A framework for the right to a better life

Erik Brøgger Rasmussen
Zimbabwe is about to launch the Girl’s and Young Women’s Empowerment Framework, which is the first national document that guides how young women and girls can be empowered to live meaningful lives.

This is an important milestone in the progress towards a society that is free from discrimination and violence against women and girls. The launch comes at a time when the country has made considerable progress in empowering women in different ways. Women, mostly in urban areas, are generally well educated, they have access to university education, they get good jobs, they deliver when they work and are very competent.

I have experienced this through my work here in Zimbabwe and in my general engagement with the people.

Denmark’s contribution towards the Girl’s and Young Women’s Empowerment Framework and other gender programmes in Zimbabwe stems from the fact that gender equality is a core value. We believe all human beings are equal irrespective of gender.

Such a basic human rights principle is a driver for positive change and is common ground for all because it is based on commitments made by the countries themselves.

International and regional human rights instruments serve as a compass to guide our efforts, for example the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. Therefore, we take a human rights-based approach in our development cooperation with other nations.

Such instruments clearly indicate that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, that no one must be discriminated on the basis of sex, and that women and men should have equal access and equal opportunities in the political, economic, social cultural, civil or any other field.

Unfortunately, many women and girls across the world still face discrimination and have difficulties in achieving their full rights; remaining disproportionally affected by poverty, gender based violence and marginalisation. Zimbabwe has made great strides in developing a strong legal and policy framework for the advancement of women’s rights. I would especially like to applaud the government for launching the National Action Plan Against Rape and Sexual Abuse this past June. This shows the will to improve the lives of women and girls across the country.

However, implementation has remained weak and more has to be done, not only by government, but also by stakeholders and society. Statistics from the National Baseline Survey on the Life Experiences of Adolescents (NBSLEA, 2012) show that a third of all girls experience violence in the form of rape and beatings before the age of 18.

Another survey from the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS, 2012) shows that almost half of all women experience gender based violence in their lives; mostly perpetrated by their own partners.

Experience shows that women’s economic empowerment is increasingly recognised as “smart economics” as women’s rights and equal access to resources increases overall productivity and growth.

We believe that from a development point of view, there is a clear link between women’s rights and economic prosperity. The economic rationale is that you simply need all the skills, knowledge, ideas and competencies of the entire population — not only of the male population — for the country to develop and grow. A lot of resources remain unexploited in terms of wealth creation and inclusive economic growth when women remain marginalised. At the global level, more than half of the world’s population are women, which is almost a similar ratio to the situation in Zimbabwe. Therefore, it stands to reason that girls and women should take up 50 percent of economic activity and should enjoy exactly the same rights and opportunities as men. The Girl’s and Young Women’s Empowerment Framework provides a national commitment to protecting and empowering girls and young women in Zimbabwe.

It recognises that empowering girls and young women contributes to the transformation of the country’s economic future as well as the development of its peoples.

Progress on gender equality and women’s rights is a goal in its own right but it also remains a critical factor in achieving poverty reduction and sustainable development. Promoting gender equality and women’s rights has been an integral part of Danish development cooperation for many years.

This is why we fully support the Girl’s and Young Women’s Empowerment Framework and encourage everyone else to do the same.

The author is the Chargé d’Affaires e.p., Head of Mission, Royal Danish Embassy Office.


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