Editorial Comment – Women’s Day: From rhetoric to action

TODAY is International Women’s Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to celebrate the socio-economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the globe.

Running under the theme, “Pledge for Parity”, the celebrations come on the backdrop of a milestone of achievements that Zimbabwe has made over the years towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.

For Zimbabwe, the day affords women an opportunity to evaluate progress made towards gender equality, the challenges they still have and the vision they have towards social, economic and political emancipation.

Although gender quality remains a contentious issue, with some organisations, individuals and implementers of government policy paying lip service to gender policies, the Government remains committed to gender equality.

Its commitment is clearly shown by the promulgation into law of different legislations and statutory instruments that seek to promote women’s advancement in all sectors.

Even our Constitution is an empowering piece of legislation that has strong provisions to advance gender equality and the rights of women and girls.

Signed into law in 2013, the Constitution gives legal guidelines to the Government at all levels, the private sector, traditional and religious leaders, all institutions in society and women, men and youths on how to ensure that every one has equal access to resources and opportunities

Touted as the best constitution that looks at women’s right, the legislative pieces on gender equality contained in the Constitution did not emerge from nowhere, but were a result of combined input from different pieces of legislation promulgated into law in the 1980s and 1990s.

All these laws gave a good basis and foundation for the good laws on equality that Zimbabwean women have every reason to be celebrating today.

Many will remember how enactment of the Legal Age of Majority law in 1982 ushered in a new era towards the empowerment of women, while creating more legal room that was to unshackle women from all forms of discrimination they had endured before.

The Legal Age of Majority Act, was in itself revolutionary in addressing the central issue of women’s disadvantage under the African customary law: their total lack of capacity to act as legally recognised adults, capable of owning property, entering into contracts and making legally enforceable decisions without having to involve men.

All these and a coterie of pieces of legislation have created an empowering environment for our women with possibilities to go even higher, should they continue to push the boundaries further.

However, it is important to note that while the Government is doing all it can to support gender equality and equity, they should do away with rhetoric and walk the talk when it come to women’s economic empowerment and their participation in politics.

Zimbabwe has got good pieces of legislation, but there seems to be no political will to implement these legislations.

Thirty six years after independence, Zimbabwe is still to have a female commissioner general in the uniformed forces, yet they are women who have proved to be capable in that area.

Of the 17 banks that are operating in Zimbabwe, only one has a female chief executive officer, while the rest of the women are crowded at the bottom. The situation is no better in local authorities that are still dominated by men and yet we are saying promote gender equality within these institutions will result in the improvement of social services deliveries for our people.

In politics only a few women hold powerful positions within political parties and in the Government and yet their numerical significance is too huge to ignore.

As this year’s theme rightly says, “Pledge for Parity”, Government will need to move from mere talk to purposeful action, to ensure that there is gender equality and equity in all our institutions.

By policing the implementation of existing legislature, the Government can help women advance to measurable figures and realise the limitless potential our female populace has and the positive transformation they can offer to our economy and communities at large.

With an articulate Constitution as us that proclaims the emancipation, empowerment and protection of women the goal is certainly achievable.

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