‘Over-workshopped young female politicians need help’

The Sunday Mail

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Youth Buzz

Fatima Bulla-Musakwa

GREETINGS to all young people out there.

I hope I find you well.

Last week, a two-day high-level intergenerational dialogue on women’s political participation and leadership, hosted by the African Women Leaders Network (AWLN) Zimbabwe Chapter, hogged the limelight.

AWLN is a continental platform that galvanises women leaders on the continent to contribute towards lasting peace and sustainable development.

Running under the theme “Stimulating inter-generational dialogue and solidarity between generations and shared responsibility”, the platform brought together women leaders to find ways of bridging the gap between veteran women politicians and budding ones.

Participants were drawn from Government departments, political parties, United Nations agencies, the African Union (AU), the Junior Parliament and civil society.

The dialogue took stock of the landscape under which women in politics are operating, while sharing experiences across the continent to equip and promote women’s participation in politics.

What a breath of fresh air it was seeing some veteran female politicians, who seemed to have gone under the radar, expressing willingness to mentor young women to navigate the political terrain!

Former Cabinet Minister Dr Olivia Muchena’s experience was not only reflected by her grey hair but also the expertise with which she shared counsel during the dialogue.

Former Vice President Dr Joice Mujuru, one of the pioneers of the fight for women empowerment in independent Zimbabwe, acknowledged the strides that have been made since 1980.

She spoke of how she joined the liberation struggle as a young woman and was appointed a ZANU PF Politburo member at 22 in independent Zimbabwe.

Three years later, she got elected as a Member of Parliament, before she took the reins of the Women Affairs Ministry.

At that time, she was 26 years old.

Advice from the elders is often invaluable.

Cde Edna Madzongwe, former president of the Senate, also shared some nuggets with participants.

Young women, she cautioned, should not develop a reputation for being the noisy ones in Parliament, who only know how to throw unsavoury comments just for people to be aware that they are in attendance.

Young politicians in the National Assembly need to prepare well for parliamentary debates and should know what will be on the order paper so that they can make meaningful contributions during debates.

All these experiences help inspire girls dreaming of claiming space in the political arena.

In her virtual address, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Sweden Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said young women were “over-workshopped”, spending most of their time sitting in a nice venue, and having tea and lunch breaks but leave without prospects of financial support to oil their political careers.

Without financial resources, aspiring young women politicians fall prey to usually well-resourced and economically empowered men, who take this as an opportunity to get sexual favours in exchange of funding, she added.

Well-resourced women, she said, were generally not always available to shield the budding politicians, just as they were not accessible to mentor them.

Ambassador Misihairabwi-Mushonga, however, claimed her political career was mostly funded by former independent Member of Parliament Margaret Dongo, demonstrating how veteran women could nurture and support the young.

It is not easy for young women to find extra resources to fund their political careers.

Put simply, young women need to be supported with resources to oil their political careers.

Also, according to Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission commissioner Jessie Majome, women should not fight against each other for the already small quota reserved for them, but need to support each other to compete for bigger political offices that are predominantly held by men.

This can only be achieved through alliances between the younger and older women.

AWLN Zimbabwe — which was supported by UN Women Zimbabwe, the Irish Embassy in South Africa and the AU — was more than welcome and came at the most opportune time.

* Twitter @BullaFatima

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