Zimbabwe has signed key international and regional instruments designed to empower women and eliminate discrimination and improve gender equality and equity through development legislation, policies, programmes and projects. (Pictured: Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) national coordinator Netsai Mushonga (L) and Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe (R)
However, 31 years after country attained independence, women continue to be subjected all forms of discrimination and the current legislation and policies have not been favourable to women's totalemancipation.
Zimbabwe has made little progress in addressing women's rights under Millennium Development Goals (MDG), further eroding the status of women. According to United Nations (UN), three quarters of deaths occur during delivery and immediate post partum period.
The MDGs were adopted by 189 UN member states, Zimbabwe included, in 2000 with the purpose of attaining sustainable development. The goals are supposed to be achieved by 2015. Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe has called the reduction of maternal mortality rate in the country describing the current situation as `alarming`. "Out of 100, 000 women that gave birth, 125 of them die during the process,'' Khupe said.
“We are the highest in Africa, if not the whole world.” She said government should ensure women everywhere in the country get free medical access, and that there was need for government commitment to reclaim the lost dignity and status of women in the country. Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) national coordinator Netsai Mushonga said Zimbabwe had signed UN, African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) instruments and conventions on gender equality, but lacked a clear, well-funded and workable roadmap to achieve them.
"It will make it clear who are the players and the resources for the roadmap can then be made available also," she said.
Mushonga said the challenge Zimbabwe was facing was based on constitutional provisions which state a convention or international law does not automatically become a law until it's passed as a legal instrument by parliament.
"Our signing becomes hypocritical since the international conventions do not apply automatically and immediately,'' she said. “The SADC protocol is one such instrument but what we do not see is a committed of resources and personnel to make it a reality."
Mushonga said there was a lack of political will to create gender equality and respect all rights of women in the country.
She said responsibility rests on the shoulders of the government to push and achieve, but she said she do not see it happening fast.
"The ministries which are being critical to women's well-being like the ministries of Health and Child Welfare receive budgets which are inadequate. The country's maternal mortality stands at horrifying 725 deaths per 100,000 women who give birth,” Mushonga said. She said giving birth was not a private affair but "a national duty".
Mushonga noted inequality in governance is still rampant, including in political parties, adding it is a clear testimony of the lack of commitment from policy makers. She hailed civic society has been extremely instrumental in partnering and working with ministries to implement issues of women's rights. Women`s Affairs, Gender and Community Development minister, Jesse Majome said if the country was to achieve SADC Protocol and Gender and Development, it had to come up with a comprehensive and well-pronounced roadmap.
"We are left with only four years before 2015 deadline and the country currently does not have road map to achieve the protocol," she said. Zimbabwe Women's Resources Centre and Network (ZWRCN) executive director Naome Chimbetete weighed in, arguing some benchmarks were not statistically correct. “Lack of resources and personnel by the Women`s Affairs is impacting on the development of a road map which will also benefit NGOs,” she said.
Chimbetete said the ministry was currently prioritising women empowerment instead of developing a roadmap and had no capacity in terms of resources and personnel for it to commit itself to the development of a roadmap. "The Government should show commitment in terms of budget allocation around issues that affect the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG 3,1 and 6) that are aimed at promoting women`s rights as well as to achieve gender quality and gender justice.”
According to SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, member states should put in place affirmative action measures with particular reference to women in order to eliminate all barriers which prevent them from participating meaningful in all spheres of life and create a conducive environment for such participation. Some of the instruments which Zimbabwe ratified include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Optional Protocol to the African Charter on Rights of Women.