#CSW58 MDG 6: Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases


I saw a headline in one of yesterday’s papers which said: “MDC official succumbs to Malaria.” Yes, Malaria, as a disease only becomes topical when it kills a prominent individual. Outside such circumstances, the media pays it very little, if not, no attention. Yet malaria remains one of the biggest health problems our country has to deal with. Did you know that 50% of our population is at risk of Malaria? And, did you also know that 1 in 12 children die before their 5th birthday of Malaria? Do you now see why we must pay malaria as much attention as HIV/AIDS?

Another disease, well known and feared but with hardly any statistics to tell us what it is and how much it has affected our people is cancer. All we know is that the number of death certificates, with the cause of death written down as cancer, are dramatically increasing. Women are being diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer while the number of men with prostate cancer is also increasing. We have many cases of individuals seeking donations to have surgery done on growths in the stomach, jaws, throat abroad and a vast number are also succumbing to lung cancer. Costs of getting cancer treatment are steep, estimated at $500 per session and government no longer subsidises the patients because they says government has no funds.

Typhoid and Cholera are also killing many people. The annoying thing about the scourge of these diseases in Zimbabwe is that it was purely man-made. Yes, I said that! We brought cholera and typhoid unto ourselves through the failure of our government to provide us with clean water and ensure sanitation for its citizens. Meanwhile, the bosses at the municipal councils responsible for collecting our rubbish bins, repairing our sewer pipes and providing us with clean water were always whining that there was not enough money for it while they paid each other $35 000 salaries.

Tuberculosis is also killing many of our people. Fortunately, the drugs are available for free in our public hospitals so once diagnosed; an individual can be helped and healed. Although about 79% of the people treated of TB in 2011 also had HIV/AIDS, 21 % were just cases of TB-something that a lot of people have lost touch with; assuming that only HIV positive individuals can suffer from TB.

We have been doing well in our fight with HIV/AIDS. Infections reduced from 30% in 2000 to 15% in 2011. However it is worrying to note that HIV/AIDS affects more women than men as prevalence is 6% higher among women (18% prevalence) than men (12% prevalence). And so it is perplexing to understand why some people JUST don’t get what we mean when we speak of the feminisation of HIV/AIDS, or the need for addressing gender relations in ending HIV/AIDS. Can she negotiate for safe sex [with her HIV positive partner]? Can she say no to sex with her [HIV positive] husband? How many of the women will get HIV/AIDS from their [HIV positive] husband in that polygamous marriage? How many of the women will contract the disease from that serial rapist? And so the nature of the relationships [where women have less power] determines the risk [higher] of getting HIV/AIDS and reflects in the prevalence [higher among women].

What have we done well?

  • HIV/AIDS testing has significantly improved. It takes less time to get tested and the counselling services have improved.
  • The roll out of the Anti-Retro Viral Treatment (ART) has been largely successful, with free drugs being provided for patients in public hospitals.
  • The successful implementation of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) has helped reduce new infections in children.
  • The availability of malaria and tuberculosis (TB) drugs for free in public hospitals has helped the fight against both diseases.

What have we not done?

  • We only have 2 public hospitals treating cancer – Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa in Harare.
  • These hospitals have very little in the form of radiation therapy equipment, drugs and manpower in the form of specialists.
  • We have not opened our eyes to the reality of the increase in cancer detections enough to take steps to prevent its outbreak.

What more can we do?

  • We need to allocate more funds to addressing all these diseases. Relying on external partners’ support is unreliable and risky and as proved by the withdrawal of funds by the Global Fund, the plug on such funds can be pulled off any minute. Government must adequately budget so that donor funds become surplus, not the core.
  • More focus needs to be paid to dealing with cancer as cancer deaths are on the increase. Further, awareness efforts on what causes cancer and how it can be cured need to be scaled up.
  • Above and beyond the policy and practice, we need to address our ethos as a people. The reality of the high HIV infections among women lies in unequal gender relations where women are unable to negotiate for safe sex. Without addressing these gender relations, women will remain vulnerable.
  • We must address corruption; Salary-gate is part of the reason why people died of cholera and typhoid. Those who sanctioned and those who took fat salaries home while some poor people drank infected and dirty water to their death bed have blood on their hands.

Do NGOs and Donors undermine the State?


The Afrobarometer always provides highly interesting perspectives on what African citizens (as opposed to their governments) believe. Over the past decade the Afrobarometer has demonstrated the sophistication of African citizens’ understanding of politics, governance, and democracy. The findings are often surprising.

For example, recent analyses have shown the resurgence of popular support for traditional leadership, mainly because these folk provide a buffer for failing governments[1], or that youth, right across Africa, has diminishing faith in the power of elections to bring about democracy. The latter is clearly important in the light of the North African revolutions, but recent research by Resnick and Casale suggests that, whilst African youths tend to vote less and have lower levels of partisanship, they are not more likely to protest than older citizens[2].

These are interesting asides however, and we want to focus on a problem common in many African countries, the frequently fraught relations between states, donors, and civil society, especially NGOs. This is particularly interesting for Zimbabwe where there are continual statements from senior government Ministers that assert that these bodies work in concert to effect “regime change” at the worst and undermine the authority of the state at the least[3].

A very recent Afrobarometer report examined the views of African citizens about the role that donors and NGOs play in the political lives of their countries. As the Afrobarometer report pointed out, in admittedly a complex statistical analysis[4]:

Findings suggest that across a wide range of African countries, including fragile states like Liberia and stronger states like Botswana and South Africa, donors and non-state actors are strengthening, rather than undermining, citizens’ legitimating beliefs, as measured by their willingness to defer to the tax department, the police and the courts. Citizens who believe that donors and non-state actors, including domestic and international NGOs and international businesses, are doing a lot to help their country, rather than a little, are more likely to be willing to defer to the tax department. People who perceive that donors and non-state actors exert too little, rather than too much, influence over their government, are less likely to be willing to defer to the tax department, police, and courts. The opposite is true for those who perceive that donors and non-state actors exert too much influence, rather that too little influence, over their government.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwe was not included in the 19 countries from which the data was derived, but the sample of countries was sufficiently large[5] as was the number of citizens included (26,513). So this is a fair test of what African citizens think about donors and NGOs. And the findings certainly rubbish the claims by so many African governments that these bodies have a malevolent influence over their citizens.

African citizens, rather than distrusting donors and NGOs, see these bodies, where they are very present and active in a country, as strongly complimenting the work of their governments, and, very surprisingly, results in citizens claiming that this would make them more likely to pay tax, and more willing to defer to the authority of the police and the courts. Overall, this suggests a win-win situation for states and citizens: good states will attract donors, encourage non-state actors, and be rewarded with good citizens. Bad states repel donors, suppress non-state actors, and end up with unresponsive citizens.

It is also worth pointing out that it remains surprising at the continental level that donors continue to engage with so much faith in Africa, but this is not necessarily the case at the individual country level, where there may be excellent synergies between state, donors, and NGOs. Donor countries and donors continue to provide financial support to Africa in spite of the very discouraging picture. As a 2012 report from the Political Economy Research Institute points out in respect of capital flight from Sub-Saharan Africa[6]:

A key constraint to SSA’s growth and development is the shortage of financing. Indeed SSA faces large and growing financing gaps, hindering public investment and social service delivery. At the same time, the sub-region is a source of large-scale capital flight, which escalated during last decade even as the region experienced growth acceleration. The group of 33 SSA countries covered by this report has lost a total of $814 billion dollars (constant 2010 US$) from 1970 to 2010. This exceeds the amount of official development aid ($659 billion) and foreign direct investment ($306 billion) received by these countries. Oil-rich countries account for 72 percent of the total capital flight from the sub-region ($591 billion). The escalation of capital flight over the last decade coincided with the steady increase in oil prices prior to the global economic crisis.

 

Assuming that flight capital has earned (or could have earned) the modest interest rate measured by the short-term United States Treasury Bill rate, the corresponding accumulated stock of capital flight from the 33 countries stands at $1.06 trillion in 2010. This far exceeds the external liabilities of this group of countries of $189 billion (in 2010), making the region a “net creditor” to the rest of the world. The stereotypical view that SSA is severely indebted and heavily aid-dependent is not fully consistent with the facts.

 

And the general trend has been getting worse over the past four decades: net losses in the early 1970s were about US$28 billion, but by 2005-2010 they were estimated at US$202 billion. It is not the purview of this short opinion piece to examine the reasons for all this capital flight, but it does seem that the knee-jerk statements by African (and increasingly Zimbabwean leaders) to blame the West for its (and our) problems is not very honest. Some honest examination of who is sending out all that money might go some way to solving some of Africa’s economic problems, and could even pay off all of Sub-Saharan Africa’s debts.

There are also the knee-jerk attacks on the motives of the non-state actors. This is the really sorry story, because non-state actor is a term that covers virtually everyone that is not a government or a donor: NGOs, CBOs, associations like churches and sports clubs, international NGOs like Oxfam and Save the Children, and so on. African citizens say that the more of these that exist and are working hard for them, the more likely the nation and key institutions are one they trust. And, of course, they have an interest in regime change: any government that the non-state actor sector sees is not serving the interests of the people will be challenged.

But it depends on what is meant by regime change. It can range from wanting a new political party to govern (and only by election, not coup or violence) through to wanting a particular change in policy direction. Regime change straddles wanting a new government through to trying to influence a regime to change its policies, and this latter is where the vast number of NGOs put their energies. And since NGOs and CBOs in Africa are mostly filling the gaps where government cannot deliver, it is the reason why African citizens have trust in them. It also turns out that this is the core political activity in any nation, and why civil society (and its organisations) are at the heart of the political life of the citizenry.


[1] Baldwin, K (2011), When politicians cede control of resources: Land, Chiefs and coalition- building in Africa. Working Paper No. 130. AFROBAROMETER.

[2] Resnick, D., & Casale, D (2013), The Political Participation of Africa’s Youth: Turnout, Partisanship, and Protest. Working Paper No. 136. AFROBAROMETER.

[3] Most recently these sentiments were repeated by Minister Chinamasa in the statement following the meeting between the various Zimbabwean political parties and the British government. See COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY HONOURABLE PATRICK CHINAMASA, Deputy Secretary for Legal Affairs of ZANU PF And The Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs At the Conclusion of the Meeting of Representatives of the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe and the Friends of Zimbabwe (FoZ) held in London, QEII Conference Centre from 25 to 26 March 2013.

[4] Sacks, A (2013), Can Donors and Non-state Actors undermine Citizens’ Legitimating Beliefs? Working Paper No.140. AFROBAROMETER.

[5] The counties were Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

[6] Boyce, J. K., & Ndikumana, L (2012), Capital Flight from Sub-Saharan African Countries: Updated Estimates, 1970 – 2010, October 2012. Political Economy Research Institute. University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Free and Fair Elections?


Since 2010, RAU has been pointing out that the most important matter to be resolved ahead of any future elections is the reform of national institutions. This position has been repeatedly supported by SAPES and the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform. SADC, both through the Troika and the Summit, has also insisted on the deep message beneath the GPA: constitution AND reforms, then elections. Most recently, President Jacob Zuma himself has pointed out the need for urgent action ahead. Speaking at the recent meeting in Pretoria of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence, and Security, Zuma made the following points:

  • “Security sector realignment cannot be postponed any longer”;
  • “In this regard Jomic needs to be activated as a matter of priority”;
    “The facilitation team supplemented by the representatives of Tanzania and Zambia must be enabled to participate actively in Jomic”;
  • “Namibia as a member and incoming chair of troika should now be included” ;
  • “Without the above two points it will be difficult to ensure that there is no intimidation and that violence is not allowed to escalate, if and when it occurs.”

So, when the President and the Minister of Justice are quoted as saying that elections will be held by 29th June, and in the shenanigans around the continued detention of Beatrice Mtetwa and the 4 MDC officials and repeated harassment of NGOs, the total absence of reforms is now critical. The kinds of reforms now needed must be realistic and effective, for there is no longer time for the kind of wishful thinking that has characterized most calls for reform by Zimbabwean political parties and civil society bodies.

As we pointed out recently and several times previously, there are four key areas of reform that can change the electoral playing field[1]:

Firstly, the security sector needs oversight, what some have termed Security Sector Governance as opposed to Security Sector Reform. The latter is a decade-long process, while the former merely requires strong civilian oversight of the uniformed services and the intelligence agencies. This achieved in two ways: appointments of the senior officials through full consensus by all political parties, and a wholly civilian oversight body – in Zimbabwe’s case, agreement between the President and the Prime Minister of the appointments to the army, the police, the prisons, and the intelligence service, the disbanding of JOC, and a wholly civilian National Security Council.

Secondly, ensure that all state institutions adhere completely to their enabling legislation. The police are not allowed to be members of political parties or participate in political activities, and shall carry out their duties in a wholly non-partisan manner. Traditional leaders – chiefs, headmen, and village heads – are not allowed to be politically partisan, and must report all crimes in their areas of jurisdiction, without exception, to the police.

Thirdly, the Office of the Attorney-General (and the Attorney-General) must be completely non-partisan. The Attorney-General should be appointed with the agreement of both the President and the Prime Minister.

Fourthly, the state media – television, radio, and the press – shall be regulated by an independent body for instances of bias and the propagation of hate speech. Reform of the state media will a lengthy process, and, thus, in the short term all that is feasible is that there is an effective stop to all political bias and hate speech.

Add to this President Zuma’s latest comment that SADC observers need to be deployed well in advance of the election – now actually if the statements by the President and the Minister of Justice are to be taken seriously.

All of this will be difficult to achieve, but not impossible, but the big question is what to do if there is no credible attempt at reform. There can be only one position, that responsible political parties should not dignify flawed elections by participation. Actually, this should be their position right now. Whatever the constitution says, either the old or the new, adherence to minimal legalism will not solve the Zimbabwe crisis or bring legitimacy to the state if elections are a farce, and elections are farcical if citizens cannot speak, assemble, associate, and vote in complete freedom.

South Africa and SADC seem to see this quite clearly, but do Zimbabwean political parties. So, no reforms, no elections must be the call by all!

written by

Tony Reeler


[1] RAU (2012), On Restoring National Institutions and Elections. The Governance Programme. March 2012. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT; Reeler, A. P (2013), Of Camels, Constitutions, and Elections. February 2013. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.

Can’t say No?


The constitution making process has revealed the utter contempt with which Zimbabwe’s politicians treat the electorate, from Operation Chimumumu of the outreach programme, to insulting our intelligence by constantly claiming that the document they have presented as the proposed new constitution reflects the people views, rather than being the result of inter-party negotiation, and then allowing insufficient time for most people to consider the substance of the draft.

 

Should, however, one reject the draft simply to punish the politicians for this arrogance and to demonstrate that the electorate refuses to be treated so shoddily? On the other hand, if, regardless of the process which produced it, a brilliant document has been prepared is one not being churlish and shooting one’s self in the foot by rejecting the draft? Hardly. Even the proponents of a “yes” vote concede that the document is a poor thing (but their own), the best they could do under the circumstances. It is, we are told, nonetheless “incremental progress” and we should thus vote “yes”.

 

We have heard this argument before. We were told that the Constitutional Commission’s draft of 2000 was progress and we should thus vote “yes”. But the people voted “no” because the draft did not achieve that which they had set as their objective, to reduce the vast powers of the President.

 

We were also told to support the GPA because, although the accord left Mugabe’s vast powers intact, it was the best that could be obtained under the circumstances, was incremental progress and was the means by which the integrity of the electoral process could be restored. A new constitution was presented as one of the instruments by which this would be accomplished.

 

This being the stated intention behind the constitution making process, the draft should be rejected on this ground alone. Its provisions will do nothing to restore the integrity of the electoral process. Certainly it contains hopeful clauses stipulating that elections “must be peaceful, free and fair, free from violence and other electoral malpractices” and that “neither the security services nor any of their members may, in the exercise of their functions act in a partisan manner; further the interests of any political party or cause; prejudice the lawful interests of any political party or cause; or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.” But the constitution very deliberately fails to include any remedy or steps that can be taken if there is no compliance with these provisions. They are thus little more than pretty window dressing designed to allow politicians to tell the naïve that the draft is not all bad.

 

If the new constitution was to address the issue of electoral integrity, then this was the moment to attend to institutional reform, particularly the partisan nature of the criminal justice process and security sector which has played a key role in subverting democratic choice in the past. The MDC politicians proudly tell those who have felt or fear the double whammy of the combined operations of the Commissioner-General of Police and Attorney-General, that this problem has now been addressed. The Attorney-General will no longer be in charge of prosecutions. This will now be done by a Prosecutor-General. They fail to mention that the draft specifically provides that the current Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana, will be the new Prosecutor-General, that the President has the ultimate power to determine his successor in any event and that Chihuri will remain in his post. Hence, rather than addressing partisanship in the application of the criminal justice system, the draft is carefully drawn to ensure that it continues. Similar criticism can be directed at the problem of security sector governance. To make the point, one need only take note of one of many adverse provisions: while in democracies the operations of the intelligence services are governed and regulated by statute, the draft again specifically includes a clause to ensure that this does not happen and allows the intelligence services to remain the unregulated plaything of the President and to be used for party political purposes.

 

The “yes” proponents either obfuscate these issues or ask us to focus on the “incremental gains” reflected in the draft. The incremental gains appear predominantly in the unquestionably greatly improved Declaration of Rights. Its provisions are better for women. Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and inter-sex rights are also given strong support, albeit not by name. There is improved freedom of expression in the media, etc.

 

These “incremental gains” in the Declaration of Rights do nothing to encourage a “yes” vote. They require an uncompromised and uncompromising judiciary and legislative reform to be realised. Contrary to the basic principle of the separation of powers, the draft ensures that the head of the executive retains control over both the judiciary and the legislature. Although there is an improved system of advertising for positions and the public interview of candidates for judicial office, if the President does not like the nominees that emerge from the process, he can by-pass this process and select candidates he finds more amenable. Similarly, the draft retains the President’s power over the legislature. Egregiously, under the present constitution the legislature consists of Parliament and the President who has the power to veto legislation. This is retained under the draft. Certainly, a two-thirds majority in Parliament can override the Presidential veto. But this is highly unlikely to happen in practice. The President is elected at the same time as the Members of Parliament. It is thus improbable that Parliament will comprise enough members opposed to the President, or of a different party, to counter his or her veto.

 

The “yes” and “incremental gain” proponents also disingenuously claim that once they win the elections they will amend the constitution to attend to these problems. But any constitutional amendment will require a two-thirds majority in favour in both Houses of Parliament. The current political configuration suggests that neither party is likely to be able to muster this majority. Hence, once the draft is accepted, the constitution making chapter will be closed and we will be stuck with a document that none regard as satisfactory for the foreseeable future. Politicians from the winning party, which ever that may be, are likely to be comfortable with the overweening powers of the President, even if the electorate is not. A “no” vote will keep the constitution making process alive, which might then continue under more favourable conditions, with a different balance of political power, at a later date. The GPA only requires that there be a referendum on the constitution before the elections – not that a new constitution be in place by then. So why the rush to bring the constitution making process to an end?

 

The rush is because the draft constitution provides a convenient fig leaf for SADC’s ineffectiveness and anaemic responses in the face of ZANU PF’s refusal to affect the reforms necessary for a credible election. None of the essential reforms necessary for the integrity of the electoral process have been implemented during the course of the GNU.  It also provides a convenient escape route for SADC, facing yet another flawed election in Zimbabwe. SADC has already started preparing the claim that although “not all” the reforms provided for by the GPA were implemented at least the election was conducted under a new constitution – an approach which delights ZANU PF. From there will follow the non-sequitur, (based on the off key refrain that a new constitution will protect the integrity of the electoral process) that the vote substantially reflects the will of the people and the poll is thus acceptable. A “no” vote will strip away this fig leaf and close this escape route for SADC. The narrow democratic space in which the elections will undoubtedly be conducted will thus be there for all to see.

 

The advantages of a “no” vote are thus readily apparent. It requires one to peer very closely at the draft through thick rose tinted glasses to discern any advantages accruing from a “yes” vote.

 

Derek Matyszak 05.03.13

 

 

What is Election Violence?


This seems a rather stupid question to ask, and especially in Zimbabwe where we talk about this endlessly. However, this is not a trivial question, and we remember 2008 and 2002 more clearly than we do 2005. Simply put, is the killing, beating, and raping of citizens worse from the point of elections than the threatening, terrifying, and starving of the them? It all depends on the purpose and the consequence.

 

If the consequence is to change the result of the vote and hence who governs, then surely both are equivalent as regards the final result: that those who use either strategy subvert the real purpose of elections? Which is what? Surely that the citizens can ensure, freely, that those that govern have the mandate to govern?

 

So, we need to be very clear, when we talk about elections, and we talk about election violence, that we are clear about what this is. So, when killing, beating, and raping do not happen, but threatening, terrifying, and starving does, we are certain that election violence still happened. We need no repeats of 2008 and 2002, or  even 2005!

 

So what do we mean when we talk about election violence? Consider this definition:

 

…Acts or threats of coercion, intimidation, or physical harm perpetrated to affect an

electoral process or that arises in the context of electoral competition. When

perpetrated to affect an electoral process, violence may be employed to influence the process of elections – such as efforts to delay, disrupt, or derail a poll – and to influence the outcomes: the determining of winners in competitive races for political office or to secure approval or disapproval of referendum questions.

 

As Timothy Sisk points out above this is considerably broader than the presence of physical violence: it is the range of activities aimed at subverting the will of ordinary citizens to freely exercise their choice[1].

 

Electoral violence is a sub-type of political violence in which actors employ coercion in an

instrumental way to advance their interests or achieve specific political ends. Similarly,

societies prone to experiencing election-related violence are normally vulnerable to

broader kinds of political violence; Kosovo, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, or

Colombia are examples of instances in which electoral violence is embedded in a

broader, often ongoing context of deep-rooted social conflict.

 

Electoral violence includes acts, such as assassination of opponents or spontaneous

fisticuffs between rival groups of supporters and threats, coercion, and intimidation of

opponents, voters, or election officials. Threat and intimidation is a form of coercion

that is just as powerful as acts of violence can be. Indeed, one purpose of acts of

terrorism such as tossing a grenade into a crowd of rival supporters is an act

diabolically designed to induce fear and to intimidate (e.g., to suppress mobilization or

voting by that group).

 

Violent acts can be targeted against people or things, such as the targeting of

communities or candidates or the deliberate destruction of campaign materials, vehicles,

offices, or ballot boxes.

 

Electoral violence is more than just physical violence: it is the purpose behind violence, and the oscillation between physical violence and psychological violence that enable us to understand this purpose in Zimbabwe. The results of the elections in 2005 can only be understood in the context of the violence of 2002 and 2008. That 2005 was less violent than the two previous elections is not really the point, and it would be useful here if the South African Government would stop contesting the release of the Khampepe/Moseneke report: we could then see the nexus between 2000/2002 and 2005.

 

And, just maybe, SADC would own up to the Principles that it promulgated so piously in 2005, and start to insist that the GPA required constitutional change and reform, then elections, rather than accepting the weak compromise offered by the GNU of constitutional change, then elections and reform. Then maybe the SADC Treaty would be a real, substantive document as opposed to a loose-leaf folder from which pages are removed whenever they are inconvenient! And they are especially inconvenient when elections (and sometimes courts and court decisions) leave the members in potential conflict with each other over who has the right to rule.


[1] Sisk, T. D, Elections in Fragile States: Between Voice and Violence. Paper Prepared for The International Studies Association Annual Meeting. San Francisco, California. March 24-28, 2008.

Change is Possible and Change is Happening


Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Executive Director: Message for International Women’s Day 2013

Today on International Women’s Day I join every individual who believes that change is possible. We are guided by a founding principle of the United Nations: the equal rights of men and women.

All around the world, our voices are rising, and silence and indifference are declining. Change is possible. And change is happening.

Change is happening when every country, for the first time in history, has women on their Olympic teams, as they did this past summer in London.

Change is happening when people worldwide declare solidarity with a Pakistani girl who was shot for championing education for all, a girl named Malala.

Change is happening when protests erupt across the globe with women and men, young and old, rising up and saying no to violence against women.

Today on International Women’s Day I have a message that has two sides, one of hope and one of outrage.

I have hope because awareness and action are rising for women’s rights. A belief is growing that enough is enough.

But I am outraged because women and girls continue to suffer high levels of discrimination, violence, and exclusion. They are routinely blamed and made to feel shame for the violence committed against them, and they too often search in vain for justice.

My message today is simple and straightforward. This year on International Women’s Day, we say enough is enough. Discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century. It is time for Governments to keep their promises and protect human rights in line with the international conventions and agreements that they signed onto. A promise is a promise.

When we set up UN Women more than two years ago, we made ending violence against women one of our top priorities. We are fully aware that this requires changing attitudes and making headway towards equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation, especially in decision-making.

Last November, on behalf of UN Women I sent a letter to all heads of State and Government of the United Nations. I asked them to COMMIT and announce new actions to prevent and end violence against women and girls. So far, some 45 Governments have committed. I urge all Governments to commit to actions to end violence against women.

As we observe this Day, Government representatives and activists are gathered at the United Nations for the largest international gathering on ending violence against women. At the 57th Commission on the Status of Women, Governments are negotiating a global roadmap of actions to prevent and end these widespread human rights violations.

Ten years ago, when nations came together in this forum on this same issue, they were unable to reach agreement. Today, we cannot allow disagreement and indecision to block progress for the world’s women.

Yes, change is possible and change is happening. But given the atrocities committed each day, we must ask ourselves: Is change happening fast enough? How many more women and girls need to be violated? How many more families need to suffer?

The right of a woman to live free of violence depends on a strong chain of justice. Countries that enact and enforce laws on violence against women have less gender-based violence. Today 160 countries have laws to address violence against women. However, a law is only as strong as its enforcement and in too many cases enforcement is lacking.

So let us work together for strong laws and policies and for effective implementation. Let us work together for prevention and education and for programmes that provide essential services for the victims and survivors of violence.

int women's day 2013

Today and every day we say NO to discrimination and violence against women and girls.

NO to domestic violence and abuse.

NO to rape and sexual violence.

NO to human trafficking and sexual slavery.

NO to female genital mutilation.

NO to child brides and child marriage.

NO to murders committed in the name of honour or passion.

NO to femicide.

NO to impunity.

And we say YES to peace, human rights, justice and equality.

Today on International Women’s Day and every day, let us go forward with courage, conviction and commitment, with the message that women’s issues are global issues that deserve urgent priority. There can be no peace, no progress as long as women live under the fear of violence.

Let’s keep our promise!


We have been speaking about an end to violence against women at every opportunity we have e.g. during the 16 Days of Gender Activism, The Women and Peace Conference  and on V Day with the One Billion Rising and we will speak up again on International Women’s Day on the 8th March but where is the action?

This year’s theme for Women’s Day  is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” Let’s all do our part to end the violence against women and girls.

women and peace

But how will we do this? How can we really change the world so that it is women friendly? Are we trying to make patriarchy more “female friendly”? Or are we trying to re-design patriarchy altogether? Is this time to start the conversation amongst women about what a “women designed” world might look like and would it look anything like the world as it is?

One place to start is in discussions about the political structures that govern all of us. What would democracy look like if designed by women? Zimbabwean women, supported by Idasa, have begun this project and their first thoughts have been published and will be presented in a book being launched on Friday this week. If you are interested, come to the launch at the Book Café at 11am on Friday, 8th March.