n Journal of African Elections - The marginalised majority : Zimbabwe's women in rural local government

Volume 11, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



Much has been written about gender and the involvement of women in politics, and convention upon convention has been written to address gender inequalities. But hitherto, in Africa, it has all been much ado about nothing. In Zimbabwe, and indeed many other countries, local government elections are open for all to vote and be voted into office, but the superstructure militates against the free participation of women in these elections. This article examines the limited participation of women in local government elections and decision making, as evidenced by the fact that only 2.76% of councillors elected in 1998 were women and 13.25% in the 2008 local council elections. Sadly, the upper echelons of political power have remained a remarkably resilient bastion of male exclusivity and efforts undertaken to redress the gender imbalance have been superficial. This article juxtaposes these efforts with Zimbabwe's Rural District Councils Capacity Building Programme (RDCCBP), which used a holistic approach to institutional development but failed to address the unequal gender relations in the rural district councils (RDCs). As the major targets of RDC policies, women were coerced into submission. The article argues that where women constitute more than half of the voting population it is in the interests of democratic and egalitarian principles that they should be represented in proportion to their numbers (that is, descriptive representation). Women have a stake and an interest in politics. The political violence seen during the elections strongly militates against the free participation of women. Using the case of Zimbabwe's RDCs I argue that peaceful elections and the unequal gender relations should be at the heart of any capacity-building effort for meaningful and sustainable institutions.

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