AS Women’s Month ended yesterday, the conversation around sticking issues impacting the girl child should not vanish with the closure of the month. Women’s struggles against inequality, exclusion and discrimination cannot just be a one month event a lot still needs to be done to bestow dignity and eliminate societal imbalances.
On March 8, the globe celebrated International Women’s Day, under #ChooseToChallenge. As envisaged by the organisers of International Women’s Day 2021, the message being trumpeted now is ‘change comes from challenge’.
We should not wait for March to accentuate issues affecting women at home, workplace — even at board level — and in politics. Success stories by women climbing up the corporate or political ladder must be shared throughout the 365 days to inspire the girl child. This certainly opens eyes of the young girls to a world of endless impossibilities. In the same breath, speaking out against gender stereotypes and discrimination should not be a March preserve.
It is folly that even corporates only celebrate efforts by women through adverts in various media outlets, especially of female employees who are low ranking. Sadly, this promptly ends with March. Nothing happens in between until the next Women’s Month, when the same achievements are recycled.
Year in and year out, women across the globe raise issues of discrimination — direct and indirect — through acts of commission or omission.
According to the United Nations, discrimination against women is referred as any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex and gender that has the effect of impairing. It nullifies the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, and on a basis of equality between women and men.
Discrimination also curtails human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural and civil spheres.
The UN says this can occur through acts that result in women being denied the exercise of a right due to lack of recognition of pre-existing gender-based disadvantage.
This can be exacerbated by failure to take legislative measures to ensure realisation of women’s rights; failure to adopt and implement national policies aimed at achieving gender equality; and reluctance to enforce relevant laws.
Concerning national laws, the government has made some progressive changes to the constitution and policies to improve women’s rights. The constitution — the supreme law of the country — promotes gender equality by providing equality between men and women. The governance charter outlaws sex or gender-based discrimination and behaviour.
Numerous pieces of legislation to protect women and girls were passed by lawmakers throughout the 2000s. However, many such laws that promote gender equality remain paper tigers.
This was aptly captured by Hannah Allbery, as she indicated on the Borgen Project website that “many of these laws remain disregarded in practice due to the format of Zimbabwe’s government. Most of the laws passed are statutory, but there are also customary laws that function on a smaller scale. It is common for obedience to customary laws to occur. Yet, often, citizens disregard statutory laws or there is little to no enforcement in the first place”.
Zimbabwe, like many countries across the world, has a deeply entrenched patriarchal society, dominated by men, while viciously supressing women at home and workplace.
This then raises unanswered questions as to what happened to Zimbabwe’s goal of 50% representation of women in all decision-making bodies by 2015? It is not a secret that women are under-represented in government, management, executive and board levels in the corporate world. While the goal set was progressive, unfortunately Zimbabwe is no way near meeting these quotas.
The sheer lack of political will to advance women is astounding. A quick look at the representation in the National Assembly, Senate, Cabinet, presidiums of major political parties and company boards in the private and public sectors, shows that women are largely marginalised. Men dominate all spheres. Blue chip companies are led by men, except for two female executives — Lafarge Cement CEO Precious Nyika and Edgars boss Tjeludo Ndlovu. What does this say to our girl child?
The underrepresentation of women in politics, business and in the newsrooms connotes that females are not good enough for those positions. In the media, there is room for female influencers to occupy the news space. Ultimately, the media is a prism through which society sees itself. So, we also have to amplify the women’s voices.
As we close the curtain on the Women’s Month, let’s reflect on the representation of females in all sectors of the economy. We cannot continue to sideline and trivialise women, who constitute 50,7% of the population. There has to be a systematic effort to change than wait for the women’s Month to call out biases and inequalities.
I choose to challenge every day and every month; let’s all choose to challenge throughout the 365 days of the year!