending on the context. Gender plays a crucial role especially in the beginning of female politician’s career, but later on the significance of gender decreases. Although patriarchal views on traditional gender roles are still a reality and restrict women’s participation in politics, attitudes are changing. Lack of resources can also create concrete obstacles to political participation. […] In addition to attitudes, more concrete factors also restrict the political participation of women. Money and education are resources that are needed in political career and that men often have more than women. Money is needed for electoral campaigning, candidate fees, helping the community and of course for living as politics takes up much of the time that one could otherwise spend earning money. Councillors get allowances, but according to many of the interviewees, the amount of the allowances is not sufficient. Councillor’s job is officially part-time, but in practice it is full-time[…] Lack of resources hinders women’s political participation even more than negative attitudes, because change is already happening in how people think about female politicians. Lack of resources is also an obstacle that affects throughout political career, unlike attitudes that seem to become more supportive after the beginning.”

Whatever the case, we must work on this absurd failure by Zambia to meet international standards for women participation and representation in politics and other decision-making positions.

As rightly put by Madeleine Albright, “The reason I made women’s issues central to American foreign policy, was not because I was a feminist, but because we know that societies are most stable if women are politically and economically empowered.”

And Hillary Clinton stated that, “When women participate in the economy everyone benefits…It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided[…] There cannot be true democracy unless women’s voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives. There cannot be true democracy unless all citizens are able to participate fully in the lives of their country.”

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