Youth in Politics – Zimbabwe’s Youngest Female Parliamentarian

No less than 35 percent of the newly elected MPs in Zimbabwe are women, thanks to a special electoral quota system to increase women's representation in Parliament. At age 29, Tionei Melody Dziva is the youngest of them. She has a strong desire to uplift the lives of women and youths.

Courtesy of the proportional representation of women in parliament, brought about by the new Zimbabwean constitution that came into effect in March this year, women's representation in the country's parliament more than doubled after the 31 July elections. On 3 September 124 women were sworn in. The youngest of them is Tionei Melody Dziva (29), who represents the ZANU PF party of long-standing President Robert Mugabe.

While there are mixed feelings in the country over the election results – the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims massive fraud in Mugabe's favourDziva says she's happy with the outcome. "The people spoke, the people voted for what they wanted and they did that in a secret ballot voting," she says.

Dziva stands at 1.60 meter tall and talks hesitantly, wearing a wide smile while avoiding to look straight into your eyes at the same time. "I feel respected by the people of Zimbabwe, as a woman who has been elected to represent my fellow women and the youths as well."

Interest in politics

While not underestimating the difficulty of the task lying ahead of her, Dziva says she's looking forward to being mentored by the senior politicians in the house. Her age, she claims, is actually an advantage in that it will be easy to seek advice from senior parliamentarians, who will likely be tolerant in case she makes mistakes.

She has monitored political events unfold since her childhood days and has spoken to several politicians. All this motivated her to enter the political arena with a desire to right longstanding wrongs. She says it is important to "prioritize youth issues, [because the youth] is the generation that brings development [and therefore] needs the most attention. There is a high unemployment rate and the economy is ailing, so many young people have so many challenges, and they need to be empowered."

Women can be miners

Dziva is also very much conscious of the plight of her fellow-women and says she needs to work hard to make sure that they will also benefit from the country's indigenization policy. She encourages women to take advantage of female politicians in parliament to bring forth their issues.

"I would like to advocate … the empowerment of women in our country. Of course, most women come from patriarchal societies where they have not been given the same opportunities as their male counterparts, at school and in the workplace, and a lot of them now have to create their own employment by other means," says Dziva.

While she acknowledges the importance of venturing into agriculture to alleviate poverty, Dziva is a strong believer of women's participation in all sectors of the economy. As an example, she feels that women should be allowed to work in the mining industry.

Avid party supporter

The youthful parliamentarian adheres to the ZANU PF ideology to the bone and is happy with what the party has brought women and youths. ZANU PF, she says, "has promoted women's rights with a domestic bill passed in 2006 and it has been a very positive move for women in Zimbabwe; our party has been there for the people."

While ZANU PF is appointing an increasing number of youths with the party ranks, it is expected that this will change the way the party will go about its business. Although 52 percent of the Zimbabwean population are women, they are highly underrepresented in the decision making bodies of the different sectors of the country.