The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (RWI) recently facilitated the 2018 National Symposium on Gender Equality and the Human Rights of Women in Zimbabwe.
“The purpose of the activity was to provide a forum where the research grant recipients of RWI’s Zimbabwe Human Rights Capacity Development Programme could present the results of their research,” said Timothy Maldoon, Programme Officer at RWI.
The aim was also to facilitate discussions and recommendations on the way forward on key human rights reform issues related to gender equality and the human rights of women in Zimbabwe among participants representing different sectors of Zimbabwean society.
Dr. James Tsabora, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, told us about his research:
“My paper dealt with how the judiciary and Gender Commission can work together in the area of gender equality because the judiciary is an important institution in Zimbabwe and the Gender Commission is an upcoming institution which needs a lot of work. So the judiciary should be able to use the findings from the Gender Commission in their work. There is more talk than walk; there are more platforms to discuss but the findings are not put to action.”
Tsabora further explained that there is a reluctance to adopt practical measures to promote gender equality. There is still a struggle to fight because these issues are not new; they are known. Solutions are discussed but there are no practical implementations to achieve practical outcomes.
The National Symposium (and the research conducted during the year) produced three important outcomes for the Zimbabwe Programme and the advancement of human rights in Zimbabwe:
- It improved the researchers’ knowledge on human rights research methodologies, as well as increased their opportunities to exchange information, experiences, and best practices and engage in (joint) research.
- It increased the availability and accessibility of high-quality human rights research products for public dialogue and advocacy in Zimbabwe.
- It provided the research grant recipients with essential positive and critical feedback, which they can use to fine tune and improve their presented papers prior to publication and dissemination.
RWI took the opportunity to talk to Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, who was the keynote speaker at the event. Keep reading to see her thoughts on the state of gender equality in Zimbabwe and globally.
What are your thoughts on the global state of affairs with regards to gender equality?
I think many countries are struggling in terms of gender equality because naturally women are marginalised in most countries and that’s why there are these international agreements which show that it’s not a Zimbabwean issue; actually, it’s an international issue.
All countries are struggling; some are yet to come to grips with achieving gender equality. So I think this is a global problem that would need global and local solutions.
How do you think gender equality is progressing in Zimbabwe?
I think we have achieved a lot, particularly when it comes to laws and policies. I think we have made considerable progress, and recently our Constitution has been very progressive in terms of gender equality, but what is missing is implementation.
Despite the laws, gender inequality is still present. When looking at Zimbabwe’s recent elections, it becomes clear that we are actually moving backwards rather than forward.
Although Zimbabwe is not the worst country in terms of gender inequality, I think we still have a lot to do; there are still a lot of inequalities that exist in Zimbabwe.
What needs to be done to improve the situation for gender in Zimbabwe?
A lot can be done.
There is need for more awareness on what the law says, but also on enforcement.
So people should be educated about the issue to make sure that the laws are enforced and to ensure that everyone conforms to the laws. I think this is what needs to be done.
The laws are there, the policies are there, all that is needed is implementation, and I think there is need for institutions to come together, obviously spearheaded by the Gender Commission, to ensure that there is adherence to those laws.
As the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, what are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about gender equality in general, but my specific passion is on the issue of socialisation. I do think that a lot of gender inequalities that we are experiencing have to do with how the boy child and the girl child socialise.
So, my passion is to change the socialisation of the girl child and the boy child so that you catch them young so that they start to understand the issue of parity when they are still young; that’s my passion.
The Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank remains on the initiatives to empower women, but it falls short of the needs of the women, especially rural women who have no collateral. There is need to rethink on the collateral because most rural women do not own anything.
For example, if women own chickens banks will not accept that as collateral. So there is a need to look at how women can be assisted.
The Bank should have a section that trains women on how to do business and how to come up with business proposals before giving them money.
There is a missing link that is the issue of collateral and that the training aspect should be attached to the Bank so that money and training are given together to people who are going to create a business.