July 31 anniversary: A gender perspective
Ruth Butaumocho Gender Forum
Thursday marks exactly one year after the ruling Zanu-PF party romped to victory, ushering in a new political dispensation mandated to rule until the next election in 2018.
On July 31, 2013, Zimbabweans from all walks of life went to the polls to choose a new Government bringing to an end the Government of National Unity.
Following the swearing-in of a new Cabinet to run different ministries, expectations have been high among the electorate to see the fulfilment of promises that were made during the campaign period.
Exactly a year after the elections, there have been changes in policies while in some areas, efforts are being made to align policies with the vision of the majority especially on economic issues.
Of note is that both the Lower and Upper Houses have in the last year debated vigorously on pertinent gender issues, taking the debate to another level. Parliamentarians across political divide have during debate called for gender equality across political, social and economic issues.
They have unanimously called for a review of legislation on sexual offences to ensure that offenders get punitive and deterrent sentences, something that the nation has warmly embraced. The Gumbura sentence is a case in point.
It is because of those collaborative efforts that the nation has witnessed concerted efforts by both the legislators and the judiciary in ensuring that all found on the wrong side of the law face the wrath of the law.
On the other hand, the setting up of the Gender Commission, which is now before Parliament, is in itself a step ahead towards gender parity across the economic and political divide.
An offshoot of the new Constitution, the Gender Commission is aimed at addressing problems of gender disparities across the country’s various sectors and will act as a watchdog for possible violations of rights relating to gender as stipulated by the new Constitution.
Probably the biggest mandate of the Gender Commission would be to conduct research into issues relating to gender and social justice, and to recommend changes to laws and practices which lead to discrimination based on gender.
For a long time, the Government has been enacting legislation aimed at addressing gender imbalances, but there have always been challenges in their implementation, exposing serious gaps in the whole process.
The country has a number of economic policies that seek to empower the generality of women who want to venture into business, but only few women have been able to benefit because of the bottlenecks that exist at the implementation stages, rendering the whole processes null and void. So once launched, the Gender Commission is set to put an end to this.
With the Gender Commission Bill set to be debated in Parliament soon, and possibly receive support from all and sundry before it becomes law, already hopes are high that it will be an effective pedestal in ensuring gender equality across all sectors.
Already the exercise to realign laws has begun in earnest and expectations are high that laws like the Marriage Act and the Sexual Offences Act will have some of their sections aligned with the new Constitution
Once the alignment is complete, Zimbabwe’s laws on women and gender equality enshrined in the Constitution will be among the best in the region.
While the gender discourse has been moving at a steady pace in the last year, the same cannot be said of the economic front, a critical component needed to push the gender agenda forward.
Faced with high unemployment levels and a liquidity crunch that have stalled income-generating projects meant to benefit the nation, the gender discourse especially on economic empowerment, may remain with us for a long time.
But despite the economic challenges that seem to have clouded everything, threatening to erode gains that have been made towards gender equality, all hope is not lost.
The nation can pin its hopes on the Government’s economic blue print, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, Zim- Asset.