|Women should be given the opportunity to lead|
|Saturday, 28 April 2012 00:00|
MC: Why advocate for 50/50?
CLM: Gender equality is enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development, which urges that women should be equally represented in all areas by 2015.
Zimbabwe also subscribes to the Millennium Development Goals. MDG 3 concerns gender equality. Tying the hands of half the population does not make sense. Unleashing the human potential of any nation is a win-win formula.
MC: What caused the marginalisation of women?
CLM: Patriarchy is the most dominant ideology across just about every country, culture, race and ethnic group.
Patriarchy decrees that because women are physically weaker, and because they are the ones who give birth to children, they must be consigned to the home, to being second class citizens, subject to their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sometimes even their sons. When there are choices about who to send to school, boys get preference.
Girls get shunted into lower paying “soft areas of work” — clerical, secretarial, domestic work, teaching, nursing etc. Across the globe, women earn, on average about 60 percent what men earn not because of formal discrimination, but because of the areas of work in which they predominate.
Women constitute the majority of the poor, the unemployed and dispossessed. They own a fraction of the world’s land, and lack access to capital, infrastructure and business opportunities.
In Zimbabwe, women constitute less than one fifth of parliamentarians and councillors. Women take care of and raise families, yet they often lack decision-making power in their homes. Women lack the power to negotiate safe sex in their homes: the majority of those infected by HIV and AIDS are married women with unfaithful husbands.
Like any form of oppression, patriarchy condones and excuses abusive, violent and oppressive behaviour. This is why we have such high rates of gender violence in all our countries — East, West, North and South.
What is most insidious about patriarchy is that because it is so common, because it cuts across borders and cultures, it is accepted. Let me put it differently.
If one out of three men experienced violence every day this would result in governments declaring a state of emergency. But because its women suffering, these matters are reported with impunity, sensationally, as though they are not even human rights abuses.
MC: Is 50/50 achievable in Zimbabwe before 2015 given elections are due anytime from now?
CLM: Zimbabwe is reviewing its Constitution before the elections. This is an opportunity Zimbabwe has. It is a chance to write affirmative action in the Constitution and reverse the inequalities. Gender activists have advocated for the quota system in the constitution. Zimbabwe would not be alone. Tanzania has a Constitutional quota for women in decision-making. Namibia and Lesotho have legislated quotas for women in local government. In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress has adopted a 50 percent quota for women at national and local level. The result is over 40 percent women in all tiers of government.
South Africa is a shinning example of the fact that rapid change is possible. In less than 20 years, the proportion of women in decision-making has increased from 2,7 percent to 45 percent! Not only can Zimbabwe achieve the 50/50 by 2015, it must. The country has signed and ratified the Sadc Gender Protocol. This is not a nice to do. It’s a have to do!
MC: What makes women better leaders? What is the advantage of women leaders?
CLM: We are not saying women are better leaders than men. We have both good and bad women leaders. Same with men! All we are saying is women should be given an opportunity to exercise leadership. Women are equally capable but are not equally represented. Women are closest to issues on the ground, water, sanitation, housing and energy. As the late Bob Marley would have said, “Who feels it knows irie!”
Democracy is about all interest groups having a say. The most basic demographic of any country is that it consists of approximately equal numbers of women and men.
If we think of parliament as a mirror image of society, then it needs to mirror this fact! Zimbabwe is no stranger to the ills of unequal representation in parliament. If we understand how wrong that was with regard to race, why can’t we understand how wrong this is with regard to gender?
MC: Can you give 50/50 statistics for the sub region in terms of local authorities?
CLM: In South Africa 38 percent, Mozambique 36 percent, Angola no statistics, Tanzania 34 percent, Namibia 42 percent, Lesotho 58 percent, Swaziland 18 percent, Mauritius 18 percent, Zimbabwe 19 percent, Zambia 7 percent, Madagascar 7 percent and Botswana 19 percent.
MC: What mechanisms are in place to achieve 50/50 in Zimbabwe?
CLM: There is a strong lobby for special measures to be included in the new Constitution, and as I said that is nothing new. Across the globe now, there are over 100 countries (many in Africa and Latin America) that have introduced one or other measure to help level the playing field.
These measures are not forever. They are temporary measures, to address a historical imbalance. This conference has made a strong call for Copac to “seize this historic moment” to bring Zimbabwe closer to the 50/50 target.
From the speech made by the Minister of Local Government when he opened this conference, it is clear that there is high level support for women’s increased representation in decision-making.
MC: Is Zimbabwe ready for 50/50?
CLM: I would turn that around and ask: Why should Zimbabwe not be ready for half its population to have a voice? I feel a sense of de javu when this question is asked. You will recall that thirty years ago Ian Smith argued that Zimbabwe was not ready for majority rule!
Zimbabwe is made up of men and women. Zimbabwe is not new to women leadership. We have had Mbuya Nehanda, we have Vice President Joice Mujuru and Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe. As I look around this room (at the Gender Justice and Local Government Summit) I see many capable women leaders everywhere. People should not be afraid of change (that brings in women leaders). South Africa is close to achieving gender parity in decision-making.
Has the country collapsed? On the contrary there is plenty of evidence that women in SA bring to the business of governance issues and concerns that might otherwise never reach the halls of power.
Women tend to be consensus builders because they are involved in conflict resolution almost everyday in the home environment. The skills they have in running the home should also be taken up to the leadership structures.
Women raise whole families on minimal budgets; make resource allocations and decisions that keep nations alive, yet how many women finance ministers are there? Is this really good economics? I don’t think so! Let’s move with the cheese, we will all be winners!