WOMEN for Change (WfC) executive director Lumba Siyanga says cyber bullying remains a source of friction and tension, which intimidates women and keeps them out of active politics.

And Siyanga says Zambia may not reach the 50 per cent representation threshold, politically, because political parties have replaced most female MPs with male candidates in the recently held by-elections.

In an interview, Siyanga complained that cyber bullying remained a source of concern for female leaders.

She also observed that political violence and inadequate financial support were major challenges hampering women’s participation in politics.

“So, you see that women are very determined and nothing will stop them from participating in elections, except from these barriers. Violence also hinders women from participating. We want to put it on record that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and Zambia Police should make sure that the playing field will be safe for women because violence also hinders women from participating. Cyber bullying, we have seen a lot of cyber bullying where candidates are bullied on social media so even that has to stop. We want women to compete in an environment that is conducive so that they are able to tell us, to show the nation that women also can lead,” Siyanga said.

“Women for Change, being part of the women’s movement under the NGOCC, we already have a strategy as the women’s movement, where we are going to work together in supporting women candidates; women that want to vie for political positions from councillor to (Republican) President, we have a strategy in place. Of course, there are a lot of challenges, issues of finance, most women do not have finances to compete in these elections and we have been encouraging women that could not participate as a result of the Grade 12 issue that hindered most of them last time, I think most of them went back to school. We know a former councillor in Mumbwa, she could not stand in 2016 because she didn’t have a Grade 12 (certificate), but she has gone back to school and she is writing her last paper this year in Grade 12.”

And Siyanga said Zambia might not reach the 50 per cent representation threshold, politically, because political parties have replaced most female MPs with male candidates in the recently by-elections.

“Politically, we may not meet the 50/50 threshold because of the way things have been going. If we look back at the by-elections we have had in the past two years, especially in areas where there were female parliamentarians or female councillors, mostly, have been replaced by male candidates. We can give an example of the Katuba seat, which was held by the late Patricia Mwashingwele and the Chilubi seat, which was held by the late Rosaria Fundanga, both have been replaced by men, which is very unfortunate. I think in a country like Zambia, which upholds gender equality and equality is enshrined in the Constitution, we should not have a situation where females are replaced by males and I think this was intentional and it should have been avoided and we hope next time it won’t happen that way because as it is right now, the number of female parliamentarians will decrease from 18 per cent and will keep on going backwards,” bemoaned Siyanga.

“Come 2021, we don’t even know how many female candidates will be adopted by these parties that keep on replacing female MPs with male candidates. So, our recommendation is wherever there is a by-election, I think it’s important that women are given the chance to contest. We know there are issues in elections in terms of politics, you need a lot of money, it’s all about money. But it shouldn’t be that way. I think people should be looking at the candidate other than who is giving them what and that’s what is important for our country. Otherwise, we will keep on going backwards, we will never develop if we just vote for people because they have money, they are able to dish out money, but we should look at the calibre of politicians, we should look at the calibre of candidates and vote based on merit and not on who is giving the most money. Even if people are giving you the most money, look at who is the best candidate here and go for that. And we also encourage women to come out and vie for these political positions, even as independents, our Constitution allows for that.”