Yesterday was an important day for the women of the world and for all political parties and institutions that value the role of women in national development.
By Morgan Tsvangirai
I am proud to say the new Constitution, where we in the MDC played a big part to make Zanu PF accept the need for a new people’s charter, now fully recognises the rights of women and urges the government to take all the necessary steps to eradicate all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender.
From the outset, I want to say that I fully associate with the statement from the leader of our party in Parliament, the party’s vice-president Thokozani Khupe, that this day must indeed be declared a national holiday.
Declaring this day a national holiday will accord the true value to the women of Zimbabwe. Even as men, we can all testify to the value and immeasurable role that our mothers, our wives and our sisters have played and continue to play in our lives.
I want to add that it is the women of our country who are bearing the brunt of acute national crisis more than any other people; it is the women who worry and take extraordinary risks to put food on the table for our families.
As a party, we are not yet there, but we have made strides towards the principle of 50:50 representation by women.
The previous MDC Standing Committee had 15% women representation, but the current standing committee has a slightly higher representation at 33%.
Because our congress is truly elective, it was difficult to guarantee equal representation, but we insisted that all provinces should ensure they deployed a specific number of women into the national executive, in line with our institutional re-alignment adopted by congress.
So we are a party that values women and you will find women in leadership structures down to the branch, even though much still needs to be done because of the element of fear that has characterised politics in this country.
As a social democratic party, we value the role of women which is why at our congress last year, we made a specific resolution on this important national constituency.
We value women so much that we take positions and make resolutions whenever the critical organs of the party meet to discuss national issues.
But resolutions alone will not do much. As parties, and institutions, we need to implement all those positive resolutions that we make on women who have been marginalised for a long time.
It is in this respect that I urge the government and all institutions, including political parties, to uphold the Constitution that we made ourselves as Zimbabweans, especially regards to the rights of women.
Our party policy document, the Agenda for Real Transformation (ART), has specific actions the MDC government will take to address issues affecting women.
We pledge, as an MDC government, to enhance the participation of women in decision-making and to take the following steps to create an equal society:
(a) Enact legislation for proportional representation in accordance with the Sadc guidelines and the Zimbabwe Constitution
(b) Through the Gender Commission, to ensure that government institutions, programmes, policies, projects and plans mainstream gender
(c) Amend or repeal all legislation that hinders the progression of women
(d) Eradicate cultural and other practices that impinge on the rights of women and eliminate negative stereotypes, and
(e) Introduce a quota system for women in both the Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament
I have been travelling around the country in the last few months, engaging the people and talking to them about the crisis we face.
From Mbire to Chitungwiza, from Gweru to Epworth, I have come across hardworking women that love their country and their families.
They definitely need our love and support. Those hardworking women in the villages, in towns, in farming communities and in the mines can rest assured that we in the MDC care and think about them every day.
Only on Saturday, I was talking about Zimbabweans taking action to address their plight and I am happy that women are holding this year’s celebration under the theme Making It Happen: Moving from Traction to Action.
It is my sincere hope that the oppressed and suffering women of this country will mobilise each other in making it happen. I hope you will join us when we boldly confront the national challenges through action.
I want to assure you that we in the MDC will not let the women of Zimbabwe down!
l Morgan Tsvangirai is the leader of the main opposition MDC-T