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‘Women being silenced in constitution process’

THE Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development ministry has raised fears that women, who constitute the highest number of participants in the constitution-making process, are being intimidated into silence at outreach meetings.  

Women make up slightly over 41% of participants to the outreach programmes, while men contribute 38,7%, with youths making up 19,4%. People with special needs make up the least number of participants at 0,52%, according to statistics released by the Parliamentary Select Committee also known as Copac.
Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development Deputy Minister Jessie Majome said despite an encouraging attendance by women, her ministry feared that intimidation reduced them to mere spectators.
“The statistics given by Copac are merely attendance figures and that means we cannot gauge the quality of their participation. Women have a tendency of not participating in fear of intimidation and would rather just agree to what the rest are comfortable with,” she said this week.
Political issues such as the separation of powers and presidential powers and term limits have dominated debate on the constitutional reforms. This, according to civil society groups monitoring the process, had reduced key social and gender issues to the periphery.
Majome said the tendency was for men, particularly youths, to threaten women into silence, including on issues that specifically related to women’s affairs.
“During outreach meetings there are men who have a tendency of discouraging women, for example, from opposing a point like ‘we do not want women to wear trousers’ which instills fear in women resulting in them complying  with whatever is  suggested  because they fear they will get into trouble if they go against it,” said Majome.
Majome said women’s affairs were a sector that needed special attention in the constitutional reforms.
“It is important that when women attend the constitution-making process they are free to air out their views. This is because some areas like civil rights, children’s rights and basis of custom and culture need their special participation,” she said.


Winfilda Shana

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