Local I under Global Eye

Article excerpt

An Assessment of Women's Participation in the Mozambican Democratic Process

Historical Background

Mozambique, because of its history, has been much influenced by international events and conditions. The colonial process in Mozambique imported the administrative structure from Portugal with complete disregard for local administrative logic and functions. Up to the 1970s, gender equity was hardly discussed in Portuguese-influenced circles of either rural or urban Mozambican cultures, and very seldom came to the public's attention. After independence in 1975, colonial borders were maintained, and the Portuguese state apparatus was not completely eliminated. Quite the contrary: the new socialist ideology reinforced the centralized and bureaucratic character of the state. This new ideology also tried to force a national identity, completely suppressing any kind of ethnic affiliation and loyalty. In addition, the industry-based ideal of development strongly repressed alternative indigenous economic modes of production. Although the role of women in society became an important issue in the revolutionary discourse, women were not necessarily regarded as equal to men. Women got their own national celebration day, and their own national civic organization, affiliated with the ruling party, through which they could express themselves politically. They were not, however, expected to be the heads of households, nor to have the same rights, obligations and responsibilities as males within the family.

The second republic, instituted in 1990, adopted a new constitution that introduced western democratic principles, with increased civil and political liberties. For example, one party rule was eliminated; separation of the executive, legislative and judicial powers was instituted; independent associations and new parties were allowed to constitute themselves; and the protection of freedom of the press was formalized. The relationship already established with the World Bank and other donor countries and institutions further reinforced economic, administrative, political and social changes. Issues such as administrative decentralization, democratization, civil society reinforcement and gender became central to development. Civil society and gender awareness have indeed grown with the mushrooming of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But this has not translated into local ownership of change, as the international organizations' development models still prevail. Often, access to financing, credit, allowance, and aid relief is based on conditions which impose standardized ideals for socioeconomic growth. Thus, development concepts have been strongly politicized, and introduced into political jargon with the sole aim of being financed. The notion of the nation-state, for instance, idealized in the first republic, has opened up to the acknowledgement of local leadership, as well as the attempted introduction of some local languages into the educational system. For many, these changes have not necessarily meant recognition of different ethnicities per se, but rather an opportunity to use ethnic and local specific affiliations and networks for political gains. This could assure not only more support in the elections, but also the dilution of any opposition discourse founded in ethnic related issues.

In this context, we discuss if and how concepts such as nation, democracy and gender are relevant, efficient and incorporated into electoral discourses as a part of the Mozambican democratization process. Global ideas have been aiming at results without regard for processes to such a degree that society has not been able to keep up with institutional intentions and policies. Public policies and ideas remain too vague on most issues deemed globally unavoidable and essential.

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