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MBABANE – A segment of the women electorate is disappointed with the poor representation of women in Parliament.

The Chairperson of the Gender Consortium under the Co-ordinating Assembly of Non-Governmental Orga-nisations (CANGO), Hleli Luhlanga, feels that some of the constitutional provisions for the election of women into Parliament have been violated.

Luhlanga said the Constitution stated that at the first sitting of Parliament, following the elections, the House should constitute itself as an electorate and elect women who will represent the four regions, but this was not done.

“The Speaker indicated that he was still going to consult on the matter but this was not necessary. The House already knew that the required quota for women had not been met and as such the Speaker did not have to consult as he should have been prepared,” she said.

“Unfortunately some parliamentarians have lacked the commitment to defend the Constitution. It must be said that adequate representation for women means a lot to us because we wish to see the political playing field being levelled as well as an adherence to the Constitution.”

“If the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) is not seen to be proactive and committed to executing their duties and being mindful to the representation of vulnerable groups and adhering to constitutional provisions as per the Constitution, they will cultivate a spirit of no confidence in the electoral process.”
Furthermore, Luhlanga pointed out that “in 2008 a deaf ear was turned on various groups who were questioning the implementation of the same provision. The women’s representation then was 24 per cent and this provision was violated. This is an unfortunate scenario because it does not only reflect badly on the EBC but also on Swaziland; especially because it had seemed that the country had come a long way on gender and women’s rights issues.”

“As a signatory of many international conventions such as the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women, Swaziland has openly committed itself to implementing these milestones on gender and women’s issues.”
Expressing similar sentiments is the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organisations’ Lomcebo Dlamini, who says “at the moment the women’s representation in Parliament is a step backwards considering the developments that had seemed to indicate that Swaziland is moving forward.”

“This is in light of the adoption of a Constitution that recognises the need for investing in the advancement of women socially, economically and politically. Secondly Swaziland’s ratification of all women’s rights advocates and recognition of the fact that the Gender Unit that used to be in the Ministry of Home Affairs was elevated to a department in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office which is a more senior ministry.”

“All the indications were positive showing that we were moving forward. However with these elections it is extremely disappointing that at community level only one woman was elected as a Member of Parliament and this demonstrated that women do not see themselves as people who should be in leadership.
“Political leadership also let us down because they say one thing in terms of conventions that are ratified but then they are not implemented.
“There is no political will. A case in point is that which has just happened following the elections. At the first meeting of Parliament after the elections Members of Parliament should form an electoral college and nominate between three and five women. Their names should be published in the media for up to 10 days.

“Thereafter the House of Assembly should constitute an electorate that will conduct the election process. To say that an instrument needs to be put in place to facilitate the election of the four women is not an excuse because the EBC has had five years in which to do this. In 2008 there was such a situation whereby there was less than a 30 per cent women’s representation. Why has this electoral instrument not been crafted all this time?”  

Another commentator on the situation regarding the representation of women in Parliament came from the women’s regiment (Lutsango) leader, Aylline Dlamini.
She mentioned that the real reason that contributed to women not being elected into Parliament was because, “Culturally, a woman needs to seek permission from her spouse if she wishes to join the election race as some men still feel threatened by women who want to pursue a political career. This poses as a challenge. Women still need a lot of capacity building towards supporting other women who want to join politics.”

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