Former first lady Maureen Mwanawasa has urged political parties wishing to participate in the Katuba parliamentary by-elections to only field female candidates in line with the country’s vision of attaining 50-50 gender representation in governance.

And Maureen has regretted that the just-ended National Dialogue Forum (NDF) did not recommend that government comes up with a deliberate policy to leave certain constituencies for women to compete against each other.

In an interview, Maureen said it would be unfortunate if the Katuba parliamentary constituency went to a man.

“The message I have for the parties participating in the Katuba by-elections is that they should replace Patricia Mwashingwele with a woman. Whichever political party is vying for Katuba, can they identify women? We had a woman and that was a plus, but if we have a man now, it means we would have lost one slot of a female in Parliament, that’s what it means. But this requires political parties being proactive, being real to the things they pronounce; starting with the ruling party, which is in the driving seat of ensuring that gender representation by way of 50-50 is achieved. So, the ruling party should lead by example. Equally, the largest opposition political party, UPND, must do the same. Can they identify women so that we can have women only participating, then we can be sure that we are going to produce a woman candidate in Katuba. But they need to assure the women, they shouldn’t waste time and they shouldn’t be pronouncing things theoretically without putting strategies and systems in place, which can make us go that far,” Maureen said.

And Maureen said it was sad that the NDF did not resolve to make a recommendation that some parliamentary constituencies be left to women to compete amongst themselves.

“We have been talking about attaining 50-50 representation meaning, if there is a man as number one in the hierarchy of management, then the second person must be a woman and vice-versa. That’s the only way you can achieve the 50-50 and Zambia is a signatory of the African Union (AU) protocol on the 50-50 representation. So, these resolutions just cement the domestication of these protocols. So, I think we are doing very well, we just have to continue pushing. And one thing I was hoping would come out in the NDF was a deliberate policy where certain constituencies at parliamentary level are left to women and they compete amongst themselves. That way, we would move quicker because there are bottlenecks, which women face when they try to vie and compete with men in the political arena. So, I wish that would have come out but maybe next time I hope we can get there,” said Maureen.