Africa: Women's Political Action, 7/23/97

Africa: Women's Political Action, 7/23/97

Africa: Women's Political Action

Date distributed (ymd): 970723

Document reposted by APIC

The following two reports were issued by:

Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC)

Box 5690, Harare, Zimbabwe

Tel: (263-4)738694/5/6 Fax: 738693



July 16, 1997


A project that seeks to increase the number of women in politics and decision making in cabinet, local government, parastatals, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as in the churches has been launched in Zimbabwe.

The two-year-project, launched by the Ministry of National Affairs, Employment Creation and Cooperatives (MNAECC) last month, shows the country's efforts to address one of the Beijing 12 critical areas of concern - inequality between men and women in power sharing and decision making at all levels.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Zimbabwe is funding the project. Improving the representation of women at all levels of decision making is one of Zimbabwe's national priority areas of concern from the global Platform For Action (PFA).

The global PFA constitutes, issues that were identified as the main obstacles to the advancement of women. These are poverty, education, health, violence, armed conflicts, economic structures, human rights, media, environment, and the girl child, apart from power sharing and decision making.

Tendayi Bare, the senior secretary for National Affairs, Employment Creation and Cooperatives urged Zimbabwean women to have confidence and take up decision making positions in the public sphere. "If we manage homes, fields and families, why then can we not manage towns and countries?" asked Bare. In some countries in the region, women caucuses, coalitions and trust funds that go beyond the boundaries of party politics, are being formed to provide solidarity and financial assistance to female candidates for general and local government elections.

Women in the region believe their caucuses provide solidarity, cooperation and a possible solution to political divisions that hinder the struggle for equal participation with men in decision making.

In South Africa, for instance, women were drawn together prior to the first democratic elections in 1994 by the Women's National Coalition and drafted the Women's Charter for effective equality. This activity preceded the elections and produced an interim constitution which committed itself to equality.

Today, South Africa has a 33 percent quota of women parliamentarians and holds the distinction of being one of the seven countries in the world with the highest numbers of female members of parliament.

In Botswana, a national Caucus for Women Councillors and Parliamentarians has been established to encourage women to take up council and parliamentary positions.

This caucus affords women decision makers a forum to discuss and strategise on the best way to handle issues affecting women in Botswana.

In Mauritius, NGOs through the women's coalition are sensitizing women at grassroots on gender and participation in leadership positions.

In Mozambique, where women account for a 25 percent in decision making representation at national level, an NGO, Association of the Mozambican Women for Peace (AMWP) is battling to improve on this in all areas. Membership to AMWP is open to all women regardless of party affiliation.

The AMWP is currently preparing for an increased participation of women in local government elections to be held this November. It also wants to be active in the legislative elections that will be held in 1999.

In Zambia, a trust fund has been established to support financially female candidates contesting parliamentary and local government elections.

At the launch of the campaign support fund committee in Lusaka in May, the chairperson of the women's committee of the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), Princess Nakatindi Wina urged women to unite and support each other.

Princess Nakatindi who donated one million Kwacha (US$900) to the fund said: "The fight for proper presentation of women on local government bodies goes deeper than a gender issue and touches on a problem which seems to be creating the last obstacle to complete national building."

The launch of the campaign trust fund will help lessen financial problems which is one of the main obstacles to women's participation in decision making positions in politics in the region.

The need for more women representation in decision making bodies will help governments in the region achieve transparency and accountability, which are key to true democracy. (SARDC)


July 16, 1997


Women in southern Africa are increasingly pressing governments to review laws which discriminate against them.

In Botswana the Unity Dow case, where women fought against the Citizenship Act which denied Botswana citizenship to children born of Batswana women and foreign husbands, set a precedent in the region for women to fight against other discriminatory laws. The government of Botswana, giving in to pressure from women's groups, has launched an official review of all the laws that affect them. Most pressure has been coming from women's organisations such as Emang Basadi, Women and Law in Southern Africa, Research Trust (WLSA) and other women's groups.

The women are currently lobbying for change in the law on marriage which they say treats them like children.

"When a woman marries, according to Botswana laws, she loses the capacity to make final decisions affecting the home. The law says the head of the family is the man. It says the husband is the legal guardian of the children," complains Athalia Molokomme director of Emang Basadi.

Other laws they want changed are, the Affiliation Proceedings Act, customary inheritance laws and The Deeds Registration Act. Laws which were not gender neutral now amended are, the Mines and Quarries Act, The Employment Act, and the Deeds Registry Act.

In Zimbabwe women are also lobbying for change in marriage laws. One of the aims of this long term process of law review is to see the extent to which laws can be reformed.

"We want to see what people say about marriage laws, for instance, where lobola is not a requirement, we want to know what people think," says Sheila Kanyangarara, co-ordinator of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), the organisation which is spearheading advocacy on the amending of laws.

Kanyangarara also said that when government passed the legal Age of Majority Act in 1982, there was not enough consultation and therefore not everyone was satisfied.

"We do not want to seem to be imposing our views on people, this is why we want to engage in discussions and debate, at all levels of society, with men and women," Sheila said.

Some laws might also look fair on paper yet they give different rights to people. In this case discrimination is not only sexual but can be based on race or class.

In SADC countries family laws need to be reviewed because they only worsen women's status. Under customary law in most, if not all countries, a woman is a minor and her rights are completely oppressed.

Molokomme however, says they have a long way to go, and that family law in Botswana reflects socio-cultural attitudes which subordinate women.

Women are also examining customary inheritance laws which entitle the eldest son to claim the family estate.

In Zimbabwe, it is hoped that changes to the Deceased Estates Administration Act, will in turn positively affect other laws which discriminate against women.

The department of labour in South Africa has begun a legislative reform programme to improve women's position in hiring, dismissal, training, remuneration and equal pay for equal work.

This legislative reform will include looking at the Employment and Occupational Equity Act aimed at removing discrimination against women at the workplace.

It is difficult to change the low status of women in society when on paper they are still discriminated against, so it is through the improvement of statutes that improvement in women's lives can be achieved.(SARDC)


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Policy Information Center" <> Date: Thu, 24 Jul 1997 00:17:33 -0500 Subject: Africa: Women's Political Action

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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