Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day. The commemorations for this year are running under the theme “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”. The theme seeks to bring people of various age groups, ethnicity, race, religion and country to collectively drive actions that will create a world where gender equality is given top priority.
In the fight for gender equality, women face a myriad of challenges. Some of these challenges include violence, rape, sexual harassment, exclusion and patriarchy. Heal Zimbabwe through its women-led community structures such as Women Safe Space for Reconciliation (WSSR) and Community Action Accountability Teams (CAATs) has been initiating various initiatives in local communities designed to build social cohesion and empower women to challenge cultural norms and practices and become peace champions in their local communities. Some of these initiatives include community dialogue meetings, collaborative neutral platforms and awareness meetings. These meetings have specifically targeted duty bearers such as Traditional leaders and Councillors who are key players in ensuring that there is gender equality at the local level.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 provides for gender equality. Sustainable development relies on ending discrimination toward women and providing equal opportunities for education and employment. Gender equality has been conclusively shown to stimulate economic growth, which is crucial for development. Such a scenario has brought the regional, international as a well as domestic laws under the spotlight in as far as measuring their effectiveness in protecting women is concerned. The convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Platform for Action (1995) recommends equal access and full participation of women in power structures and their full involvement in all spheres of life including peace building efforts for the prevention and resolution of conflict. Supporting the call to have women as peace builders is United Nations Security Council Resolution 1326 of 200 which calls for equal representation of women in peace and security negotiations and policy making. The Zimbabwean constitution in sections 17, 56 and 80 provides for gender balance yet this has not been fully implemented.
For Zimbabwe, the commemorations for this year come at a time when women have intensified calls for 50/50 representation at all levels. During a National Women’s Summit organised by Heal Zimbabwe on 29 November 2019, Women from the country’s ten provinces noted the deplorable state of affairs especially when it came to issues of women inclusion, equality and participation. As part of resolutions, women agreed on the following;
- Government must put in place a legislation which entrenches 50/50 representation in all development structures, i.e. Village Development Committees (VIDCO), Ward Development Committees (WADCO), Council, National Assembly, Cabinet and Presidium.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 at that process do not constitute at least half of the participants.
Heal Zimbabwe notes that to achieve generation equality, there is need for a multi-sectoral collective action on the need to promote the realisation of women’s rights. Action will include change of society attitudes towards issues of gender equality. In light of this, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to take swift measures to ensure that there is 50/50 representation at all tiers. Government must also prioritise concerns from women survivors of violence from dark epochs such as Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina 2002,2005 and 2008 violence.Some of these priorities include compensation, trauma healing, apologies and justice. Government must also fully provide adequate resources for the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, a commission charged to conduct research into issues relating to gender and social justice, and to recommend changes to laws and practices which lead to discrimination based on gender.