Female political representation in Zambia: a study of four political parties' policies and perspectives on party gender quotas and reserved seats adoption
Katongo, Chikwanda Naomy
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The Zambia MDGs progress report 2013 indicates that Zambia has continued to perform poorly with respect to female political representation. Women in 2015 held a low proportion of seats in both local councils (6.3 percent) and parliament (13.9 percent) and have continued to do so even after the 2016 General Elections. The study aims at finding out Patriotic Front, United Party for National Development, Rainbow and Forum for Democracy and Development parties‘ policies and perspectives on the adoption of a gender quota and reserved seats in Zambia and proposes a working mechanism for increasing female political representation. The study is qualitative. Data was collected through in-depth interviews with six party officials in the National Executive Committees and five from the Election Committees, two officials from the Ministry of Gender and Zambia National Women‘s Lobby (ZNWL). Data was also collected through a total of seven focus group discussions with the Zambian Parliamentary Caucus for Women, and voters (male and female) from the Munali, Kabwata and Mandevu Constituencies. The samples were drawn using purposive and random sampling for party officials and voters respectively. Data from the interviews and focus group discussions was analysed using themes based on the objectives. Additional data was collected through document reviews from the Ministry of Gender and Zambia National Women‘s Lobby. The following were the research specific objectives; i) To find out measures that have been put in place by political parties to promote gender equality in national decision making positions (legislature). ii) Investigate the criteria used in the party nominations for candidates for parliamentary elections. iii) Determine whether there is a link between the presence of women in party leadership positions and their numeric presence both in elected and appointed offices of the government. iv) Examine party leaders‘ views on gender quota and reserved seats adoption in Zambia. The research found that all the four political parties have been structured in such a way that they have a women‘s wing which should bring out women in numbers to participate and be heard. All four parties committed themselves to the attainment of 50/50 gender equality through nominations for the 2016 General Elections. Unfortunately none of them could live up to their commitment. The study also revealed that the criteria for nominating candidate for parliamentary elections is not discriminatory but disadvantages a woman more as compared to a man. In trying to determine the link between the presence of women in party leadership positions and their numeric presence both in elected and appointed offices of the government, most of the interviewed officials admitted the fact that there is a link though it cannot be clearly established. Almost all respondents feel quotas are one clear affirmative action that would make a difference in women‘s political representation. They argue that the low female political representation is due to the fact that there has been no working mechanism implemented in Zambia such as quotas and reserved seats. Lack of political will which is evident in the failure to domesticate international and regional protocols on female political representation has also contributed. The study also reveals that the idea of Mixed Member Proportional Representation clause in the draft Constitution was going to deal with issues of women, youths and the disabled that are marginalized with the use of party lists that would allocate 35, 2 and 3 seats respectively. Political parties would have been legally obliged to comply with these quotas. Of the four political parties under study, only United Party for National Development has adopted a party gender quota. The study recommends for the establishment of a Political Party Commission.