The draft Constitution has brought more opportunities for women in Zimbabwe. The opportunities have in turn brought more responsibility on the women folk who because of the social matrix have been the disadvantaged gender. The new opportunities in the draft constitution, if voted for in next month referendum, require that women start taking challenges and demanding their positions in life.
The draft law that is widely expected to get a "yes" vote, mandates Government to create an environment that promotes 50-50 representation of men and women in Parliament and public posts.
In addition the law sets aside a further 60 seats in Parliament for women based on proportional representation, a new challenge that our women have to face.
This puts more responsibility on the women and gender activists who have been crying for more space in Government to contribute to national development.
Although Zimbabwe already has a cocktail of other laws aimed at creating gender balance in Government structures, very little has been achieved. Gender analysts say this is because women and gender activists have done much in encouraging each exploit opportunities presented by these laws. They further argue that in line with the draft constitution and its proposals on the creation of gender equity, women need to start tackling various opportunities that are on offer.
Gender equality is a struggle for control of resources and opportunities so women need to improve themselves to qualify for those positions that matter in the country. With the coming elections and the new constitutional developments in the country men who are part of the political establishment in the country are unlikely to meekly surrender their power but will hold on to their notions that are inherent in all patriarchal societies that preserve their domination on societal development. They are going to question women and gender activist decisions and ideas as a way discouraging women from participation.
It is critical for women to realise that without their strong participation in pushing this national agenda, they will remain marginalised for years to come. It will also be difficult to increase their participation in national issues. Chapter 1 Paragraph 17 of the draft constitution makes it mandatory for the state to promote full gender balance and ensure equal participation of women and women in the development of the society.
The state is also mandated to come up with statutes that ensure both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of Government at every level and that women constitute at least half membership of all Commissions and other elective and appointed governmental bodies established by or under this Constitution or any Act of Parliament.
The State is also required to take practical measures to ensure that women have access to resources, including land, on the basis of equality with men. Noble as the requirement may be and no matter how national leadership may try to push for its realisation, women will need to take the leading role.
It is important for gender activist to note that if the state is to succeed in realising 50-50 gender equity in the country, there should be a deliberate effort by the womenfolk to present self for candidature for available post. Women need to start moving and taking up those roles that were previously reserved for their male counterparts. We need more builders, engineers, parliamentarians, accountants and physical scientist to take positions in the country social development ladder. That can then act as pool for different position in Government and society that will be presented by the coming constitution.
The 1998 Human Development Report, describes Zimbabwe as a highly unequal society, which is a reflection of the general low status of women in terms of access, control, ownership of economic resources and positions in decision making processes. This requires the participation of all to ensure that the country improve the social standing of its women.
If the state is to rectify the current gender discrimination and imbalances resulting from past practices and policies, women should be supported in their quest to seek empowerment so that they when duty calls there are women geared to advance the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe. Women in South Africa have done it. They have a stronger representation in both government and parliament and have not disappointed. Some of them have even gone further to take up posts on the continent like Nkosazana Dhlamini Zuma. The achievement of women down south should act a motivator to local women if they are to climb up the social ladder.
Gender analysts say to win the war of gender parity there is a need for the nation to harness all social institutions towards the achievement of gender equality and equilibrium. It is good that the draft constitution has mandated the state to reform and transform social institutions.