Gender Observatory commissioned for gender-responsive election monitoring

August 10, 2023
Woman voting, smiling

Increasing women's participation in decision-making is a crucial step toward achieving gender equality. Many countries have taken affirmative action and implemented transitional special measures to promote women's access to leadership roles. However, women still encounter obstacles when pursuing leadership positions in social, economic, and political spheres. These obstacles include negative perceptions of women in politics, limited access to funding as well as acts of violence against women in elections.

As a build-up to the 2023 elections, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission established a Gender Observatory to monitor the gender inclusiveness of the electoral processes. The Observatory is composed of over 15 institutions from various sectors, including civil society, government, independent commissions, and the security sector. During the commissioning event of the Gender Observatory, Mrs. Margret Mukahanana Sangarwe, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, outlined the importance of the Observatory for the electoral process in Zimbabwe.

Gender Commission Chairperson Margret Mukahanana-Sangarwe

Mrs Margret Mukahanana- Sangarwe, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission officiating the event

“The Gender Observatory will capture and document key gender issues throughout the electoral cycle in the forthcoming 2023 harmonized elections. It will identify gaps and recommend to policymakers interventions and strategies to address identified gender disparities as well as carry out a gender analysis of the electoral process as part of strengthening governance processes. I hope that since the Gender Observatory is a multi-sectoral platform it will also help in strategizing for increased women's political participation beyond the August 2023 Elections,” she said.

Mrs. Mukahanana-Sangarwe added that the gender observatory will consist of a call center and command center for gender-related issues, as well as media and election monitoring.

The Gender Observatory is set to document the real-life experiences and situations of women during electoral processes. This information will be essential in creating effective solutions that are tailored to address gender-related issues. UN Women's Deputy Country Representative, Ms. Loveness Makonese, highlighted the potential of the Gender Observatory to reduce violence against women and encourage their active participation in politics in her speech.

UN Women Deputy Country Representative Loveness Makonese

Ms Loveness Makonese, Deputy Country Representative, UN Women

"Gender observatories are also fundamental in collecting data and providing responses to cases of Violence Against Women in Politics (VAWP), an issue that is becoming more and more prevalent as we approach the Harmonised elections. This is critical, especially in the upcoming elections where we have seen the steep decline in numbers of women participating in Presidential, Parliamentary, and Council elections,” she said.      

During his solidarity remarks, Mr. Hiroyuki Kumagai, the Deputy Ambassador of the Embassy of Japan, mentioned that the Embassy remains committed to supporting programmes that promote gender equality and empower women.

Embassy of Japan Deputy Ambassador Hiroyuki Kumagai

Mr Hiroyuki Kumagai, Deputy Ambassador- Embassy of Japan giving solidarity remarks

“At the Japanese Embassy, our ongoing efforts focus on incorporating gender perspectives into every programme. Furthermore, we recognize the importance of engaging more men in gender equality initiatives," he stated.

The UNDP ZIM-ECO Project, in partnership with UN Women, provides support to the Gender Observatory to enhance women's involvement in electoral processes, as a part of UNDP's wider drive towards sustainable development. ZIM-ECO is funded by the European Union, Japan, France, and UNDP's core partners.