Promotion of women should go beyond tokenism

By IAfrica
In Zimbabwe
Jul 7th, 2014

WOMEN CAN DO IT . . . Vice President Joice Mujuru (right) and Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Cde Oppah Muchinguri have shown that if given equal chances, the sky is the limit for Zimbabwean women

Ruth Butaumocha Gender Forum
A fortnight ago, the Public Service Commission made a shocking claim before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development about why there were few senior female civil servants in the PSC.While giving oral evidence before the committee, the civil service commission said Government efforts to attain gender balance in the civil service were being hampered by the unwillingness of female civil servants to take up senior positions that take them away from their families.

As part of the supporting evidence, the CSC said they had invited female civil servants for interviews for vacant senior posts, but most of them developed cold feet once they heard that they were being relocated to different places from their spouses. The deputy commissioner of the CSC, Mr Steven Ngwenya, gave the example of one lady who wanted a post created in Bulawayo, where she was living.

“Most senior positions in the civil service are in Harare, but most of the female applicants do not want to come to Harare.”

Although I cannot claim to be a guru on employment matters, neither do I have first-hand information on what goes on in the CSC and elsewhere, I find the information to be riddled with too many inconsistencies.

One even gets the impression that there is lack of goodwill within the civil service to promote deserving women.

If the CSC can lay bare such claims for public consumption, I shudder to think what else is happening in other forms of employment, especially the private sector, as far as women’s elevation is concerned.

While it is true that women are challenged by gender roles and other inhibiting factors like family that limit their mobility, the excuse that the CSC gave to Parliament shows that issues of women equality are not been given the attention they deserve contrary to reports that we read and see on a daily basis.

Far from getting recognition, the issue of gender equality continues to be regarded as a peripheral matter that can be dealt with on any other day.

However, the CSC and other equal opportunity employers should realise that promotion of women in the public service and elsewhere demands more than tokenism – of just offering jobs.

Research has shown that women are likely to move for their husband’s career than their own. However, that does not mean that the very same women will not consider a good offer if it comes along with gender considerations where the employer is mindful of the woman’s role as a mother, but is willing to offer her the job, “with no strings attached”.

Therefore, the promotion of women demands a holistic approach where the Government should not just encourage their elevation to high posts without incentives like housing and school fees allowances.

There should be certain considerations that the CSC and other employers should make to ensure that they attract the right women to fill in the vacancies by offering the right incentives for the married woman. With the right support, she can easily uproot the whole family – including the spouse – knowing fully well that the position is not a punishment but a promotion in recognition of good service.

Gender activist Nyari Mashayamombe, who naturally was shocked by the revelation from the CSC, believes that the appointment of women to senior positions should be addressed as a policy issue rather than pay lip-service to such an important concern.

What still boggles the mind two weeks after the presentation is whether the CSC has been doing a thorough job in its recruitment processes to ensure that women – just like men – are not disadvantaged by the appointments when they should be happy that they have been recognised for their good work.

If it is indeed true that women do not want to relocate to Harare where there are more senior positions, wouldn’t it be sensible if the CSC just fishes from such a big pond, and get the expertise they need from Harare, than stretching its resources to look for people elsewhere?

Why not promote women in Beitbridge to the senior positions in Beitbridge and do the same for women in Harare so that senior positions are awarded to qualified and deserving candidates, since all the promotions are being made on merit?

And is it true all the female civil service employees due for promotion are married as Mr Ngwenya pointed out in Parly?

Zimbabwe is at a critical juncture where it is putting all mechanisms in place in support of gender equality as enshrined in the new Constitution. It is against that background that stakeholders like the CSC should support the initiative through creating a conducive environment where women are at par with men in terms of opportunities, rather than see them as impediments.

If women were to get a true liberation and obtain the same status with men, the key is to achieve independent economic status.

Those in the know can attest that employment is a prerequisite for women to win economic independence and development, and it is also an important way for women to participate in social development.

Continued efforts by the Government alone to ensure gender equality in all sectors would be a futile exercise unless it is complemented by all stakeholders.

Zimbabwe cannot continue to ride on spurious claims being made in offices on women’s alleged inefficiencies without giving them the tasks at hand to prove themselves.

There are women in the CSC who are diligent, professional and measure up to the tasks and are ripe for promotion.

Give such women an opportunity to prove themselves.

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