Let’s go beyond window dressing on gender balance

Faith-Zaba.jpg

Faith Zaba

IN the last few weeks government appointed women to top posts at various state institutions, with the latest being that of High Court judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba to chair the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

Candid Comment,Faith Zaba
fzaba@zimind.co.zw

Chigumba replaces Supreme Court judge Justice Rita Makarau, who resigned in December last year. Just a fortnight ago, Faith Mazani was appointed new Zimra Commissioner-General, with effect from February 1, taking over from Gershem Pasi, who resigned in May last year.

Another key appointment was that of prominent lawyer Vimbai Nyemba as the new chairperson of the Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (PRAZ), to oversee the state procurement in the country. Also last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa extended the Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s term after parliament approved her nomination. Chiri is known for exposing corruption by ministers and parastatals. Mnangagwa should be commended for this and that of a gender balanced PRAZ, especially after naming a gender insensitive cabinet, which sparked widespread criticism from outraged Zimbabweans. There are currently only four women in his 21-member cabinet.

While this shows he might have taken note of the public outcry, the move, however, is not enough. Currently gender imbalance is prevalent in all spheres of society. It is glaring in government institutions, with most of their boards and top management being dominated by men, in contravention of the constitutional provisions on gender balance. Even parliament and political parties’ leadership are glaring in their gender imbalance. The constitution sets out gender equality as one of the country’s founding values. These ideals are on par with principles such as rule of law, good governance and supremacy of the constitution.

While the constitution stands out as one of the most progressive supreme laws globally, there is little evidence that much is being done to end centuries of marginalisation of women. Five years after the promulgation of the new constitution, the provisions women celebrated are proving to be mere window dressing. The political will to ensure the realisation of gender equality seems non-existent. Well-documented policies and laws that lack implementation are void.

It is for this reason that female journalists, during their meeting with First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa on Monday, brought to the fore the need to work as a team to propagate issues related to women’s empowerment and promotion of equal participation and opportunities. As the media, it is our obligation to hold government accountable and ensure it upholds gender equity as espoused in the constitution. There is need to redress gender imbalance, characterised by few women occupying leadership positions in society. Discriminatory and abusive tendencies hampering women’s development should end. As Auxillia said, female journalists should ensure that women’s empowerment issues remain on the national agenda. She said, as a team, women can successfully dislodge patriarchy. The forthcoming elections and subsequent appointment of cabinet ministers, in the event he wins, will be Mnangagwa’s litmus test to justify his sincerity on gender balance.

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