Calls for Gweru City to be gender-inclusive

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Gracia Mashingaidze

Gweru City Council remains Gender blind amid several calls and engagements done by Civic Society Organisations (CSOs) in the region as evidenced by the composition of their appointed Advisory Board in 2021 and the committee of inquiry in March 2022.

In a letter dated 23 March 2022, which read Re: Invitation to conduct service delivery inquiry has a committee of seven people among them one female who is in the committee by chance of being a councilor.

Concerns over women and youths’ marginalisation and invisibility in African policy-making, remains a fervent international discourse.

The 2017 Inter-census Demographic Survey (ICDS) estimated the population of Zimbabwe at 13 572 560, comprising 6 514 829 males and 7 057 731 females. The proportion of males and females was at 48 percent and 52 percent respectively. The women’s human rights approach, claims that since women are half of the entire population in Africa, they have a right to be represented in decision making (Baserup et al, 2013). The critical mass theory, claims that women would achieve solidarity of purpose for their interests and welfare if represented in decision making (Oliver and Marwell, 1988, Fraser, 1990)

Equal participation of women and men in politics is central to more inclusive and democratic governance. Several human rights mechanisms, including the CEDAW, elaborate on the nature of women’s civil and political rights and the steps required to promote equality between women and men. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 21(1) states that “everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through a freely chosen representative.”

At the National level, section 17 of the Constitution states that there must be full gender balance and the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men. It further states that there shall be equal representation in all institutions and agencies of government at every level, including in any commissions established under the constitution. Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030 cannot be achieved without gender equality, without equal participation of both men and women at every level in the mainstream economy.

In an interview with Nozipho Rutsate a Social and Economic Justice Ambassador under ZIMCODD and the current secretary for the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe, she said that there is a need for women to rise and demand their space in all leadership facets.

“It has since become a norm for our local authority in Gweru to have structures that are gender blind. The previous advisory board of Gweru City Council’s composition was dominated by males. Again this service delivery inquiry committee is again male-dominated showing that there is little or no room for women in decision-making processes, especially on issues that affect them such as poor service delivery.

“It is time as women to stand up and demand our space, especially in critical processes that affect our access to essential services such as portable water and health at local health facilities. There is a need for a paradigm shift in how platforms for decision-making are structured. These structures should be inclusive and gender-balanced. There is no inclusive development without other key actors in our society and that is to include women and People with Disabilities,” she said.

The City of Gweru continues to ignore the call to call for the inclusion of women despite constant engagements by the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe through their Women Rights Accountability Forums where they invite duty bearers articulate service issues that affect them on daily basis, and a call to resuscitate the thematic clusters since the onset of Covid-19. Their excuses for lockdowns have since shown their unwillingness to have women on board in any structure because they could have embraced the new normal of using the zoom meetings and WhatsApp groups.

Gweru City Deputy Mayor Cleopus Shiri said that the advisory board is not appointed by the council and it is already a full-fledge policy.

“The mayor is the one who appoints and it is unfortunate that it is now a policy,” he said.

He, however, said there is a need for gradual implementation of a gender policy to allow women to be part of the decision-making bodies.

The 2020 Auditor General’s report flagged out that at the time of the report, the City of Gweru was working with a draft Gender policy, which had not been adopted. Delay in adoption and implementation of this policy only further delays women’s participation in decision-making and governance processes.

Vision 2030, can only be realised through full gender balance in the development process of our great country, hence the need to understand issues and locate women’s space.

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