Harare – The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) joins the country and the world in commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017. The commemorations under the theme #BeBoldForChange prompt all stakeholders to reflect on the progress made and what remains to be done to achieve women empowerment.
ZimRights takes the occasion to appreciate and salute all the women who have stood up for their human rights and those of their communities in Zimbabwe.
It is commendable that Zimbabwe in principle agrees to international frameworks that promote women empowerment, equality and equity.
These include the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
However, women in the country face many hindrances on the economic, social, political and religious front that slow the speed of their development, their access to opportunities and their progress.
While statutory law has significantly moved towards women empowerment, customary law still enables practises that lead to women’s vulnerability especially in the marriage set-up and property rights.
Domestic violence and rape remain prevalent despite laws that seek to criminalise these violations such as the Domestic Violence Act, which means that there is need for greater awareness and more social transformation efforts.
Over the past year, ZimRights through its Legal Department has assisted hundreds of women with free legal advice and assistance, and the organisation has deliberately sought to work with women in human rights promotion.
ZimRights notes with grave concern the regressive arbitrary eviction of families in urban areas and on farms without first providing alternative places of settlement an occurence which has impacted women negatively.
Women, who often bear the brunt of childcare and fending for their families, have bemoaned the politicisation of food aid particularly in rural areas, the holding of children’s results over non-payment of school fees, high unemployment levels, and the inaccessibility of basic healthcare services.
Women have been adversely affected by recent natural disasters, including the floods in Tsholotsho in 2016 and Tokwe Murkosi in 2014. These incidences are a precusor indicative of the need for government to improve its disaster early warning and response mechanisms.
Equally, government policies and actions such as the eviction of informal traders from the streets, and the indiscriminate use of teargas and water cannons to stop citizen protests have greatly affected women.
The incarceration and assault of female human rights defenders contribute to the muzzling of the voice of women and their disempowerment.
ZimRights calls upon the government of Zimbabwe to:
- Implement all commitments to women empowerment expressed in the new Constitution and International treaties
- Stop violation of women’s human rights such as by denying them the freedom of expression and assembly
- End the victimisation of female human rights defenders that occurs through incarceration, and physical assault
- Ensure equitable distribution of all social welfare and disaster relief such as food aid to end discrimination that has a negative effect on women.