By Nelson Banda
Patriarchal attitudes, negative traditions and customs that do not recognize women as equal partners with men in development have been blamed for the low participation of women in the politics.
Presenting an Interim Monitoring Report on the tripartite elections on 5th October, 2006 at Holiday Inn Hotel, ZNWL Board Secretary, Tamala Kambikambi, said the political arena in Zambia has historically been the domain of men. She said bad attitudes have been responsible for the emergency of other negative practices in the work place, school, political arena private institutions and other decision making positions.
Ms. Kambikambi said the low education levels and poor economic status have led to women’ s low confidence, perpetually depending on men, making it hard to stand on their own due to lack of capacity in leadership and other necessary skills .
She blamed institutional barriers that effectively put a ceiling on how women can access positions of decision making. She said political party structures do not promote women’s participation in National Executive Committees saying leadership positions in the main bodies of political parties is usually a preserve for men .
Ms. Kambikambi added the establishment of a modern and democratic society demands that all citizens should participate in the running of the their national affairs, decision making, periodically choosing their representatives and also standing for elective office without fear of intimidation.
‘The basis of democracy is the need for respect for human rights. A government that does not include women is undemocratic,’ she said.
She explained ZNWL monitored the entire electoral process using the Zambia Election Gender checklist which recognizes the SADC Principles for Election Monitoring and Observation( PEMO) to undertake a gender based analysis of the electoral process from pre-election in constituencies where women stood in order to asses the performance of women and to analyse issues that affect women’s participation not only as candidates but as voters as well.
The monitoring exercise covered a total of 1113 polling stations throughout the country in 85 constituencies contested by women. ZNWL also deployed mobile teams that made spot checks at other polling stations to widen the coverage.
The ZNWL Board Secretary lamented that while women constitute half of the voting population, they accounted less than 15 % of those participating in the political and decision making process as candidates and elected officials in Parliament and Local Government institutions. She said according to the Electoral Commission of Zambia, there were 3,940,053 registered voters out of which 52.02% were women and 47.98 were men in 2006. There were a total of 2,604,761 registered voters out of which 1,285,623 were women representing 49.4% of the registered voters in 2001.
She added that statistics on the participation of women in the 1998 Local Government elections showed that out of 3148 candidates only 195 were females and only 81 managed to win seast as councilors compared to 1,206 males. This represented a meager 6% female representation at Local Government level.
She said through out Zambia‘s political history, the legislature has been male dominated for 42 years of the country‘s political independence.
Ms. Kambikambi pointed out that the analysis of specific elections show that: in the 1996 Presidential and Parliamentary election, 59 women were adopted by various parties as candidates out of which only 13 were elected to Parliament, In the 2001 elections, Parliamentary seats held by women increased to 19 as a result of political parties adopting more female candidate. There were 219 women adopted by various political parties and 15 Stood as independents. There was an increase of 2.71% in the number of female candidates between 1996 and 2001; in the 2001 Local Government elections, only 91 women were elected as councilors compared to 1,213 elected male councilors representing a 7% of women councilors at Local Government level.
She pointed that men dominated as councillors and mayors as they accounted for 93%, and out of the nine Provincial Ministers only one was a woman representing a paltry 11.11% at provincial administration level.
The ZNWL Board Secretary added that the political situation preceding the tripartite election was characterised by two important debates; the constitutional review process and the electoral reform which saw a standoff between government and other key stakeholders particularly the civil society which preferred the adoption of the constitution through a Constituency Assembly as opposed to Government’s preferred method of adoption through Parliament.
She further said regarding the electoral reform, the major issue was the inclusion of a mixed member proportional representation that would have taken care of marginalized groups such as women.
‘The period leading to the election was also characterised by intra party rivalry with some alliances and political parties splitting up. This worked against women candidates as leaders were jostling for positions,’ she said
She said Zambia signed and ratified a number of agreements that promote women’s rights. However, the implementation and adherence to these agreements has posed great challenges mainly due to lack of political will to put in place workable mechanism that would ensure the agreements are domesticated into national laws.
‘The constitution of Zambia guarantees all citizens the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms which are enshrined in the bill of rights. This means that the basis for political participation of all citizens is guaranteed. However, the legal frame work does not provide for affirmative action for the representation of women in decision making processes’, she said.
Ms. Kambikambi recommended the adoption of a clear national policy that would be backed by a legal framework to guide political parties on adoption of candidates to ensure women are not disadvantaged and only used as foot soldiers whenever political parties feel like doing so.
She pointed that after the delimitation process of 2000 only the number of wards increased and polling station increased from 1,287 to 1,422 which greatly enhanced the participation of women as some wards were subdivided reducing the distance women covered to each the polling centres.
On the voter registration, she said the exercise was conducted fairly well but many voters did not verify their particulars which resulted in many being turned away on the Election Day. It was also discovered that some of those who had earlier verified did not have their particulars their particulars corrected and despite assurances from ECZ that those with minor problems would be allowed to vote but this was not so on Election Day.
‘ECZ should ensure that next time citizens are given ample time to verify their particulars and correction made to avoid disenfranchising many people’ she said.
Ms. Kambikambi said the political parties adoption system leaves much to be desired. Despite their pronouncements about promoting women‘s participation at all levels of decision making , none of them came close to achieving the minimum SADC recommendation threshold of 30 % women in decision making positions.
She lamented that unlike in 2001 election there two female Presidential candidates, there was no female candidates adopted for the 2006 Presidential race except in the United Democratic Alliance were a female candidate, Edith Nawakwi declared her interest to contest the presidency.
‘A total of 106 parliamentary candidates were adopted by various political parties to stand as candidates out of 709. None of the political parties reached the 30 % SADC Declaration,’ she said.
The number of women adopted by each political party according to information provided by political parties were ; MMD 24 female candidates out of whom only 22 filed in their nomination, UDA 13 candidates, Patriotic Front 21, Heritage 7, United Liberal Party 5, All People’s Congress 4,Reform Party 2, PUDD 2,and NDF 2.
She said the figures indicated a marked decrease from the number of women who were adopted in 2001 during which total of 234 women were adopted representing a decrease of 54% of women that contest in the 2006 election compared to 2001.
The ZNWL Board member expressed concern that some women who were earlier adopted were later dropped for no valid reason. For instance, in Kasenengwa constituency, the Patriotic Front, dropped a female candidate and replaced her with a man. Similarly, the MMD dropped a woman candidates in Mandevu and Chadiza constituencies in preference for men.
She urged all political parties to desist from trading women‘s positions whenever it suited them. Women should be given equal preference with male members of the party. ‘The ZNWL would like to urge all political parties to give support to all their candidates regardless of gender’, she added.
She said the nomination process was conducted well as the candidates were given ample time in which to prepare themselves .However, ZNWL was concerned with incidences of multiple adoptions which affected a number of women. She cited Luwingu district where an adopted female candidate was stopped from lodging her nomination papers as it was alleged that her party had replaced her with a male candidate prompting her to contest as an independent.
Ms. Kambikambi observed that this trend was very common in most political parties which resulted in an increased number of women contesting as independents and therefore did not help women considering their situation in the country.
The hiking of fees just before the election affected a number of capable women from contesting the election adding that the revision of fees should have been done well in advance.
She further added that the major source of concern to ZNWL was the retention ratio of the women .She said out of the 19 women who were in the last parliament only five were elected representing a 26 percent retention ratio. And of the 22 women elected MPs a total of 17 had been in Parliament before representing 32percent retention ratio. This state of affairs does not give hope to the increasing access and ascendance to political decision making positions. She added that ZNWL had had that those already in Parliament would be retained and additional number elected.
She called on President Mwanawasa to use his prerogative to nominate more women to Parliament to bridge the gap.’