Parliamentary Performance and Gender
Zimbabwean women are taking, or trying to take, a much more active role in the governance and political life of the country despite the highly patriarchal nature of Zimbabwean society. Heide stated “. . . we will no longer be led only by that half of the population whose socialisation, through toys, games, values and expectations, sanctions violence as the final assertion of manhood, synonymous with nationhood.” It is sentiments such as Heide’s that have stirred the move for the participation of women in decision-making, arguing that women’s interests are best represented by other women who share the same lived experiences. But the question of whether women leaders wield power differently, represent other women better than men, and whether they can change the rules of the political game significantly enough to bring a real difference in the lives of other women remains largely unanswered.
In Zimbabwe, it is clear that women vote in elections, and research by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) in 2010 indicated that the number of women that do actually vote is about 15% less than those that are eligible to vote. There are many reasons for this discrepancy, and certainly one of these is the difficulties that women face in getting registered to vote. Women encounter many more difficulties in obtaining legal and necessar documents than men do. In addition, the political climate can have facilitatory or inhibitory effects on women’s participation in both elections and political involvement. Since 2000, then political climate has been marred by a highly polarised political environment and a series of violent elections. Incidences of violence increased with each election period, notably the 2000 Parliamentary election, the 2002 Presidential election, the 2005 Parliamentary election and the 2008 Harmonised (Municipal, Parliamentary and Presidential) election.