Women protect their constitutional gains

Zimbabwean women will not let men wrestle away what they gained in the constitution and decide their fate, says the information campaigns and advocacy officer for the Women in Politics Support Unit, Tsitsi Mhlanga.

Tsitsi Mhlanga: Women are still in the trenches fighting for more gender equality.
Tsitsi Mhlanga: Women are still in the trenches fighting for more gender equality.

Women, she said, were determined to protect their constitutional gains at all cost and would force political parties to implement the constitution in its current form, whatever the challenges.

Mhlanga’s remarks come in the wake of attempts by parliament to pass the Electoral Amendment Bill, which is silent on some important areas and has been drawn up without public consultation.

The bill, according to Mhlanga, was supposed to be scrutinised by women and other citizens to ensure that women had gained in the new constitution was passed into law.

“Women fought hard for the 48 senate seats provided for in the constitution and the reserved 60 MP seats, and no-one should tamper with that,” Mhlanga said, pointing out that men had not proved to be gentlemen in respecting the agreements.

“Women are still in the trenches fighting for ultimate gender equality,” Mhlanga told participants at a political dialogue organised by the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network in Harare last Thursday.

Mhlanga later told The Zimbabwean in an exclusive interview that women had wanted the bill to be brought to them for input and would participate in their millions.

Mhlanga emphasised women’s demands for the bill to clearly state the gender equality provisions, by expressly stating that party candidate lists would include no less than 30 per cent women.

Women want the Electoral Amendment Bill to entrench the constitution Section 17 principles of gender equality in women’s political participation, and make gender equality a feature of the electoral system, not a once-off activity.

Mhlanga said they would pressure the Zimbabwe Election Commission to ensure they were not disenfranchised.

Zanu (PF) loyalist Goodwills Masimirembwa assured women that his party would use its majority in parliament to implement bills as expected by women through the constitution.

Masimirembwa said: “Women should sleep soundly, since Zanu (PF) is on the side of gender equality.”

Civil society organisations recently petitioned and succeeded in forcing parliament to take the Electoral Amendment Bill to public scrutiny before making it law.

Parliament, according to the CSO petition, had to ensure that the public and all interested stakeholders were given adequate time to input and scrutinise the bill through a public consultation process.

“Among other things, the Bill should spell out the principles of voter registration, such as inclusivity (gender issues, race and tribal issues) with appropriate exclusions, accuracy, completeness and the methodology such as the biometric,” said the director for the Election Resource Centre, Tawanda Chimhini.

There were also calls for the bill to make it possible for more players and stakeholders to work with ZEC in providing voter education and remove stringent requirements such as the source of funding.

Recently, the Senate passed the Electoral Amendment Bill and sent it to the National Assembly for further scrutiny before passing it into law, without public participation.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals include, among other targets, increased participation by women in decision-making in all sectors and at all levels – 40 per cent for women in senior civil service positions and 30 per cent for parliament by 2005 and a 50-50 representation by 2015.

Minister for women’s affairs, gender and community development Oppah Muchinguri called on CSOs, government and other development partners to help mainstream gender in Zimbabwe’s laws.

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