Women dismiss POLAD…call for an all inclusive national dialogue

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Women from Masvingo Province who are part of Heal Zimbabwe’s Community Action Accountability Teams (CAATs) have called for an all inclusive national dialogue right from the grass root level. This came out during a women’s summit that was conducted by Heal Zimbabwe on 29 November 2019 in commemoration of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. The objectives of the summit were to enable the recognition of rural women’s social policy aspirations by government and independent commission supporting democracy and to offer a platform for the recommendation of gender-sensitive policy options and programs to the government and independent commissions.

The women’s summit brought together 100 women who are part of the CAATs from three districts of Bikita, Zaka and Gutu. The summit was also attended by representatives from independent commissions, parliament and civil society leaders among others. Participants noted that the economic crisis currently bedeviling the country and the resultant health crisis was a cause for concern. Worst hit by this crisis are women who have struggled to access health care services. To avert this, women called for an all inclusive national dialogue process that must consider all stakeholders’ right from the grassroots levels such as wards and villages up to the national level leadership. The women also dismissed and shredded the current Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) as an elite driven process that excluded citizens and imposed their narrow parochial interests on people. In light of this, women urged political parties to be inclusive and ensure that every citizen have their interests represented.

Other Issues that came out during the summit include issues of gender based violence that most women singled out as the major hurdle that restricts women from taking up leadership positions. This has also negatively affected women’s participation in local level meetings where they are supposed to demand transparency and accountability. Also raised was the need for the extension of the proportional representation quota that is poised to end in 2023. Women noted that without such a mechanism in place, there was going to be low representation of women’s issues both in parliament and senate. Further to this; women also called 50/50 representation at all levels.

As part of resolutions, women also agreed on the following;    

1. Government must put in place a legislation which entrenches quota system in all development structures, i.e. Village Development Committees (VIDCO), Ward Development Committees (WADCO), Council, National Assembly, Cabinet and Presidium. Quota system must be extended beyond 2023 and must be broadened beyond parliament and senate.

2. Government must allocate specific constituencies and or ensure candidates rotate constituencies in a manner that allows women and men to equally contest. No one ministry, seat or position must be perceived as a preserve for men  

3. Government, through the Ministry of Women Affairs must protect and support women contesting any leadership position and ensure that such women are not exposed to any form of violence because of their decision to contest against men. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission must ensure that this is implemented in order to uphold Section 17 which calls for the promotion of the full participation of women in all spheres of society on the basis of equality with men.

4. Political parties must be regulated through the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) or responsible Ministry to ensure that they have a working plan for 50% women’s representation during primaries. Women contesting at primary elections must not be contested by men.

5.Government, through the Ministry of Local Government must ensure that women and girls effectively participate in local and national decision making processes by legislating a gender based quorum system instead of a number based quorum. All decision making processes must be deemed null and void if women and girls at that process do not constitute at least half of the participants.    
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