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With many countries in the SADC region striving to reach the 30% quota of women and improving the political participation and representation of women at the local and national level the election that general elections that took place in Zambia on February 20th, 2011 presents a rather unusual case study by diverging from the general trend.


Although women made up 50.02% of the recorded 3,940,053 voters registered by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ)i, the tripartite elections that took place on the 20th of September 2011 demonstrated a decreasing number of female MPs, and local representatives.


According to the Zambian National Women’s Lobby (ZNWL) last analysis in 2006, women constitute half of the voting population, yet they account for less than 15% of the candidates and elected officials in parliament and local government institutionsii. After the last tripartite elections in 2006, there was an outcry mostly from civil society over the low levels of women’s representation but the outcome of the 2011 elections reveals a number of reoccurring obstacles.

The recent elections in Zambia failed to address the gender gap in terms of women's participation in elections. iii

Obstacles and Stereotypes

According to recent WiLDAF Report (2011iv) Zambia's electoral regime has built in obstacles that hinder the meaningful participation of women as candidates. Previous works and a number of studies outline three core problems. Firstly the Constitution of Zambia (1996)v makes no provision for quotas to further the representation of women in publically elected bodies at any level, national, provincial or local. “The Constitution is masculine in its language.vi

Second the absence of voluntary quotas by political parties to promote women’s representation exposes a lack of political and affirmative action. Jotham Mombavii reported that all the political parties he surveyed "indicated that they did not provide any quotas for women or youth candidates for parliamentary or local government elections.”

Although there are exceptions such as the United National Independence Party, a United Democratic Alliance member, who claims to be committed to a 30% representation of women within party structures, dedicated a single seat to a women MP in 2006. viii While the United Party for National Development put in place provisions to ensure that at least 30% of its national management committee is made up of women, the party allocated only two out of the 28 seats it won in the 2011 elections to female party members. ix

Lastly there appears to be no special programmes to enhance women and youth participation in either intra-party leadership elections or to enhance their chances of being adopted as party candidates in parliamentary and local government elections. “Women were more than willing to stand for election as members of parliament and councilors, but the political parties were not giving them that opportunity.” x

Deep-rooted stereotypes still prevent female candidates and party members to be viewed as equals with their male counterparts. “As women we have taken ourselves into the political arena but the challenge is the adoption process. On adoption, most political parties don’t pick women because we do not have financial muscle. Women are just taken as dancers for male politicians but we want to contribute as well, as MPs or councilors.” xi

It is crucial for the newly elected Zambian government to take active measures to encourage the political participation of women. There is a need for a broad policy shift that would help Zambia dismantle the cultural prejudices that disadvantage women in the process of selection of candidates at presidential, parliamentary and local government levels. “Women Friendly Legislation” that ensures through constitutional provision, that women get due representation.

Women Political Representation Statisticsxii

Political Representation

Prior-to the election (2006)

After-the elections (2011)

National (Cabinet)

5 female ministers out of 21 and 6 female deputies out of 20.

 

% of candidate lists headed by a female candidate

100/705 or 14.18%

106/709 (parliamentary candidates) and 27/130 (independent candidatesxiii)

Allocation of Local Government Seats (Councilors)

387/4095 or 9.5%

83/ 1382 or 6%*

National Parliament

21/148 or 14.19%

17/148 or 11.4

 

iELECTORAL COMMISSION OF ZAMBIA 2011, "Received Parliamentary http://www.elections.org.zm/new_elections_data/parliamentary_results.pdf [PDF, opens new window] (accessed December 2011).

iiMbulo, E. (2011, 04 22). Women's Lobby Group Trains Female Politicians on Credibility. Retrieved 12 14, 2011 from The Post - Zambia: www.postzambia.com

iiiMOMBA, J 2005, "Women and Youth Participation" IN Political Parties and the Quest for Democratic Consolidation in Zambia [PDF], EISA Research Report 17

ivWiLDAF Report (2011)-SOURCE!!

vCONSTITUTION OF ZAMBIA 1996, [www] http://aceproject.org/ero-en/regions/africa/ZM/Constitution%20of%20Zambia%201996.pdf/ (accessed 21 December 2011).

viEISA. (2011, 09 22). EISA ELection Observer Mission to the Zambia Tripartite Elections of 20 September 2011. Retrieved 12 14, 2011 from Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa: www.eisa.or.za

viiMomba, J. (2005), Political Parties and the Quest for Democratic Consolidation in Zambia, EISA Research Report, Johannesburg.

viiiEISA. (2008, 09 22). Zambia Women’s Representation Quotas. Retrieved 12 14, 2011 from Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa: www.eisa.or.za

ixEISA. (2008, 09 22). Zambia Women’s Representation Quotas. Retrieved 12 14, 2011 from Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa: www.eisa.or.za

xKachingwe, K. (2011, 07 22). Zambia: Calls for Political Parties to Field 50 Percent Female Candidates. Retrieved 12 15, 2011 from IPS Inter Press Service: www.ips.org

xiKachingwe, K. (2011, 07 22). Zambia: Calls for Political Parties to Field 50 Percent Female Candidates. Retrieved 12 15, 2011 from IPS Inter Press Service: www.ips.org

xiiCompilation or IPU(International Parliamentary Union-Women in Politics Data Base), Government Based Statistics and information from Afro-barometer Data Collection.

xiiiELECTORAL COMMISSION OF ZAMBIA 2011, "National Assembly Candidates by District", [www]http://www.elections.org.zm/new_elections_data/nacandidatesbydistrict.pdf (accessed 25 Dec 2011).

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