Women and Traditional Governance Systems: A Case of Vukuzenzele Village, Mzingwane District, Zimbabwe
In much of rural sub-Saharan Africa, women in traditional patrilineal systems are generally subordinated to men, thus endangering gender equality. Women born and nurtured in such systems are relegated to second-class citizenship, are inferior to men, and are excluded from collective decision-making, as they are presumed to be represented by husbands and fathers. In the past decade, however, women’s visibility and influence has increased. As women have begun to participate in political issues, discussions around gender equality have cut across various sectors, including governance. This article seeks to identify whether traditional governance systems are beginning to take gender issues into consideration in their organisation and composition. It also seeks to bring to light and document opinions of women living in rural Vukuzenzele Village on issues relating to traditional governance. Through interviewing traditional leaders and women in the community, this study sought to answer the questions: (1) Do women have roles and responsibilities similar to male counterparts in traditional governance systems? (2) Do cultural attitudes still impact on gender roles? (3) How are cases and disputes involving women treated within the system? (4) How is the traditional governance system, in this case, affected by democracy or gender equality advocacy?