By Blessing Vava
One of Africa’s greatest revolutionaries, the late Mozambican President Samora Machel, once said: “The liberation of women is not an act of charity but a fundamental precondition for the success of our revolution.” These are relevant words as the world commemorated International Women’s Day on Saturday 8 March 2014. The international theme for the 2014 International Women’s Day ‘Equality for women is progress for all.’
In Zimbabwe and the world over women have been suppressed in this patriarchal society since the biblical times. But however, strides have been achieved in the fight for gender equality and a lot needs to be done. The Peoples Charter does recognise the important role women continue to play in our society. The Peoples Charter states that ‘all human beings are created equal, must live and be respected equally with equitable access to all resources that our society offers regardless of their gender, and that gender equality is the responsibility of women and men equally, we recognise the role that our mothers and sisters played in the liberation of our country from colonialism and their subsequent leading role in all struggles for democracy and social justice.’
Thus, International Women’s Day is a special occasion as we all celebrated what women are doing in their jobs and in our trade unions, in politics, in the media, in our education and religious institutions, in our homes and in our communities.
It is a day of solidarity between women – solidarity in the continued struggle for total emancipation from economic and social subordination, a day when women unite to protest against the continued exploitation of the majority of women – at, the work place, and at home.
Quite significant, is the achievement, that hundreds of Zimbabwean women today hold high office in government, parliament and civil society, shattering the old myth that only men have the skills and ability needed to be leaders and hold the most senior jobs. However there is still a great need to increase in political participation of women. It also has to start with our laws of the land, the constitution, whose vague provisions on gender need to be revised. We need laws that continue promote gender equity in employment, and human rights for women in the community and the family.
Despite many women occupying various positions of influence it is sad that there are only 8 out of 63 cabinet Ministers in our present government. As for parliament, the constitution did not manage the issues of gender equality, rather despite an additional 60 seats for women, it would have been proper had the quota for female MPs been taken out of the existing number of MPs that time.
During the liberation struggle, young courageous women made great sacrifices when they joined the war of liberation. It was not an easy terrain; they faced all kinds of hardships, which also included gender based violence and sexual abuse during the war.
But we would be dishonouring the memory of those heroines of the past and present if we were to be complacent about the huge problems women still confront. Despite the advances since 1980, millions of poor women still battle against unemployment, poverty, access to health services, access to economic opportunities, issues of maternal mortality, cervical cancer, discrimination and abuse. Little is being done to address these challenges affecting our women.
The most astounding manifestation of the continued subordinate position of women is reflected in our statistics on violence against women – some of the worst in the world. Last year alone from January to April 2013, a total of 2 654 new cases of domestic violence were received by the courts. Rape statistics vary because at least two out of three rapes are not reported, but it is estimated that at least 15 women are raped a day. Some of the perpetrators being senior politicians, business people, academics, yet this call on us as a nation to be uphold our morals.
This means we need to develop new strategies, including a call to all men in our society to reflect on and talk about how they see and relate to women. Our male comrades should be honesty with each other about what they can play in changing their own behaviour and perceptions of women as commodities to be owned and disposed of.
This call to our male comrades however does not ignore the fact that unfounded allegations of abuse are made by women from time to time. This problem however is small in comparison to the scale of proven abuse, and should not detract from the fact that we have a serious societal crisis that needs to be dealt with. More and more male comrades are beginning to understand that empowering women comrades is essential in building a movement that can challenge patriarchal views and lay the foundations for a society free of all oppression.
Blessing Vuvuzela Vava writes from Chipinge and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org