WOMEN MAKE IT HAPPEN
Each year March 8 the world marks the International Women’s day and this year’s theme is MAKE IT HAPPEN. Purple is the colour that symbolises justice and peace, two values associated with women’s equality. The first women’s day first emerged in 1909 in the USA. Only in 1756 was a woman allowed to vote in anything legal.
I have sort to study the evocative and intricate part of Masters in International Relations, compromising of modules like International Relations, Conflict and Conflict Resolution, Contemporary Diplomacy and Causes of War. In my first year there were about 6 women and 11 men depending on the module the ratio was always higher for men from different states in the world. My interest in studying this was to assess the myth and political phenomenon through a detailed examination of published sources and debates. Why then is politics and political positions dominated by men?
As a woman, let me navigate through some aspects that have a profound inclination to values that I believe, justice and peace. I would probable like to start with the number of women elected to Parliament in Zimbabwe and UK and then look at the entire world. I am not entirely a feminist but one who resounds with what the feminist stand up for that is to have their own individuality and voices. They also need to exercise their constitutional rights and be given the equal platform as men and make choices. Moreover, throughout the world, in each country, women and children are the first to be affected by the economy and politics. The daily struggles of personal and household survival are difficult to separate out from the effects of politics. The UN Women has played a big part in doing so and also making governments accountable to put fixed quotas for women MPs. Although this might sound like counting a flock of sheep mixed with a herd of cattle, it has achieved tremendous results especially in Zimbabwe and other African countries. In Africa there have been women Presidents and Vice Presidents, defiance in UK were a few women have held senior government positions. There are only 13 women in the highest positions of State out of 189 governments in the world.
In comparison with UK, Zimbabwe has achieved its democratic ‘quotas’. Zimbabwe is 29th in the world and UK is 65th behind countries like Kazakhstan. Amazingly Rwanda a third world country which was devastated by civil war has the highest female MPs. In Western ideologue, Rwanda is classed as a third world country (the meaning of ‘third world country’ has its ambiguity as it is inclined to poor countries stemming from the dependency theory) hence its inability to be able to recognised in achieving democracy. Cuba a country which has long been written off by the western world because it has stuck to its socialist principles ranks the 3rd in the world for number of women MPs in parliament. It is also classed by the so-called Western World (1st world) as a non-democratic country. In the UK 143 women MPs were elected at the 2010 General Election, more than at any previous election. Currently there are 147 women in the House of Commons, just over one-fifth of all MPs (23%). There are currently 147 female MPs, out of a total 650 members of parliament in the 2010 general elections and by-elections. The highest number of female MPs is in the Labour Party. Diane Abbott was the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons in 1987 in the UK. UK has a lot to do to shift paradigm of integration of women into politics.
The use of the special measure also led to 37 women candidates being elected to the Senate, and one woman was selected to one of the two Senate seats allocated for people living with disabilities, bringing the total number of women to 38 – an unprecedented 47.5 per cent of the 80 Senators. As a result, women now comprise 124 of the 350 MPs in Zimbabwe’s new Parliament, including 86 women in the National Assembly – 60 in the reserved seats and 26 elected directly to the 210 constituency seats. Thanks to the UN for their quotas, this has been effective. Women’s representation in Parliament more than doubled from 17 per cent following the 2008 general elections, to 35 per cent in the elections on 31 July 2013. Zimbabwe now joins the ranks of the more than 30 countries worldwide that have used a special electoral quota system to increase women’s representation in Parliament to at least 30 per cent, which is considered the minimum for collective action. What is now important is for the women parliamentarians is to navigate ways of working with some of the hard core men parliamentarians who might be deterred by their cultural values to recognise the need for women to make changes in the country. But who are these women representation in Zimbabwe Parliament, which part of the country are they representing? Women are lacking basics like sanitary pads, decent maternity facilities and the life expectancy for women plummeted to less than 40 years. In the 1980s life expectancy for women was averaging over 59 years. Adversity and ill-health affects women. This brings me to current dynamics in the women politics in Zimbabwe. Grace Mugabe is the President of Zimbabwe’s wife who has taken the reigns of his aliening husband, what probable I might refer to it as ‘the bedroom tax politics’. Recently Grace Mugabe and Teurai Mujuru (former Vice President of Zimbabwe) who both once belonged to the same ‘gentlemen’s club’ have brought about the worst ‘women drama’ in Zimbabwe. What happened in Zimbabwe is a movie with these two powerful women. The Director of the movie is President Mugabe, he determines his actors, directs the movie, finances it, and determines how it’s played and who the casting actor/s are and also looks for his own audience. What Robert Mugabe then wants is for the rest of us to watch his movies. I now feel stripped of my title of a Zimbabwean born woman when I hear what Grace Mugabe has to say to people in the past months. Withholding food, water and electricity is a form of control justified by lack of reasoning. To use that as a weapon against your own people is inhuman and it does not deserve any integrate in any society. Shouting at people in Matabeleland threatening other fellow women to withhold food if they do not listen to her as the President’s wife shows the negative moral as an agency of women. The only source of food women know in a failing economy is the government of which her own husband is the President. While many Zimbabwean women are still not able to have the basics of sanitary pads and lack dignity, the women who are supposed to be a voice for the voiceless are humiliating each other in public claiming to understand the economic motive and collective strategies that has impoverished people.
I attended a conference for women Refugees in Europe and it was in Netherlands. One of the activities as a group was to talk about our dreams, the dreams which might have been hindered because of the journeys all of us had taken to live in a foreign country. A woman stated that her dream was to be leader in any political environment or maybe who knows a President. Other women clapped hands and a few made disturbing grants. One woman stood up and said it was impossible. She asked how she could have a dream like that which was so impossible and how was the lady in question supposed to achieve that dream? This astonished other women who also had dreams and wanted to be encouraged by other women. She wanted to try and at least try to reach her dream,she wanted to die trying, and she wanted to not feel as a failure but at least have evidence to her inner soul that she had tried. ‘It is a possibility having a dream come true that makes life interesting’ – Paulo Coelho. One of the moderators of the conference stood up and gave an analogue of CRABS. When crabs are put in a basket they push those at the bottom who are trying to get some fresh air. They do not give a chance to the others to also gasp for that air to survive in the crammed basket. Instead what they do is push them down and they have all the air. This was exactly how other women are with each other, pushing each other down and not helping each other to reach their dreams. We need men supporting women, but we also need women supporting women and women are needed in decision maker teams. True peace is built on economic justice and women have thrived to actualise that. ‘There is a place in hell for women who don’t support other women’ Albright. Women must set their own standards. The recent drama in Zimbabwe with the two most powerful women does not reflect the grass roots work which is done by organisations such as WOZA (Women of Zimbabwe Arise), HerZimbabwe and others who have been agency of the ethnography of justice and peace and a voice.
Grace Mugabe did not want Teurai Nhongo to be a President despite that they were in the same ‘gentlemen’s club’. The notion that women to women are not in solidarity with each other might stem from different theories. As a gendered group we unwittingly scapegoat others using group dynamics. This happened in Zimbabwe; Grace Mugabe did a tour of the country to use the commodity of her husband’s power to orchestrate a notorious campaign against another woman. All the men in the ‘gentlemen’s club’ stood aside and let her take the lead. The other women in the ‘gentlemen’s club’ supported her venomous attack on another woman until finally she won by suffocating Teurai Nhongo. Grace confesses to be a Christian woman but Christians in politics are called to bring out the flavours and colours of God right here in their own homes and in politics. Her narrative revels the same colonial identity that her husband Robert Mugabe seems to not want in Zimbabwe and yet they are practising it by oppressing their own. This example of Grace Mugabe does not reflect the women who have united to challenge the complexity of inequalities. It is an example that depicts how power can erode the very principles of justice and peace but most of all the love and caring that is associated with women.
The innovation, courage and collective resistance of women are are nowhere more evident that the strategies they have managed to pull resources together to reclaim their identity. Armed with the tools of voices, protests, campaign, pen and paper, their advocacy to this day can be not only be proudly celebrated global in this special day of International Women’s Day but continuously.