Letters to the editor: Women are at centre of development

Women’s Academy for Political and Leadership Excellency, (Walpe), in partnership with African Women's Initiative in Developing Economies (Awide), is training women in communities to enhance their participation in all leadership positions, local and national.

HEAL Zimbabwe Trust joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day (IWD) commemorated on March 8 every year. The theme for this year, Break the Bias underscores the need for gender equality in the world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination.

The COVID-19-induced lockdowns saw an increase in cases of gender-based violence (GBV).This is because GBV is more likely to increase in emergency times such as weather-related, economic crises, conflict or disease outbreaks. As part of contributions to article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) highlights that violence against women is a form of discrimination. Heal Zimbabwe last year trained anti-GBV ambassadors and women human rights defenders across the country on GBV and human rights. The ambassadors comprised peer educators, clinic committee members, community peace club members, community accountability teams and social accountability teams.

The role of these community structures is to lead in ending violence in communities and also reach out to GBV survivors during lockdown periods. Anti-GBV ambassadors document, monitor and report cases of GBV to the relevant authorities. Their responsibility include compiling reports on the state of human rights in their area and making referrals to institutions such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

Through various capacity-building projects, Heal Zimbabwe has been targeting women in communities and empowering them through capacity-building, income-generating projects and amplifying their voice in the broader democratic process. These women, most of whom are survivors of political violence and torture, have been successfully reintegrated into society and have started the road to economic, physical and psycho-social healing.

On the occasion of IWD, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to promote equality and non-discrimination between men and women in line with section 56 of the Constitution.-Heal Zimbabwe Trust

PVO Bill will have devastating effects on citizens
THE Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Bill proposed by Parliament has devastating socio-economic and political implications on citizens and particularly the women constituency that Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (Walpe) represents.

Women’s rights organisations have made great strides towards the reduction of gender-based violence, eradication of child marriages, capacitation of women to take up leadership positions, awareness raising on sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR) and improving the welfare of various women in marginalised communities, giving them a voice to challenge laws, policies and practices that have repressed them for long.

This Bill is a setback to the achievement of democracy, socio-economic development and the realisation of constitutionally-guaranteed provisions such as sections 17, 56 and 80 that call for gender equality.

Clause 5 of the Bill which inserts a provision into the Act permitting the PVO board to deregister organisations “engaging in political activities” is vague. This leaves organisations such as Walpe that are working to improve women political participation across the political divide vulnerable, exposed and or may be forced to change their mandate for fear of being deregistered. Our efforts towards the advancement of gender equality and improvement of women representation in leadership and decision-making positions will be put to waste if the PVO Bill in its current form comes into effect.

Walpe is deeply concerned about the repercussions the Bill will have on the women constituency that we represent and call on all interested stakeholders including the government to reconsider the Bill for the sake of democracy, empowerment, equality and inclusion.

Here is why the women constituency should speak against the Bill:

  • It exposes the vulnerability of women and marginalised groups and negatively impacts on their participation in the political, economic and developmental processes at both local and national levels.
  • Limits the freedom of association and pushes women away from participating in politics and development.
  • Impacts negatively the mobilisation efforts of women-led CBOs and CSOs that advocate for women rights.
  • Instils a culture of fear that also limits women’s participation in leadership and decision-making processes.
  • There will be an increase in poverty and inequality as women and women with disabilities are major beneficiaries of CSOs community interventions.
  • It reduces awareness on gender-based violence as there will no longer be a voice of the voiceless.
  • It limits civic participation of young women who have been active in civic and voter education as we approach the 2023 elections.
  • Safe spaces for women will shrink or cease to exist-taking the country backwards on efforts made towards reducing, recognising and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work.
  • The realisation of sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution that guarantee gender equality will remain a pipeline dream.- Walpe