Recent political studies have shown that women represented by a woman are more interested and become more involved in politics and feel more skilled and effective than those represented by men.
However, the marginalization of women by structural deformities in our cultural, social, religious and political stereotypes has somewhat caused a decline in women political participation.
In Zimbabwe under the “new dispensation”, patriarchy, intertwined with the increase in militarized masculinities, is believed to have produced an exclusion with limited spaces for women as evidenced by a mere 15% of female contestants in the 26 March by-elections, a development that signals a steady decrease in women political participation as a result of entrenched stereotypes.
On a positive note, as of 2015, women in every country in the world have the right to vote; the first nation to grant female suffrage was New Zealand in 1893, and the last country was Saudi Arabia in 2015. Today, several countries are led by females and some countries, such as Finland, also have a cabinet dominated by women. These achievements have been possible in large part thanks to gender equality measures.
Analysts have however argued that progress is slow and uneven. Women are still underrepresented in politics, parliaments and public life worldwide.
“Attitudes towards women candidates are still largely characterized by deeply ingrained stereotypes, and political opponents will often use those stereotypes to question women’s capabilities, a challenge women face time and again in politics”, said Millicent Marume, a political science student at the University of Zimbabwe.
“Although women are putting themselves forward for elections more and more, their numbers are still far behind those of men mainly because they
continue to be sidelined in decision-making processes and the stigma against them in politics is still alive and well. They continue to face structural, socioeconomic, institutional and cultural barriers”, she said.
Tackling those barriers takes effort on the part of every element of society whether it is government, civil society, the media, academia, the private sector and even men.