The challenge for women in Zambia’s upcoming elections
Summary of story from IPS, March 18, 2011
Elizabeth Phiri was so incensed when she was overlooked as a parliamentary candidate for the Patriotic Front in a 2008 by-election in Zambia on the basis of her gender that she quit the party.
She has now rejoined but remains pessimistic, saying that some people in political structures still believe that the best place for women is to dance at rallies.
“As you know, men are usually the ones picking candidates, hence women are usually disadvantaged,” she said.
“Because of the greediness of the men, we are not attaining the 50-50 gender representation. It will take long for women and men to have equal representation in parliament because of this greediness among our men.”
Currently, Zambia has just 24 female members of parliament (MPs) out of a total of 150, five female ministers in cabinet out of a total of 21 and six female deputy ministers out of a total of 20.
Other women politicians hope the results after the 2011 elections will be different.
“I am going to stand for election as president this year,” said Edith Nakawi, Zambia’s first elected female president of a political party, and Zambia and Southern Africa’s first female finance minister in 1998. She served in various ministerial portfolios between 1992 and 2001.
Leader of the opposition Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD), she acknowledges a common tendency by men to “bring women contenders down”.
“In the past women were not standing because of intolerance from men who are scared of women and want to stop them from participating in politics. “
After the elections in 2006, there was an outcry over the low levels of women’s representation.
“But not this year,” says Edith Nakawi. She believes this year more women will make it into elected offices.