The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe will next month table the 6th Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) State Party Periodic Report before the Cedaw Committee in Geneva, Switzerland. The committee is a body of experts elected to monitor the implementation of the convention by State parties. As the country prepares its presentation, Cedaw committee vice chairperson Ms Bandana Rana (B.R) from Nepal and former committee member Mrs Dorcas Cokey-Appiah of Ghana were in Zimbabwe last week to share their knowledge with Government and civic society members. The two also conducted a mock session to prepare the Government delegation ahead of the periodic report presentation. Our Gender and Community Editor, Fatima Bulla (F.B) interviewed Ms Rana on an array of issues ahead of the Geneva meeting.
`B.R: I am here to support Government, civic society and the United Nations team in preparing Zimbabwe’s sixth periodic report to the Cedaw Committee during the February session.
We have also come to interact with them, to see if they need any kind of technical support and to brief them as well as give insight into what the preparations need to take into consideration ahead of actual session.
It is more of how to engage with the Cedaw process and what needs to be put into the reports. We also looked at the coordination issues. For example, how civic society should have a coalition in preparing shadow reports; what issues to prioritise, how to select the people to speak at the session, how to treat recommendations or responses from Cedaw Committee and ways to ensure Government acts on them.
As for the Government delegation, we were also trying to provide support and information in terms of what preparations they need to make before appearing before the Cedaw Committee.
In particular, the composition of the Government delegation and the role of the head of that team. We noted that Government has already come up with a report and we advised the head of delegation on how to prepare the opening statement, that is, what kind of information needs to be prioritised or included in that statement.
Again, we were briefing the delegation on what to expect during the Cedaw session itself, that is, constructive dialogue, how you divide roles between different Government delegations and how to respond to the questions posed by committee members.
In fact, I am here to also support the mock session, of what actually happens at the Cedaw session and we simulate the session so that the Government has a sense of what actually takes place in the actual session
F.B: What is your impression after interacting with the civil society?
B.R: What is good is that there is already a civic society coalition in place. They already have a mindset to prepare a report. I think the briefing gave the civil society an insight. It is good that there is representation in the provinces and thematic areas.
It is also good that the coalition is already working and preparing its report.
Our briefing gave them insight on how they can define, fine tune and finalise their shadow report for the Cedaw session.
Based on the feedback, I can say they have a sense of what is required before the Cedaw session, in terms of visibility of the NGOs and how they interact with the Cedaw committee members, especially those, posing questions. I feel the most important thing is that there is commitment, passion and excitement to follow this process through. I also have a strong conviction that there is commitment to come up with a detailed report and a strategy for its implementation.
F.B: How can civic society use the Cedaw framework to ensure Government commits itself to full implementation of the recommendations that empower women?
B.R: First and foremost, in their shadow report to the Cedaw committee, they need to ensure all the priority issues are included. They need to interact, at the session itself, with the Cedaw Committee members who will be posing questions to ensure that they highlight all the pressing issues in the dialogue. There is also need to disseminate to various local stakeholders the recommendations from Cedaw Committee so that everyone is in the know of what is expected of Government. Then, finally, there is need to exert pressure and monitor the implementation of the recommendations by Government.
F.B: Zimbabwe last presented a report before the Cedaw Committee in 2014, what impact does missing the presentation session have on furthering women issues?
B.R: Normally member countries are supposed to report every four years, but there are instances where some nations might fail to do so. This could be a result of a government not having adequate human resources to do the report or delays caused by a change in political situations.
The role of the Cedaw Committee is consistently to remind the states to report in time. If there is no report in time, the implementation of strategies or the compliance of the Government, to the Cedaw Convention, derails. That means the rights of women or the procedures and mechanisms to promote gender equality gets derailed as well.
So, we encourage member states to report on time and I think it is the role of the civic society to exert pressure to nations to fulfil their obligation.
F.B: Yourself being from Nepal, can you share experiences on how the Cedaw framework has influenced women empowerment in your country?
B.R: I was in the civic society before I was in the committee. I have engaged in compilation of NGO reports as well as advocacy. In the context of Nepal, advocacy to bring about the domestic violence law was very much based on the recommendations given by the Cedaw Committee.
That strengthened the advocacy role of civic society and exerted pressure on the government to adopt the domestic violence law in 2009.
When we were drafting our national constitution, we have a recent constitution of 2015 after the changed political context, the women’s movement advocated on the basis of Cedaw compliance.
As a result, we have a gender-sensitive national constitution because of Nepal’s commitment to comply with Cedaw recommendations.
Also, Nepal now has a law criminalising segregation of women during their menstruation cycle.
This is a result of previous Cedaw recommendations to the country.