Factors Influencing Participation of Rural Women in Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution Referendum: A Case Study Of Ward 22, Gutu District
Barbra Ncube, Dr. Esther Waiganjo
Index Terms: Constitution making process, Participation, Referendum, Voting, Women’s Engagement
Abstract: Participation is the cornerstone of citizen engagement. In constitution making and other public policy formulation processes, public participation typically involves preparing the public to participate through civic education and public information campaigns, as well as consulting the public on issues such as how the process should take place and the contents of the constitution itself. This study sought to examine the factors that influence women’s participation in constitution making processes, specifically relating to voting in the constitution referendum, in the case of rural women residing in ward 22 of Gutu district of Zimbabwe. Gutu District is the third largest district in Masvingo province. Ward 22 is located in the communal region of Gutu central. The people of ward 22 largely depend on subsistence farming and market gardening for their livelihoods. The objectives of the study were to ascertain to what extent media campaign and publicity; efforts by women’s civic groups; and public interaction through public meetings and hearings were able to influence the participation of Zimbabwean women in the 2013 referendum, in ward 22, Gutu district. Over and above these objectives, the study sought to document the experiences and views of rural Zimbabwean women on the constitution making process. This study adopted a descriptive case study research design. Samples of 108 women from Ward 22, Gutu District, were conveniently selected to participate in this study. Data was collected using a structured interview guide and questionnaires which were administered to the respondents. A focused group discussion was also carried out to verify the information gathered through these instruments. Findings and conclusions were derived by means of detailed comparative and inductive analysis of data. Descriptive statistics were employed in the presentation of the findings. Amongst the major findings are that rural women in ward 22 in Gutu district were in actual fact well informed on the contents of the constitution and could cite the benefits for women as provided for by the new framework. This is despite the fact that a large proportion of the respondents had not seen or read any part of the constitution. So contrary to popular perception and findings of other studies carried out post the referendum, rural women actually voted in the referendum from an informed position rather than mere acquiescence and conformity as previously suggested. The study also revealed that women understood the importance of their participation in the referendum and saw the value of constitutional reform. The bulk of the information on the referendum and the constitution making process in general was disseminated through word of mouth, wherein political parties played a major role in disseminating information and encouraging women’s participation in the referendum. The study confirmed that there was a lack of print media particularly in relation to dissemination of the actual printed copies of the draft constitution. On the basis of the conclusions drawn from the study, the following recommendations are made;There is need to continue raising awareness on the New constitution beyond merely encouraging its acceptance by word of mouth but by actually distributing copies of the constitution document to women in rural areas. Women’s wings of political parties should be supported and capacitated to continue to provide relevant information on the constitution to women at grassroots by leveraging on their competitive advantage over other civil society groups as well as their agency in influencing women’s political participation. The power in dialogue and word of mouth should be harnessed to mobilise women for action around issues that affect them, for example, through workshops and discussions.
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