By Costa Nkomo
Despite efforts in some quarters of the globe to empower women by way of giving them equal rights with their male counter parts political historical trend shows that masculinity remains dominant in the politics of the new millennium. Globally, regionally and nationally, women participation in politics is still at an embryonic stage. Global female leaders like the late Margaret Thatcher have left a mark in the global political history. Today, Thatcher’s legacy is being carried forward by female politicians like Theresa May in Britain http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-margaret-thatcher-uk-prime-minister-a7156261.html. , Marine Le Pen in France, and Angela Merkel in Germany among others.
However, in Africa it is a different story as women are still closed out of crucial political positions consenting to the prolongation of masculine domination in politics. In reference to Zimbabwe as a case study, historical nature of politics has been pointed out as a major impediment for women to stand up and make an impact in the political realm. Despite some few figures who took part in the historical liberation struggle like Joyce Mujuru, women apathy with politics has also cascaded to the female students at higher learning institutions. Major universities such as University of Zimbabwe (UZ), National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Midlands State University (MSU) have a history of male dominated politics with very few female students taking part.
Former Nust Student Union President, Rodwell Nyika alluded that fear is the major antecedent that water down female students from taking part in student politics. Nyika alleged that citizens have a visceral fear with politics given its historic nature in Africa with Zimbabwe being of no exception.
“The first version in a general form is where we talk of abject visceral fear emanating from victimisation and fear of the unknown to participate in politics as the political nature in Zimbabwe and Africa alike has proven to be violent and this is the major impediment.”
Former Nust student, corporate speaker and a columnist in the Standard newspaper, Sithandekile Magida, hold a different opinion as to why female students have little interest in assuming leadership positions. She took a swipe at the nature of the present day Student Representative Council (SRC) at higher learning institutions that it has been lately associated with a bunch of rowdy young male academics.
“SRC image need to be revamped because female students do not want to be seen as rowdy to be vocal and to be out of line”, said Magidha.
Some female students have cited lack of female political role models at national level as a demotivating factor for them to view politics at University level as a valuable field to pursue. Unlike the European female politicians like the late Margaret Thatcher, in Africa; Zimbabwe alike is a different context.
Bathabile Dlamini, a Journalism and Media Studies student said: “At a national level we do not have female politicians who can act as role models to the young girls, so you found out that most female students feel that politics is a male game as it is given a male face.”
Dumisani Masuku, Nust SRC Vice President added that it is high time female students rise up and fully participate in the student politics to prove their value. He said he is convinced that female students have competence to change the way things are done in politics at university level.
“At Nust it is a question of the females themselves to stand up and realise how much valuable are they in the political terrain”, said Masuku.
The African culture has been alleged as an obstacle for female students to rise in politics as it subordinates them. It is a culture that views women as second class citizens and it teaches them to be submissive to men.
“The cultural set up that is with us here in Zimbabwe and Africa do not give female students freedom to exercise power starting at higher learning institutions”, said Muposi Kudzai, a student in the Library and Information science department.
Some students are calling for a constitutional amendment that reserves certain seats in the SRC for female students so that they are motivated enough to partake in student politics.
Higher learning institutions have lately been credited for breeding powerful politicians like Nelson Chamisa, et al.
The female students should take a leaf from the European iron ladies and start making their voices heard in student politics. They need to develop courage and confidence to stand up in the political filed as it is an arena where they can contribute heavily for their empowerment through enacting policies that directly speak to their interests at large.