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Elections impact our lives in many ways despite being marred by violence and corruption.  The elections in South Africa hold profound significance not only in the country but also in the region. We spoke with some our partners and allies in Malawi and Zimbabwe to get their reflections around the impact of these elections for activists and movements in the region.

Christy Banda, a Malawian feminist activist, shared how the upcoming South African elections carry implications for the future of womxn’s rights in the nation. With the potential decline of the African National Congress (ANC) and the entry of opposition parties with more progressive stances on gender issues, there is both the challenge and an opportunity for a more favourable political landscape for womxn’s rights.

Women make up a significant portion of the South African electorate. Their unified vote could influence the outcome of the election. A unified vote for a pro-womxn’s party could translate to significant gains in Parliament seats. Increased representation could influence policy changes, such as strengthening anti-discrimination laws or enacting marriage equality.”

South Africa is an economic powerhouse and a leader in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and changes in the country’s domestic policies can have a ripple effect on regional womxn’s rights movements.

South Africa has a long history of vibrant social justice movements, including the anti-apartheid struggle and contemporary womxn’s rights activism. The election results could influence the direction and momentum of these movements.”

For Christy, a more progressive government in South Africa could embolden womxn’s rights activists and lead to inclusive legislation against gender-based violence and an increased access to economic opportunities. Successful grassroots activism in South Africa has the potential to inspire similar movements in other parts of the world. The struggle for womxn’s rights can serve as a powerful example of how collective action can drive social change.

For Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), one of our partners in Zimbabwe, South Africa’s stability and electoral integrity is key – the South African elections triggered memories of last year’s national elections in Zimbabwe. With only a small percentage of womxn elected into public office, there is a pressing need for electoral reforms to ensure fair representation. This reality prompted the necessity to lift these struggles and advocate for a change in the electoral voting system to push for proportional representation.

“The current voting system in Zimbabwe disenfranchises women as it exposes them to harassment, victimisation, political violence and vote buying which results in men manoeuvring their way into power. By changing the voting system to proportional representation zebra system women are protected from most electoral malpractices and guaranteed of a fair playing field. WALPE is here in South Africa with aspiring women leaders from two major political parties in Zimbabwe to observe the elections in order to learn best practises and also stand in solidarity with the brave women who have answered the call of leadership.”

Elections set an example for the region and has the potential to inspire collective action towards building a just future for all. The effect of these elections highlights the interconnectedness of womxn’s rights movements across borders and the importance of solidarity in advancing a just world for all.

Image credit: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

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