Agency and Capabilities: Rethinking Zimbabwean Women’s Participation in Politics

Gladys Balance


The paper acknowledges the role of international, Regional and Local instruments towards the social justices system that embraces women’s participation in politics. Despite the inherent nature of the domesticated gender equality policies, Zimbabwean women still lag behind. The country has failed to reach a critical mass from 1980 to 2018. As a phenomenological study, the research adopted a qualitative paradigm to purposively profile the experiences and achievements of women who broke the ‘glass ceilings’ to participate in the masculinized political domain. The sample constituted of selected members of parliament. Importantly the study focused on women’s political lived experiences. Findings revealed that despite making it to the political realm women were faced with a masculinist culture reinforced by internal political cultures and deep seated structures that denies the acceptance of women as capable political leaders. The paper reflected on the country’s political system of incremental change and concluded that even when women have been mainstreamed into politics; men continue to defend and protect their political status quo. Men have denigrating views about women in politics as a result women find themselves playing right into the hands of patriarchal domination. Recognition and manipulation of women’s capabilities and agency were adapted into the study as normative prescriptions; this study recommended the use of these variables to articulate how, individual and collective women’s visibility in the political realm can be enhanced. The study also touches on the significant value of women’s organizations as platforms for sharing political knowledge amongst candidates as well as potential political actors. The said women’s organizations were found to be valuable for the support base they offer through lobbying, advocacy and awareness campaigns for gender sensitive policies and gender mainstreaming into politics. The importance of organizations therefore links women to their political constituencies. Lastly the study recommends attitude changes as a way of embracing female political participation. 

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