A few hours from now, the world will be celebrating the 2017 International Women’s Day and the day comes at a time when women still lag behind in income parity and opportunities of leadership, despite leaders across the world having pledged to take action as champions of gender equality.
By Clarity Sibanda
Women and girls in Zimbabwe constitute 52% of the population but their participation in leadership has been questionable despite the Government‘s call for participation with Section 80 of the Zimbabwean Constitution reading a) Every woman has full and equal dignity of the person with women and this includes equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.
According to Womankind Worldwide a charity organisation raising the status of women via direct involvement in the community, few women make it into politics in Zimbabwe and those who do often hold limited power and still face challenges in being seen as equal to their male counterparts .
While Zimbabwe has implemented proportional representation in parliament out of all the 41 cabinet ministers, only a few are women and these include Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri , Prisca Mupfumira, Nyasha Chikwinya and Sithembiso Nyoni.
Ennie Makoni, a gender activist says the problems that are facing women are magnified and can be traced back to the family where primary socialization starts and where roles are allocated according to gender.
“We have low participation of women in the political sphere due to patriarchy that has always dominated in politics. In most situations women do not have the poise to stand up for themselves and even to stand up and be counted as leaders. There are abuses that we women suffer in political spheres be they sexual or emotional and these have stripped us of our dignity. This is the time for the society to change its mindset on gender roles and for women to take up leadership positions and show their capabilities. This year‘s theme, be bold for change comes at a crucial time in our country as we prepare for the 2018 elections. We need more women who will represent the marginalized communities in parliament. This is the time for us to be bold and show the world that despite our biological make up we are equal to men”.
Tariro Daphne Senderayi, a youth who has been actively involved in calling for young people to meaningfully participate in electoral processes through the #SheVotes2018 campaign being run by the organisation Women for Women Solidarity said women must write their own narrative.
“As Mother Theresa put it, I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. As we celebrate this day let us continue supporting each other as women. It is disheartening to note that the stories of young African women who are doing phenomenal work and inspiring others are not being told enough and this is the time to change the situation. We should take it upon ourselves to document the African narrative of women so that the world may recognize that there is so much talent and potential not only in Zimbabwe but in the African continent”.
Patricia Munatsi a Law student at the University of Zimbabwe added that as the International women‘s day draws near, women should be cautious of their journey.
“International Women’s Day is a celebration of motherhood, sisterhood and our achievements. Let us celebrate all women for they are greatest human species that have ever walked this earth. We need to mentor other young women and pass on the torch so that our future will be brighter. I believe if you educate a woman you have educated the nation”.
FEMPRIST Director and keen advocate for women‘s rights, Dr Rita Nyampinga said women‘s struggles must be supported especially in this atmosphere where capitalists have used women ‘sweat to enrich themselves and being bold for change and fighting capitalism is what is needed.
Ester Boserup in her book: Women’s Role in Economic Development (1970) argued that the incorporation of women into existing economies will see them benefitting more from the opportunities of development.
After all is said and done what Zimbabwe needs are determined female members who are inspired to make a change in the community by fully participating on development issues. Women have to be integrated in development planning. Gone are those days when society advocated for a Victorian kind of women whose role was confined in doing household chores. What is needed is a mindset shift as noted in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’s key feature, leaving no one behind.
International Women’s Day which is celebrated on March 8 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call of action for accelerating gender parity and we hope the 2018 Zimbabwe elections will open a new chapter in the participation of women in politics.