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!

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You can’t defeat gender violence without solidarity amongst women.


By Tony Reeler 

Women discriminate and degrade one another, they are overcome by jealousy and dont like other women to be promoted.” (Woman from Chivhu)

One of the major problems that blocks effective action in stopping gender violence is the lack of solidarity among women, what some have called the PhD syndrome – “pull her down”. It is not a trivial problem, and, over the years, Zimbabwean women have raised this as a problem. Some of this lack of solidarity seems to be derived from women’s lack of confidence in themselves. In the Mass Public Opinion Institute gender survey in 2002, only 29% of women stated that “women are more receptive to women leaders.”And in answer to the question, “in your opinion, do women pull each other down?”, 75% of women answered in the affirmative.

So, women are not in favour of women leaders, and, those that are, probably cannot count on the support of their fellow women. But maybe things have changed since 2002?

Actually, no!

In 2013, a majority (94%) of the sample of women stated in research done by RAU and The Women’s Trust (TWT) that they would vote for a woman candidate, which is encouraging, but this was minimised by their responses to two other questions. There were differences between rural and urban women, but the trend was apparent. Nearly half (49%) of rural women, and more than half (58%) of urban women, felt that there were so few women parliamentary candidates because of the PhD syndrome. As for support, only 38% of rural women and 21% of urban women felt that older women had done a great job in supporting younger women.

Added to this picture, the Afrobarometer survey in 2012 demonstrated quite dramatically that nothing had changed since the MPOI survey in 2002. 89% of rural women and 91% of urban women stated in the affirmative to the question, do men make better leaders than women?

So, how can solidarity work when women hold such contradictory views? They want more representation, but do not believe that those women that they might elect will be as good as the men. They want to elect women, but believe that women won’t get elected because women themselves will not only support other women, but will actively undermine them. And they don’t believe that older women do much in encouraging younger women.

Why should this be the case? Well, we see the symptoms. The disease is diagnosed quite simply by some women from a focus discussion group in 2010:

Usually in our culture women dont decide for themselves, youre supposed to seek permission first from your husband so that you can do something. Secondly those women who participate in politics mostly are labelled prostitutes. So you wont feel comfortable if youre a woman and say you want to become an MP or something, they will say, “look at that prostitute so it discourages women from participating. And in our culture we always know that men are leaders so its another factor which discourages us. The other problem is our patriarchal societies, the cultural beliefs in our society, women think that they are inferior and cannot stand on their own. Sometimes its fear of the unknown and sometimes it is ignorance.” (Women from civic group)

Celebrating achievements by women in politics


Women in politics in Zimbabwe this week have two major reasons to celebrate; Vice President Joice Mujuru earned her PhD in Philosophy and Senator Sekai Holland assumed the position of Interim party President of the MDC Renewal team.

Although Mai Mujuru is not the first woman in Zimbabwe or in her political party, to earn her PhD, she has shown that with hard work and perseverance a woman can do anything she puts her mind while standing up to patriarchy, something she has been doing for the past 30 odd years. Joice Mujuru has many accolades to her name, a legitimate Liberation War veteran, one of the first women commanders in the ZANLA forces, the youngest cabinet minister in Zimbabwe’s first cabinet, taking the portfolio of Sports, Youth and Recreation, the first female Vice President, and now she can add Doctor to her name.

She graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the 59th University of Zimbabwe graduation ceremony on September 12, 2014. Mai Mujuru received her undergraduate degree from the Women’s University in Africa as well as a Masters in Strategic Management. She also graduated with a Masters Degree in Entrepreneurial Development from Chinhoyi University of Technology. Mai Mujuru said ‘this should inspire my children and other women to pursue education and empower themselves. It was not easy going to school after independence but I persevered. I am a grandmother, a widow and occupy the second office from the first. I have enormous responsibilities but I worked hard.”

On the other side of the political spectrum Senator Sekai Holland has become the Interim party President of the MDC renewal team. In her statement, released on September 16, Senator Holland said she assumes this position because MDC T has failed to live up to its constitutional principles and ‘violence as a means of control and oppression remains a central feature of the Party with accusations never investigated properly that it emanates from the president’s office.’ She says as a torture survivor she cannot continue to be associated with a party that has made no serious effort to eradicate violence and has failed to institute mechanisms to deal with this, especially where thousands of members have been victims, including the president of the party himself.

Sekai Holland, in the same statement, stated that she is deeply embarrassed by the party’s silence on the president’s attitude and behavior towards women. Patriarchy is still very much alive regardless of all the strides that Zimbabwe has made to empower women in a bid to bring about gender equality. Our Constitution in section 80 (1) states every woman has equal dignity of the person with men and this includes equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities. Both Joice Mujuru and Sekai Holland have shown that success for women in their chosen field and in their own right is attainable and congratulations are in order.

This is an inspiration week for women in Zimbabwe, especially for women in politics, as the Women’s Trust said in their campaign ‘Women Can Do it!’

By
KudakwasheChitsike

Talking About A Revolution !


Every Constitution has provisions that determine the powers that a President has. In the Current Zimbabwean Constitution the President has very extensive powers.

The President has the power to appoint up to 33 Senators: 5 directly appointed as senators, 10 provincial governors, and 18 chiefs. He/She has the power to appoint the Attorney General, the Registrar General, judges of the Supreme Court and High Court, members of the Judicial Services Commission. He/she also has a say in the appointment of Commissioners to the Anti-corruption Commission and the Human Rights Commission. He/she makes all the senior appointments to the security services.

The President has the prerogative of mercy, and hence can pardon any political or other prisoners.  Under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures Act), the President can enact laws or regulations by decree for at least six months. By 2001, President Robert Mugabe had legislated 450 times by decree through Statutory Instruments covering various Acts of Parliament.

So, it is no exaggeration to say that he or she that captures that post is the most influential person in the country, and can make an enormous difference to what happens in the country, for good or ill. So think about a possible future development.

The results of the South Africa Census show that there are more than 1,3 million more women than men. Zimbabwe currently has 4% more women than men with women constituting of 52% while men comprise 48 % of the population. Effectively, given the estimated 12.6 million total of the population, and assuming that half of the population is under the age of 18 (and thus cannot vote), it means that there are about a quarter of a million more women voters than men.

Now imagine if all 52% percent of women in Zimbabwe were to agree never to vote for a male candidate?

Imagine if all women voted for a female President.

Imagine if the House of Assembly and Senate all had women.

Imagine if the female President would appoint female judges to preside over all cases.

Imagine if the female President appointed female chiefs to preside over customary law.

Imagine if the female President appointed female governors to decide and execute the priorities of different regions.

Imagine if the female President appointed the Attorney General to prosecute all cases on behalf of the state.

Imagine if the female President appointed a female Registrar General to decide the processes of acquiring birth certificates, passports and other identity documents things that are central to children’s well being and women’s survival as cross border traders.

Also imagine if the female President could change any act of Parliament- on that list would be a repeal of the Termination of Pregnancy Act which limits women’s ability to determine their reproductive health, the laws on loitering (limiting women’s freedom of movement), laws on guardianship (limiting women’s rights in relation to their children), marriage laws (limiting women’s options and rights in marriage).

Imagine finally that no man would ever hold political office of any kind unless he had the support of women.

All this is possible. But only if the 52% women in Zimbabwe are united instead of pulling each other down and with a single purpose decide to empower themselves through the power they hold in numbers. Talk about a Revolution!!!

Thomas Sankara’s Women.


Thomas Sankara was an iconic figure of revolution. Referred to as the Che Guevara of Africa, he was a Marxist revolutionary, military man, a Pan-Africanist, and the President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987, when he was assassinated in a coup d’état. He is popularly known as the young military captain who seized power though a coup in a bid to eliminate corruption and power of the former French colonial master, and he launched Africa’s most ambitious social and economic programme to date. However, he was also passionate about gender equality and the recognition of the role of women in all aspects of economic and social life. In his famous speech of October 2, 1983, he stated “We cannot transform society while maintaining domination and discrimination against women who constitute over half of the population.”

Thomas Sankara

Sankara followed up his words with actions, which is very uncommon with today’s heads of state, as they talk big, sign various regional and international protocols and instruments, which aim to protect and promote women’s rights, which are then ratified but never domesticated and implemented. For example, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been ratified by eight of the fifteen countries; one more country needs to ratify it before it can become law. The protocol has 28 targets to be met by 2015at this rate none of these targets will be met. This effectively means that domination and discrimination of women continues.

Sankara was one of the first African heads of state, perhaps the only one in his time, to condemn female exclusion, a position that reflected his unwavering commitment to the emancipation of women and the struggle against all forms of discrimination against women. By the way, if we look at the rate at which equality in legislatures is developing, we will have parity between men and women by the end of the 21st century at the current rate.

Improving women’s status was one of Sankara’s explicit goals, and his government included a large number of women, an unprecedented policy priority in West Africa at that time. His commitment to women’s was evident as his government banned female genital mutilation, forced marriages, and polygamy. He also appointed females to high governmental positions and encouraging them to work outside the home, and even stay in school if pregnant. Sankara also promoted contraception and encouraged husbands to go to market and prepare meals to experience for themselves the conditions faced by women. Furthermore, Sankara was the first African leader to appoint women to major cabinet positions and to recruit them actively for the military. This paved the way for the rest of Africa resulting in Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Joyce Banda of Malawi; the only two female presidents in Africa.

In Zimbabwe we have a female deputy President and a female deputy Prime Minister, but we are far from having a female president. According to Netsai Mushonga, National Director of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), speaking at a Food for Thought discussion session held at the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs auditorium in Harare recently “(It’s about) getting a woman or a clique of women who are strategic enough to position themselves to take over as the president of a country; no one will allow us. I think we simply have to take it by force. I think Zimbabwe can have a female president even as early as five to six years from now… (but now) we are still in a patriarchal state.” She said this in a response to a question from the audience.  Why are we waiting five to six years, why not challenge the patriarchy now and field a candidate in the next Presidential election? We have to take it by force; no one is going to hand it to us on a silver platter. Unfortunately for us, we do not have a Thomas Sankara in our corner.