Women at a constitutional outreach meeting in Murehwa, this week stunned a Copac outreach team when they opposed constitutional guarantees for a quota system for women’s participation in politics and other decision-making public and private bodies.
Asked if they wanted 50% representation for women, the rural women unanimously declined.
“Aiwa hatidi (No, we do not want it),” the women at the meeting shouted in unison.
The Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, stipulates that women should have 30% representation in various fields, including politics, employment, education and other decision-making processes.
Zimbabwean women are calling for no less than 50% representation of women at every level of national governance, in business and other social strata.
Sadc made the decision stipulating a 30% quota representation by women after recognising that social, cultural and religious practices, attitudes and mind-sets continued to militate against the attainment of gender equality and equity, which they said were essential elements for democracy and development.
Article 3 (a) of the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development stipulates some of its objectives as “to provide for the empowerment of women, to eliminate discrimination and to achieve gender equality and equity through the development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies, programmes and projects”.
Although the women in Murehwa eloquently discussed some of the rights pertaining to them and girls in the constitution, including advocacy for stiffer penalties for rapists, their refusal to have a 50% representation might turn out to be a big blow for women fighting for more say.
Commenting on the issue, a veteran female journalist who declined to be named, Thursday said traditionally patriarchal attitudes and practices could have influenced the decisions by the rural women in Murehwa.
“The reason why these women might have failed to promote the issue of 50% representation of gender could be cultural. Women in the rural areas might still feel that they should be under men and might not understand issues to do with the emancipation of women,” she said.
“Women’s organisations should have done outreach programmes and workshops in rural centres and not only targeted urban women.”