Women in parly: Need for increased numbers

LITEBOHO MOLEKO

MASERU – While content with the representation of women in politics, Movement for Economic Change (MEC) deputy leader and deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Tšepang Mosena, says it is disproportionate to the number of women in the august House following the 2022 polls. Mosena was nominated and elected deputy speaker of the National Assembly at the swearing-in of new Members of Parliament on….; this following announcement of results of the October 7 polls.

The deputy speaker of the National Assembly echoes sentiments of the Lesotho Council of NGOs’ 2022 Elections Observation Mission which notes in its post-elections report that existing special measures are insufficient for enhancing women’s representation in politics. The outgoing parliament had initially only 23.3 percent of women’s representation, falling short of the 50 percent of the African Union (AU) and SADC commitments. The outgoing cabinet was composed of 27 men and seven women ministers.

The 2011 Electoral Act requirement for an alternation of men and women on the candidates’ lists for proportional representation, called the ‘zebra’ system, has not yielded the desired outcome as women are often not placed in the top position of the lists, Mosena continues “as most women candidates have difficulties to pass the respective parties’ internal selection processes to become candidates.” Furthermore, as the European Union Election Observation Mission announced in their report in Maseru on October 9 a total of 837 women were nominated for First-Past-The-Post seats, accounting for 35.5 per cent of candidates. Out of the 56 parties in this election only 11 were led by a woman. Mosena stated that, there are many women on the ground but when it comes to leadership, they are few in number in the system.

She claims that political parties influence the number of women in parliament because it is an open secret that executive committees’ office bearers are the ones who end up being watched more during the elections and that their voice is heard more within a party than ordinary members. She further stated that this is the reason behind the low representation of women in parliament, and that the impact of the issue is that decisions made in parliament are not for the benefit of women – and even if the intentions are good, if women do not have a say in the decisions made for them such decisions will not benefit them. Mosena argues that this non-representation means no voice, and no voice means no progress; hence women issues should be addressed because Lesotho is a democratic country. She advises women who have fear in joining politics and actually aim for leadership positions to not think that when they see women in politics even in leading positions is smooth sailing, there are always obstacles and that what they have to do is to commit to leadership, aspire and have internal desire drive that they want to be in leadership.

She urged that women should be ready for challenges because in politics, they must acknowledge that not everyone will like or be impressed by you as a candidate. In addition, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly said women should never fear negative comments, and learn to assess their impact and how many people challenge them, like or dislike them’. “If they find out that the majority of people dislike them, then women should self-introspect, but it is important that women join politics,” she said. She continued that the challenges women face in parliament are that, a lot of women shy in being vocal due to the norm that women are meant to be seen not heard especially on parliamentary space.

Additionally, in leadership positions, women are natures as a result they have multiple home duties and when they get into parliament they are incrementing ones’ responsibilities which in return makes them perceive parliament less important. “The expectation that women should be more behaved than men also remains a challenge to women in parliament, and as a result any little thing that might be linked to women is amplified more than it is done on men on the basis of gender. Women tend to be associated with inability to perform in parliament and that turns to present the notion that have been made a favour to be in parliament and that discredits women,” she said.

In Lesotho, women are under-represented at both national and local levels. As of January 1, 2021, the National Assembly comprised 23 percent women, while the percentage of women in the Senate stood at 21 percent (IPU 2021). The percentage of women local councillors was 40 percent after the 2017 local government elections. The statistics for the national and local levels indicate that women are profoundly under-represented in legislative bodies in Lesotho, despite the fact that the country has electoral gender quotas at both the national and local levels.

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