Against the backdrop of the ongoing discussions in the Zimbabwean Parliament on numerous bills, Aziza Abemba from Women Self Promotion Movement (WSPM), a GFW grantee partner based in the capital Harare, shared with us some critical insights. WSPM works with refugee women and girls from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi. The group works to promote women’s leadership, entrepreneurship, civic participation, and training in conflict resolution and domestic violence prevention. Read this vital analysis:
Zimbabwe Geared Toward Enactment of Women’s Council Bill
The third Session of the Seventh Parliament meeting held in Harare recently, which will see 23 Bills, including among others, the Women’s Council Bill, which will facilitate the establishment of an organ to co-ordinate the implementation of women’s empowerment programmes, being presented for debate in both Houses can be viewed as a welcome development and a golden opportunity for women’s empowerment in Zimbabwe.
According to media reports, “the Government has also set up a Women’s Development Fund, which will provide loans to women without the need for collateral security.” The Fund was allocated US$ 1 million under current budget. The Zimbabwe Electoral Amendment, Electoral Commission Amendment, Referendums Amendment and the Human Rights Commission Bills were among other laws tabled during the Session.” However, Zimbabwe is currently experiencing the highest unemployment rate estimated at about ninety percent (90%). As a result, most economically active women and girls are living below poverty datum line.
The Women’s Development Fund would therefore help in reducing poverty and unemployment among women and girls. It can also boost the number of women in the business (entrepreneurs) toward the achievement of national economic development. The Women’s Self-Promotion Movement (WSPM) mission is to help the disadvantaged women to help themselves: WSPM raises funds to research, provides ICT training and leadership capacity building workshops, support and share the best practices to empower the disadvantaged and marginalized women and girls in Africa.
In addition, it is important to mention that the first phase of the Zimbabwe Constitution Making Outreach Process is already under way and women from various walks of life are demanding that their voices and needs be heard. In other words, since women constitute the majority (about 52%) of the Zimbabwe population, there is conviction among activists that women’s real needs and aspirations must prevail in the people driven constitution.
For instance, a group of women leaders who participated in the WSPM Leadership training activities in the town of Victoria Falls called for an immediate stop and zero tolerance to harmful traditional practices that lead to sexual exploitation, harassment, sexual violence and abuse of women and girls in homes, families and community. In addition, WSPM beneficiaries in Harare are more interested to learn new skills that will enable them to become effective leaders in both private and public spheres of life. In Bulawayo and country wide WSPM beneficiaries are in a struggling need for seed grants, life skills and loans to create self-sustaining jobs, as well as women’s human rights and advanced leadership skill development.
Presently, we have launched campaigns to raise awareness and educating women and girls to understand and exercise their rights and fighting against any harmful traditional practices including “Nhaka.” The term Nhaka is a ‘shona’ word meaning inheritance. However, workshop participants revealed that “Nhaka has been used beyond extreme, whereby in some communities and cultures, especially in the rural areas; new married young girls are being forced to have sexual intercourse with their father in-laws before sharing the bed with their husbands. This traditional belief and practice is still applicable in some African communities and also in some Zimbabwe ethnic groups.
Workshop participants’ view was that the practice is overdue and can no longer be allowed to continue. They therefore, embarked on awareness raising campaigns to stop such practices in homes, families and communities. They want to see the full implementation of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) and the Zimbabwe Domestic Violence Act. Grace Mutasa has called for all fellow sisters and daughters of the soil (citizens of Zimbabwe) to join hands in fighting against any harmful traditional practices that disadvantages women and girls. She also advised all women to demand their rights through active participation in the constitution making process toward the achievement of social, political and economic empowerment of women.