‘Zim still patriarchal to allow woman president’- women’s rights activist

A top official of the Women’s Coalition said on Tuesday that Zimbabwe is still too patriarchal to allow a woman to assume the presidency, but the organization continues to engage the Parliament-led constitution making process in order to entrench women’s rights in the final document.

“(It’s about) getting a woman or a clique of women who are strategic enough to position themselves to take over as the president of a country; no one will allow us. I think we simply have to take it by force. I think Zimbabwe can have a female president even as early as five to six years from now… (but now) we are still in a patriarchal state,” said Netsai Mushonga, National Director of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ). Mushonga was responding to an question from a member of the audience during a Food for Thought discussion session held at the U.S. Embassy Public Affairs auditorium in Eastgate.

Mushonga said her organization continues to engage with COPAC to ensure their demands as far as women’s rights and governance are concerned and the women’s groups are scheduled to meet within the next two weeks to chart a way forward on the proposed draft constitution.

“We have a national workshop coming in about two weeks time and in that meeting the women are going to decide on the way forward,” said Mushonga. “On whether to vote (for or against the draft constitution), we will really be able to decide when we have the constitution in our hands — the final draft. What we have is the zero draft and uncompleted drafts and we are not able to conclude on those.”

The Global Political Agreement (GPA), which led to the formation of the inclusive government, mandates the writing of a new constitution. The process is led by the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC), with three co-chairpersons from the MDC-T, MDC-M, and ZANU-PF.

Mushonga, whose organization brings together a network of women’s rights activists and women’s organizations, is championing the inclusion of women’s rights in the constitution. She says there are still machinations of trying to prevent women from getting into the governance arena.

Explaining her organization’s decision to participate in the Parliament-led constitution-making process, Mushonga likened the constitution-making process to a train that moves from New Dehli to Bombay in India.

“It’s not a perfect train, it can break down along the way, it is overloaded, people can come in through windows, people can go in without paying, some can sneak and contribute, but we knew (eventually) the train would reach its destination at some point in time,“ said Mushonga.

She added, “When we decided to participate, we didn’t pretend that it was a perfect process, (but) we were willing to get on the train and endure whatever was endured so that we get our demands into the new constitution.”

She said in her organization’s engagement with COPAC, they had tried to include every sector of society.

“We also had a special conference for rural farmers and they expressed their rights in as far as land and natural resources are concerned,” said Mushonga, whose organization has chapters in Bulawayo, Masvingo, Beitbridge, Kariba, Gweru, Gwanda, Bindura, Marondera and Mutare.

According to WCoZ website, the women’s groups have listed five minimum demands for women in the constitution. These are: the quota system for women’s political participation; socio-economic rights; non-discrimination (all forms of disability); customary law subject to the Bill of Rights; and Access to and control of resources.

“It’s a women’s struggle, not a political struggle, which we are fighting for,” said Mushonga– ZimPAS© May 2012.

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