Strides towards gender equity

Shamiso Yikoniko
DESPITE the fact that Zimbabwean women have been making inroads as they occupy important executive roles, the rate at which they are being promoted is low when compared to their counterparts in the developed world.

Zimbabwe is, however, regarded as one of the leading Southern African countries that are promoting gender equality.

Local women have not been passive by-standers in the country’s political, economic and social transition.

Instead, they are participating in the social, political and economic spheres.

The participation dates back to the days of the liberation struggle when women took up arms.

Some women performed auxiliary functions such as cooking, fetching firewood and transporting arms into areas of military operations within the country.

Zimbabwe has consistently sought to ensure gender equality, with deliberate efforts towards encouraging females to move into leadership roles across all spheres of society.

Some sectors of the economy have headed the call and appointed women to important posts.

Among those who are at the apex of organisations are Clarah Mlambo, the British American Tobacco (BAT) managing director and Grace Muradzikwa (managing director, Nicoz Diamond).

Nancy Guzha is at the helm of Cairns Foods, whilst Gugu Mahlangu is the director-general of the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe

TelOne is under the stewardship of Chipo Mtasa, with Angeline Vere being the Telecel chief executive officer.

Ms Faith Mazani, who was recently appointment the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, is a new kid on the block and so is High Court Judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba, who is at the helm of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Zimbabwe Gender Commission chairperson Mrs Margret Mukahanana-Sangarwe applauded the appointment of Ms Mazani and Justice Chigumba to the key posts.

“We’ve been pushing for the elevation of women to positions of high authority for a long time and the appointment of Ms Mazani and Justice Chigumba is a welcome development,” said Mrs Mukahanana-Sangarwe.

“Despite all the activism and resources that have been used to ensure gender equality, there’s still significant and very low representation of women in the political space, corporate sector and other economic social institutions,” Mrs Mukahanana-Sangarwe said.

A survey conducted by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries in 2017 indicates that there is an increase in the number of companies that are headed by females.

“From the previous surveys, the percentage of companies headed by a female CEO hovered around five percent while this year’s (2017) survey shows 13, 45 percent are female headed,” reads part of the survey.

Mrs Mukahanana-Sangarwe said research has shown that companies that are headed by women perform better than those headed by their male counterparts.

“Companies headed by females have high capacity utilisation as compared to those headed by males. The logic is simple, females are unlikely to be absent from work compared to males.”

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, women accounts for more than half of the country’s population.

The women are, however, not proportionally represented in industry and commerce.

According to Mrs Mukahanana-Sangarwe, the situation on the ground does not fulfill the aspirations of the constitution which seeks to promote equal opportunities

Mrs Edna Masiyiwa, the executive director of the Women Action Group, holds the same views as those held by Mrs Mukahanana-Sangarwe.

“We applaud the appointment of the two but our message remains that there’s still need to appoint more women for us to reach the 50-50 threshold,” Mrs Masiyiwa said.

One of the provisions of the Zimbabwean Constitution, Section 56, postulates that women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.

Every year, the world celebrates International Women’s Day to commemorate the achievements by women in attaining gender equality in all spheres of life.

But despite the gospel for gender equality worldwide, African women are still battling for equality. Gender equality in Africa is still not a reality.

In as much as there are progressive provisions on gender equality enshrined in the Supreme law, a lot still needs to be done in order for Zimbabwe and Africa to attain gender equality as provided for in the various regional and international instruments.

To show its commitment towards the achievement of gender equality and equity, the Government of Zimbabwe has ratified a number of regional and international conventions whose objectives are to promote the rights of women and to achieve gender equality.

Conventions ratified include the Equal Renumeration Convention, Dakar Platform for Action, Beijing Declaration of 1995, the Millennium Declaration of 2000 and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (1991), among others.

In 2004, Government launched the National Gender Policy whose function is to direct and guide the process of gender equity.

In an earlier interview, Standards Association of Zimbabwe director-general, Dr Eve Gadzikwa, said the biggest challenge for women is the lack of self-esteem.

“A lot of women in positions of high authority suffer from this problem. They are good, have great ideas, but lack the confidence. Women need to be taught how to lobby, to advocate for what they want,” she said.

“Our constitution talks of the rights of women and their empowerment. But I think each one of us needs to understand the value that has been placed on women through the provisions of the Constitution.

“There should be programmes that help women put ideas in a structured manner, enable them to package their ideas and sell them. I think we need to do more to help uplift each other,” Dr Gadzikwa said.

In response to the persistent gender disparity in decision making positions in Zimbabwe, the Affirmative Action Policy was put in place in 1992. It is meant to promote women to leadership positions.

The establishment of a Ministry of Women Affairs after independence can be seen as a victory for women, representing a clear acknowledgement of the legitimacy of their demands for gender equality.

However, in spite of the existence of these supportive instruments, the country has not fared well in advancing the participation of women in industry and commerce.

Whereas women constitute 52 percent of the population of Zimbabwe:

  1. Out of 21 Cabinet Ministers, only four are women,
  2. All the five Deputy Ministers are male,
  3. Out of the 10 Provincial Ministers of State, only three are female,
  4. In the justice delivery sector, out of the 49 judges, 20 are female. The Chief Justice, Judge President and Prosecutor-General are male
  5. In Parliament, 125 legislators are female out of 350. These include those from proportional representation (60),
  6. Out of 80 Senate members, 39 are female (48 percent),
  7. Out of 1 635 councillors, 323 are female (20 percent),
  8. In state-owned enterprises, out of 103 CEOs, 15 are female (14 percent),
  9. Out of 88 chairpersons of parastatal boards, 24 are female (27 percent), and
  10. Of the 64 companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, three chief executive officers are female (4 percent).

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