Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
President Mnangagwa yesterday met women from all walks of life and engaged them on issues affecting their lives.
Unlike his predecessor Mr Robert Mugabe, President Mnangagwa is a listening leader who has gone as far as opening a Facebook account to engage directly with all Zimbabweans.
Yesterday’s meeting was organised by the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe.
The President was accompanied by Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who stood in for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, Women and Youth Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni and other senior Government officials.
Women asked the President on what Government was doing to ensure their participation in politics.
They also raised the red flag on sexual harassment, especially in tertiary institutions.
Access to students loans, child marriages and the cancer scourge were also some of the problems raised by the women.
President Mnangagwa said Government was committed to improving women participation in politics.
He raised concern on the low levels of female participation in the recently held Zanu-PF primaries.
“I complained about the disappointing results coming out of the Zanu-PF primaries. Let me say democracy in relation to the promotion of women is important and if we do not apply democracy, then we do not achieve democratic representation of women as envisaged by the AU Charter, which requires that member states should have women representation 50-50 across the board.
“I am not sure about what happens in other political parties, but as Zanu-PF, it was quite disappointing because the process was opened fully to have a democratic process where the winner is elected, but only about 10 percent are women,” he said.
“As a political party, we have discussed that we need to find a formula which will guarantee a reasonable representation of women in our party because the current democratic process cannot yield the desired results.”
Ms Clara Chinoruma, who spoke on behalf of students, cited sexual harassment, exorbitant fees and challenges in accessing loans as obstacles they were facing in tertiary institutions.
She proposed the creation of a policy to deal with sexual harassment in tertiary institutions.
In response, President Mnangagwa said: “We thought we were assisting the students by putting up a loan, but I was not aware that this loan has those stringent conditions. I take note of what you have said and I will address this with the minister responsible, Professor Murwira in Cabinet so he can remove some of the constraints you have mentioned.”
“With regards to sexual harassment in institutions of higher learning, again this gives bad reputation on our institutions. We will suggest that perhaps we should include in the charter of these universities regulations regulating the prohibition of sexual harassment. It should also be necessary for the Ministry of Justice to have a conversation with girls in the higher institutions so that we get to understand how it is perpetuated in order for us to adequately address it. This should be followed up.”
Early child marriages, poverty and difficulties in raising school fees were some of the issues that were raised.
President Mnangagwa said early marriages were prohibited.
He said he had since suggested the criminalisation of such acts through a Bill.
An official in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs said the Bill was not yet ready.
President Mnangagwa directed that the Bill be tabled in the first session of the next Parliament.
“I want this Bill during the first session of the next Parliament. I am informed that girls as young as below 18 years are pledged in marriages. That is criminal. It is important that we have awareness programmes around the country by various organisations to make our people aware that it is criminal. They may not be fully aware,” he said.
Female pupils complained about lack of affordable sanitary wear and requested that President Mnangagwa intervenes. They want them for free.
Some complained about the high cost of cancer treatment, need for clean water in urban areas, lack of medicines in hospitals and high electricity costs among other things.
Mrs Rudo Kempo-Musundire said: “We thank the First Lady Amai Mnangagwa for spearheading the cervical cancer screening. Our plea is that cancer treatment fees are too high and should be reduced.”
President Mnangagwa said they were discussing the issue of cancer in Cabinet.
“With regard to cancer treatment, because of the current exercise by the First Lady, it has come to our attention that there is a need to make a follow up so that those who get diagnosed with cancer at an early stage should be accorded free treatment, but that is an issue we are discussing with Cabinet.”
On water problems, President Mnangagwa said Government secured a loan from China to address the issue.
He said Government also acquired borehole drilling machines to ensure clean water supplies in rural areas.
The disabled community also tabled their grievances.
They said they face stigma and discrimination and are left behind in development programmes and in decision making processes.
President Mnangagwa said he appointed Cde Joshua Malinga as special advisor on disability issues in his office.
He said Cde Malinga has presented a paper on disability issues which would be looked at soon.