Patriarchy the biggest hurdle to women's empowerment
“…. It will take another 50 years to achieve gender equality in the political sphere at the current rate of change. Patiently waiting for that to happen is not an option. Tough measures are needed…”.– Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women.
Gender inequality remains a cause for concern in Zimbabwe, Africa and the world over. Women still lag in terms of effectively, freely and fully participate in leadership and decision-making positions. Patriarchy remains the biggest hurdle to women's empowerment and emancipation. With Zimbabwe facing unprecedented levels of poverty and inequality, it is the women and girls who are suffering more. The gendered nature of poverty, corruption, climate change, political violence, dilapidated health system, poor, unreliable and unaffordable social service delivery militate against the rights of women and girls more.
This year women’s month is a time to celebrate the achievements made by women over the years in calling for equal opportunities for all. We have seen women fighting tirelessly to end all forms of violence against women and girls resulting in in legislation and policies being put in place to protect them. The anti-domestic violence Act is one of them though it is still teething. It is women who have also pushed hard for gender equality provisions to be enacted into the national law. A huge milestone was achieved when section 17,56 and 80 of the constitution explicitly provide for gender balance. The challenge has been on the implementation as the Government of the day has not made any strides to make sure the provisions see the light of day. Women continue to be underrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions, with those who make it generally getting less influential positions. The onus is upon women to rise again and fervently demand their sacrosanct right to equality as enshrined in the supreme law. Men will not give up power and influence to women on a silver platter, it is up to the oppressed to stand up and claim what belongs to her. It is unacceptable that women in Zimbabwe occupy less than 15% of all leadership positions combined. It is high time the Government walk the talk on equality. Robust awareness and sensitization programmes must be conducted at the family level, in schools, colleges, churches, political parties etc to fight patriarchy and undo oppressive cultural, traditional, religious beliefs and social norms that continue to treat women and girls as second-class citizens.
One of the challenges facing women in Zimbabwe is the scourge of domestic and unpaid care work. Efforts must be made from all fronts to lessen the burden on women as this is contributing to their lagging behind in fully participating in leadership and paid work. It is the responsibility of everyone to take care of the family and community and make sure there is an equitable division of labour. According to research, globally, women perform 76.2% of total hours of unpaid care work, more than three times as much as men and this has implications on their wellbeing and personal growth. From cooking and cleaning to fetching water and firewood or taking care of children and the elderly, women are expected to do too much. Women’s unpaid work subsidizes the cost of care that sustains families, supports economies and often fills in for the lack of social services. It’s time we recognise and value unpaid care and domestic work performed by women that is foundational to all societies. Men, must step up and redistribute this equally.
Zimbabwean women must continue to speak out and call out equality. Men continue to control more than 75% of the means of production. Those owning and controlling the mining, agricultural, manufacturing, retail, communications sector, for example, are men yet women are the ones working tirelessly to keep these sectors functional. As women, we should continue to raise our voice for women’s rights and gender equality, and push for the breaking down of barriers.
The fight for gender equality is not a fight we can afford to lose. We need to continue advocating for a level playing field at all levels. It is pertinent for the State to fully operationalise laws and policies that protect women from abuse and harassment. At the leadership fora, there is a need to align gender parity laws with the constitution to guarantee equal participation and representation. Electoral reforms must be put in place as a matter of urgency to create a level playing field between men and women during electoral processes. Stiffer penalties must be put in place to punish all perpetrators of all forms of violence against women and girls. Women being the majority in terms of demography 52%+ and the highest of voters during the 2018 elections 54% have the right and power to recall leaders who fail to respect their rights and create a conducive environment for them to reach their full potential. #EachForEquality #LetsGo5050.