Keynote Address by the Chairperson of the ZGC, Commissioner M Mukahanana-Sangarwe

 

MUTASA DISTRICT

 It is a great honour and privilege for me and the rest of the Commissioners to be among the MUTASA community today. We sincerely thank you for honouring us with your presence. We are not here to preach to you but to have a dialogue with you under the following objectives:

  1. To introduce to you the members of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission including our mandate.
  2. To discuss with you how to achieve equality in the participation of both women and men in Politics and Decision making in light of the upcoming 2018 national elections.
  3. To look at the barriers in achieving this parity and together come up with practical ways of closing this gap.
  4. To agree what your Commission should do to assist in achieving this noble cause.

During the outreaches that were carried out by COPAC in the process of constitution making in 2012, there was a call by the people of Zimbabwe especially women for the establishment of an independent body that will ensure that there is equality in the participation of men, women, boys and girls in all aspects of Zimbabwean socio-economic and socio- political development. This Commission was a response to this call.

The Zimbabwe Gender Commission was established by Section 245 of the new Constitution and became operational in September 2015 after the appointment and swearing in of 9 Commissioners by his Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe Cde R.G. Mugabe to steer the work of the Commission.

The Zimbabwe Gender Commission is mandated with the overall responsibility of facilitating the promotion of gender equality and equity as well as ensuring that the gender related provisions of the constitution are implemented.

Specifically the Gender Commission has the following functions:

  1. To monitor issues concerning gender equality to ensure gender equality as provided in this Constitution;
  2. To investigate possible violations of rights relating to gender;
  3. To receive and consider complaints from the public and to take such action in regard to the complaints as it considers appropriate
  4. 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;
  5. To advise public and private institutions on steps to be taken to ensure gender equality;
  6. To recommend affirmative action programmes to achieve gender equality;
  7. To recommend prosecution for criminal violations of rights relating to gender;
  8. To secure appropriate redress where rights relating to gender have been violated; and
  9. To do everything necessary to promote gender equality.

Distinguished guests, ladies and Gentlemen

The Commission acknowledges the significant strides made by our Government in promoting, protecting and safeguarding women’s rights through legal and policy frameworks.

At international level, the Government of Zimbabwe is State Party to a number of instruments that promote gender equality. Zimbabwe is a State Party to the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the AU Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

 

The adoption of the new Constitution in 2013 was a major milestone in the history of Zimbabwe as it brings parity between Zimbabwean men, women, boys and girls. However, this is still on paper and need to be brought to reality. This is why the Commission is here. However, the Commission cannot achieve this alone without the cooperation of every citizen on Zimbabwe including all of you here.

Section 56 (2) of the new Constitution on equality and discrimination clearly states that “ Women and men have the right to equal treatment including to the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.

Further, section 56 (3) states that “Every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as custom , culture sex gender, marital status, age, pregnancy, disability among other grounds

In addition, Section 17 of the Constitution calls upon Government to ensure full gender balance and to take measures to promote the full participation of women in all spheres on the basis of equality with men. This includes equal representation in all institutions, agencies of government, commissions and other elective bodies at all levels. Women’s access to resources, including land on the basis of equality with men is also guaranteed.

Our Government has also taken progressive steps by enacting and amending several laws to enhance the legal status of women. These include laws that protect women’s inheritance and property rights, protecting them from domestic and sexual violence, protecting them from discrimination in the labour market as well as promoting their participation in decision making positions.

At policy level, The Revised National Gender Policy provides a guiding framework for mainstreaming gender in all sectors of the economy. Further, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio Economic Transformation blueprint (ZIMASSET) (2013-2018) clearly recognise the centrality of gender mainstreaming in achieving the country’s development agenda.

In terms of economic rights numerous programmes and projects have been introduced. These include a Women’s Development Fund which requires no collateral security to promote economic empowerment of women at grassroots level. I am also informed that plans to establish a Women’s Micro-Finance Bank are at an advanced stage.

In terms of women’s access to land, under the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme a 20% quota was reserved for women as result 29% of women acquired land in their own right.

In terms of women participation in decision making, the Constitution provides for a reserved quota for women in the lower house and proportional representation in the senate. Our national laws also promote the equal participation of women and men in public life; entitle them to vote in all elections, and are eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies established by national law.

The above initiatives are an acknowledgement that women have been disadvantaged in many respects and therefore need special attention to bring about parity with their male counterparts.

Just to give you some idea on the disparities I am talking about given that women constitute 52% of the population of Zimbabwe. With regards to political participation and decision making, notwithstanding the reserved quota for women in parliament, there is still very low representation of women in that body. Statistics show that women constitute only 34% of the current parliament (125 women out of 350, that is 48% in Senate and 31% in the National Assembly) Out of 26 ministers only 3 are women, out of 10 ministers for provincial affairs (former Governors) only 3 are women, out of 19 Deputy Ministers, only 5 are women and of the 1635 councillors, only 323 are female.

The statistics also show that women are underrepresented at the highest levels in Government and in the corporate sector and other economic and social institutions. According to the research done out in 2015, out 64 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of companies listed on the stock exchange, only 3 CEOs were females. (4.68 %) and out of the 103 CEOs of state owned parastatals there were only 15 female CEOs. Out of 26 permanent secretaries, only 8 are females.

Ladies and gentlemen, the key role of the Gender Commission is to monitor and ensure that all the above gender related costitutional provisions and related laws and policies are implimented. The Commission however notes with concern that whilst the legal and policy framework is in place, structural barriers to gender equality and gender-based discrimination still persist in the country. These gender gaps are rooted in historically unequal power relations between women and men which is further reinforced through gender stereotypes, patriachy and socialisation.

Economic and social development which excludes half of the populations cannot be sustainable. At the global level research has shown that the world is losing $17 trillion dollars a year by excluding women from participation in sustainable development activities. We need to find out how much we are losing in Zimbabwe through this exclusion of women.

The Commission reaffirms that without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, cannot be achieved.

It is against this background that we have convened this dialogue so that we can build consensus on strategies to accelerate equal participation of Women and Men in Politics and Decision making in the upcoming 2018 national elections. This should logically start at local government level. We want to see the next elections having a greater number of women registering or being put forward by their political parties to contest alongside their male counterparts on the basis of equality. We will be talking to different political parties to ensure that their constitutions promote gender equality in line with the Constitution of the country. Our vision is to see an equal number of both men and women contesting in elections so that the need for proportional representation will go away.

Our dialogues are going to be divided into three groups and the group on political participation should identify challenges that women face in their bid to participate in political and leadership positions and recommend key actions to accelerate increased gender balance. It is pleasing to note that among the participants, we have seasoned politicians with wealth of experience which we can utilise to come up with concrete positions and recommendations.

Ladies and gentlemen, with regards to economic empowerment, despite various efforts by the Government, women’s organizations and other development partners, women still remain at the bottom of the economic ladder. Research shows that the face of poverty remains predominantly female in both urban and rural areas. Gender biases and patriarchal cultural norms are particularly detrimental to rural women and prevent them from realizing their full economic potential.

Economic empowerment is about access to and control of resources. This means women having access to income, control of income at household level, ownership of productive resources such as land and other and assets, have own savings, have access to credit , and have specialized skills.

Women entrepreneurs still face challenges with regard to access to markets, credit, financial services, infrastructure and procurement opportunities.

Because of the centrality of women’s economic empowerment in achieving gender equality and sustainable development, the Commission is looking forward that the Dialogue today will come up with a detailed analysis of barriers to women’s economic empowerment and come up with concrete recommendations.

As the Gender Commission we believe that “investing in women’s economic empowerment is smart economics and the right thing to do”

Ladies and gentlemen, the Commission is greatly concerned with the rising cases of child marriages and the consequences to the girl child. Child marriages prevent girls mostly from realising their potential and this negatively impact on gender equality. According to the recent statistics from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in 2016 over 4500 minors have dropped out of school due to child marriages country wide of which 3955 are girls and 264 are boys. Statistics also show that in Zimbabwe, 34% of women aged 20 – 24 years old were married or were in union before they were eighteen years old. Child marriage constitutes a violation of children’s rights. Let us give our children in particular girls the chance to grow and realise their dreams. If you imagine how many of these girls in child marriages could be of future doctors, lawyers and engineers and what contribution they would make to the economic development of our country.

It is also our expectation that this meeting is going to discuss ways of curbing this scourge. We will also rely on the wise counsel of our traditional leaders who are here present to help us in awareness campaigns at community level. We also urge the relevant Government Ministries to ensure that marriage laws are urgently realigned to our Constitution to ensure that 18 years subsists as the legal age of marriage and sexual consent. As a Commission we will not hesitate to investigate cases of child marriages and recommend prosecution of such cases.

Gender Based Violence another challenges that the Country is currently grappling with, especially rape and sexual abuse of minors. We are also expecting that the gender dialogues will discuss this and other social cultural and religious issues that fuel gender inequalities and discrimination. Let’s also look at the aspect of socialisation. The family is the primary source of socialization. The family’s conduct and values greatly influence the socialization of children. Gender roles are social constructs that are propagated by parents during childhood. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness among families about the importance of raising children in a non-discriminatory and violence-free environment. We also believe that, involvement of men and boys in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women is critical in challenging gender stereotypes.

May I take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation to UNDP through the joint programme on gender equality for providing financial resources to convene this important meeting. Our appreciation also goes to the Women’s Law Center for their technical assistance.

I would also like to give a special thanks to the Ministry Of Women Affairs Gender And Community Development officials for mobilising all key stakeholders to attend this important dialogue.

In concluding, I want to highlight that as the Commission, we have not come to preach to you, nor have we come with solutions but to engage, listen and take forward your recommendations to the respective duty bearers.

With these remarks I want to declare the MUTASA District Gender Dialogue officially opened and wish you fruitful deliberations.

I THANK YOU