The roles of women legislators in parliament and the women parliamentary Caucus in the years 2007 to 2011: A feminist approach

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Chilufya, Alfred
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Background: The Zambia Women Parliamentarians Caucus (ZWPC) was established as a follow up to the SADC seminar held in Windhoek, Namibia in 1997 under the theme “Practical Gender Equality from dialogue to Action. It sought to meet the needs of women in Zambia.Methodology: Data for this study was drawn from Parliamentary debates of the tenth session of the National Assembly (2007 to 2011), minutes of the (ZWPC) within the same period and one to one interviews with five women parliamentarians. Data Analysis: Qualitative data was analysed using framework analysis. Although framework analysis generates theories, the prime concern was to describe and interpret what is happening in a particular setting. Results: The Women Parliamentarian caucus has two main roles that it plays. Most of activities related to these roles are performed in and outside of Parliament. Field notes and the minutes of the caucus show that, opinions between the most elite women parliamentarians and the non elite are divided about the real consequences of the presence of women in politics. Women parliamentarians do not only do business in the house but engage themselves in many other activities. The Zambian women members of parliament have to juggle parliamentary business, constituency work, campaigning, media appearances and other party commitments, plus additional responsibilities in the case of government ministers, which make an equitable work-life, balance a significant challenge. Most of the times these women have not been attending debate especially the evening sessions. Research has found out that women parliamentarians coming from far off constituencies – those outside of Lusaka attend all sessions as compared to those within Lusaka. Women parliamentarians employed unconsciously two feminist approaches in addressing women’s issues. They used the radical feminist approach and liberal feminist approach through advocating for legal instruments (feminist liberal approaches) and overcoming oppression by espousing equity and equality through debate and constructive engagement (radical approaches).Conclusion: This study provides a fairly comprehensive picture of the current state of women’s representation in Zambia’s parliament and it brings to the fore significant features (parliamentary debates) that have not been extensively studied either in the African context or more globally. This analysis fulfils a double purpose. First, by analyzing the four research questions and the theoretically informed themes and sub themes which in quantitative research would qualify as variables and attributes. There is evidence to show that the Zambia women parliamentarians’ caucus of 2007 to 2011 contributed to setting the agenda on women’s issues. However, the contribution was not marked because most of what was agreed in the caucus was not translated into actions outside and within parliament. An important related point is that women parliamentarians have a lukewarm approach to setting women’s agenda and this was highlighted by the interviews and the Parliamentary debate. In the area of policy, a significant positive impact from the desire to have greater numbers of women is unlikely to be seen in the near future and we need to make use of the few numbers of the women parliamentarians
Feminism-political Aspects , Women legislators-Zambia , Women political activity-Zambia