A report by a Zimbabwean think tank, Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), says Zimbabwean women have an unclear and contradictory understanding about the role of Parliament and Members of Parliament (MPs).
The study titled, “Zimbabwean Women’s Views on the Performance of Parliamentarians in their Constituencies,” was developed as an exploratory study comparing MPs’ performance in and outside Parliament from the perspectives of women. The survey was undertaken by RAU to determine the expectations of Zimbabwean female citizens have about what an elected representative should and can do.
According to the research study, forty percent of the women stated that they expected MPs to help with public service delivery, while nineteen percent expected MPs to work on improving security in their communities.
The report states that the responses reflected some confusion about the role of MPs as the women perceived them to be part of the executive.
“The contradictions seem mostly related to the very unclear understanding that citizens have about what Parliament actually does and what MPs’ duties are,” said RAU.
According to the report, although trust in Parliament has increased over time, there has been a large increase in the number of women who feel that their MPs are not doing a good job, are non-responsive and barely spend time in their constituencies.
The information was collected in real time through through an SMS crowdsourcing platform. Hivos Southern Africa Hub provided financial support to RAU to conduct the study, which revealed that 51 per cent of the women reported that they expected MPs to initiate income-generating projects.
Established in 2006, RAU is an independent non-governmental organisation that conducts research on human rights and governance issues, particularly those pertaining to women, children and State institutions, with a view to bringing about policy changes that promote a democratic culture within Zimbabwe.
What the report indicates is the need for increased civic education among Zimbabwean citizens so that they can understand the separation of powers. This will enable them to hold their MPs to account on some of the promises that they give during election period.