Statement for International Women’s Day


This year’s UN theme is Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” and it is a call for people to visualise a present and a future in which all of humanity is empowered because women and girls have been empowered. It is recognition that the energy, talent and strength of women and girls represent humankind’s most invaluable untapped natural resource. It is a call to the individual responsibility to imagine the world as it could be, and to do what one can to achieve that vision. It is also, more pertinently, a nudge and reminder to governments, civil society and public and private sectors to commit to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls – as a fundamental human right and a force for the benefit of all.

Working for equality for women and girls around the globe is the key to fighting poverty, political instability and social injustice and all the evils that beleague society in its broadest sense. Over the years, the struggle to get women’s rights integrated into the general human rights framework and to have key decision making institutions recognise the importance of issues related to women and girls have been fruitful. Every major institution and government has at the very least acknowledged that ending discrimination and violence against women are fundamental to achieving gender equality. Many have committed to working on these issues.

This year as the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), we commemorate International Women’s Day in Zimbabwe, by reawakening a call to all actors to remind us of where we ought to be. For when we empower a woman we empower a nation. Empowering the women of Zimbabwe means we must strive to provide educational opportunities for all girls and women of all ages, for them to be able to realise their full potential. No girl child should be deprived of this opportunity for any reason.

It means ending gender based violence in the private and public sphere. .We must strive with every breath to eradicate all traditional, cultural and social practices that continue to discriminate and dehumanise the women of Zimbabwe.

All laws must be aligned to International human rights standards and the Constitution to ensure that every woman has full and equal dignity as well as have equal opportunities with men.. Until we all make this commitment, we cannot move forward as a nation.

For until we all acknowledge in word and in practice that women are the core of our humanity we will never change our reality. Let us continue to work together to make this world a better place for all women. Together we can make it happen!


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.

Address Women’s issues now!

Going through my e-mails , I came across an auto-reply from a South African colleague, saying she was on leave from work for a  week, as part of Women’s Month commemorated in South Africa every August. Curious, I followed the website link she had provided to get an insight into what the commemoration was all about.
It turns out that South African women are among thousands of women across the globe that spend a month celebrating women’s contribution to the survival and existence of humanity in history and contemporary society.
Not only South Africa celebrates women’s history month but also the United States every March, and in the United Kingdom , Australia and Canada in October, women are celebrated.  In South Africa, the month long commemorations were even marked by protests and marches, as thousands of women took to the streets, demanding the equal treatment of women in all sectors.
The popularity of women’s history celebrations has become widespread and in Africa it is increasingly becoming an important event on the feminist calendar. It has actually become a money spinner for women’s movements, who instead of using the money to assist the poor and marginalized women who need help, organise unnecessary workshops and other events. Yes, initially I was a bit disappointed that the World Woman’s Month does not appear on our national calendar and public holiday events, with the exception of the International Women’s Day, which largely goes unnoticed.
It is also sad to note that there is a black out on the month long celebrations in Zimbabwe, while in neighboring South Africa, it was a big event.

But on second thoughts, I realised that there was no real reason for Zimbabwean women to spend time questioning whether we celebrate or not. What women need to do is to establish whether the programmes that non-governmental organisations and policy makers have been implementing to help empower women socially, politically and economically, warrants any form of celebration, whether it be a day or a month.

Zimbabwean Women marching

For a long time, non-governmental organisations, the civic society, political parties and even the government have been mouthing platitudes on “women’s empowerment”, “gender equality”, “gender mainstream” and other equally empty euphemisms that have done little to improve the plight of the ordinary woman.
All these euphemisms have been supported by high-sounding national, regional and international conferences where women’s empowerment issues, have been discussed ad infinitum.


International Women’s Day Press Release

This Press Release was published in the Daily News and in Newsday on International Women’s Day

(8 March 2012) Today, the Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU], an NGO working on providing specialist assistance in research and advocacy in the field of human rights, democracy and governance calls on the Zimbabwean government to eradicate politically motivated violence against women as it is a drawback to the development of communities in commemoration of International Women’s Day.

RAU is deeply concerned with the manner in which political violence has contributed to poverty and poverty traps for rural women. Political violence as witnessed during the 2008 disputed elections resulted in the injury of many women, leaving them maimed and unable to fend for their families. Breadwinners were killed or disappeared resulting in income losses and at times forcing families into abject poverty.

Homes were destroyed and whole granaries of harvest burnt to ashes. This loss of assets forced many women into deprivation and economic distress from which they are still to recover.  In many of the cases, national leadership, traditional leadership and the police were unresponsive to the women’s pleas for protection and accountability.

Homes Destroyed-Picture Credit SW Radio Africa

RAU also notes that political violence affected education and literacy, two important factors to the eradication of poverty among rural populations. The disruption in schools by political campaigns as well as the setting up of political bases at schools created security fears among communities as schools had become political battlefields. As a result the girl-child dropped out of school and teachers fled to ‘safe’ zones, depriving especially rural school children of skilled teachers and the teachers of their sources of livelihood.

Political violence also impacted the delivery of health services which is an essential indicator of poverty in any country. Victims of the violence incurred injuries, ill-health and severe psychological damage. Most of these individuals have still not received adequate redress.

RAU expresses concern with the eradication of poverty especially among rural youths as such persistent poverty created grounds for youths’ increased participation in violent campaigns during the 2008 elections.

RAU calls on the  Government  to  end  political violence against women in Zimbabwe by bringing perpetrators to book, providing assistance to victims and preventing recurrence of  such violence in the future as part of their ongoing campaign. It further calls for the involvement of women in positive and committed reconciliation processes because this is not only a question of justice but also sustainable development. RAU calls for humanitarian and psychosocial support for all the women affected by political violence as reiterated in the Global Political Agreement and the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Gender and Development which protects and upholds women’s human rights to which Zimbabwe is a party.

RAU also implores the government to direct the Zimbabwe Republic Police to investigate and prosecute all perpetrators of political violence against women. In the absence of such measures, the recurrence of violence is highly likely. Such violence only serves to entrench regression of the status of women, especially rural women into poverty.