The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Gender Equity Still, Remains a Dream

opinion

As Zimbabwe gears itself for the draft constitution to be acceded by Parliament, issues of the continued failure by our laws and people to adeptly address the issue of inequalities of gender and sex have become apparent and evident.

The revelations that the draft Constitution attempts to create gender equality through the instigation and proposal of increasing the number of women in the 210-member House of Assembly with an additional 60 female members, six from each province, elected on a proportional representation basis based on the number of votes for political parties, though plausible, the representation of women in many catalogues of our lives remain low and faces new weapons of resistance.

Women, interest and pressure groups should take great note that while gender issues appear to be an inclusive part of the constitution and topical in all spheres of our global community, there is considerable evidence to suggest that gender equity is still and will remain a far away dream.

Hence there is every reason for all and sundry to gear up for the complete eradication of the thematic gender stereotypes that usually distort, destruct and destroy the paternal power of gender policy, law and regulation in our country.

The fact that should be borne in mind is that the constitution has only reflected the ideals and aspirations of the country and articulated the values that should bind its people and discipline its government, and all things are left to the larger Zimbabwean polite to operationalise, uphold and respect the law and set standards in all societies against which the legality of gender policies are tested.

Notwithstanding the fact that Zimbabwe has acceded to and ratified many regional and international conventions, protocols and declarations that seek to promote gender equality such as the Beijing Platform for Action, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Sadc Declaration on Gender and Development and the National Gender Policy which is based on the regional and international instruments that seek to address gender imbalances in all spheres and levels of life, the country remains highly unequal in terms of access, control and ownership of resources.

This situation follows Kemi Ogunsanya's assessment that Africa has actually been a patriarchal society and leadership has always been the domain of men. Consequently, African women seeking leadership roles come against several biases such as stereotypic tendencies, sexism and hostilities.

Hence the recognition by the draft constitution of the equality of all human beings, in particular gender equality should transcend written documents and literally empower women and enable them to participate effectively in decision-making roles. To adeptly empower women to be active and to be effective participants in all the national discourses, our societies should, first cease to be the basis and premises for gender struggles. In such struggles, sociologists classify females as a minority group and this is contrary to the recent Zimbabwe population census which indicated that females outnumber men. One may think that this is strange but since the term refers to people who are discriminated against on the basis of physical or cultural characteristics, this concept applies to females, according to Steward Hacker (1951).

Sociological and historical eulogies accord one an opportunity to discern the basis, premises and reason why women will continue to be perceived as inferior to men. There also appear to be a relatively widespread acceptance within the academic community that in some earlier societies, women and men have been social equals.

Apparently the horticultural and hunting and gathering societies had much less gender discrimination than does our contemporary world. In these societies, women may have been partners with and they may have contributed about 60 percent of the group's total food. The primary theory that made women to be systematically discriminated against was the child birth and social experiences. This theory points to social consequences of biology of human production. According to the main proponent of this theory, Friedl (1990), in early human history, life was short and to produce the human group, many children had to be born. Because only females get pregnant, carry a child for nine months, give birth and nurse, women became limited in activities for a considerable period of time of their lives.

With a child at her breast or her uterus, or one carried at her back, or her hip, women were physically encumbered. Consequently around the world, women assumed tasks associated with the home and child care, while men took over the hunting of large animals and other tasks that required great speed and absence from home or camp for longer periods of time.

Joan Huber in his book, 'Micro-Macro Links in Gender Stratification', notes that as a result of the above, males became dominant as it was them who left camp to hunt animals, it was them who made contact with other tribes, who traded with these groups and who quarrelled and waged war with other groups. It was also men who made and controlled the instruments of death, the weapons used for hunting and warfare.

It was they who accumulated possessions in trade and gained prestige by triumphantly returning with prisoners of war or with large animals to feed the tribe. In contrast, little prestige was given to the ordinary, routine, taken-for-granted activities of women -- who were not seen risking their lives for the group. Eventually men took over society. Their weapons, items of trade and knowledge gained from contact with other groups became sources of power. Women became second class citizens, subject to men's decisions.

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