International Women’s Day: Equality for Women is Progress for All
Harare – Today the United Nations in Zimbabwe joined the national commemorations of International Women’s Day. The commemoration which took place under the theme “Celebrating Women’s Gains through Constitutional Provisions”, aims to promote women’s participation in political, social and economic spheres in Zimbabwe.
Noting that the adoption of a new constitution in 2013 was a major milestone in the history of Zimbabwe and most importantly the lives of Zimbabwean women, the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Alain Noudehou said, “The constitution contains strong gender equality and women’s rights provisions. The Bill of Rights includes a specific section on women rights, gender equality is within the Founding Values, and a gender commission to protect and monitor women’s rights gains was established.” He further indicated that “the theme of this day is therefore apt as it reinforces the need for continued efforts to be made to fulfil the constitutional commitments towards gender equality and women’s empowerment”.
The UN is encouraged by and supports national initiatives to align all existing laws and policies to the provisions in the new constitution. This process ensures that international and regional instruments signed and ratified by Zimbabwe, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the SADC Gender and Development Protocol are domesticated within national laws. The gender equality and women’s rights entitlements guaranteed in the new constitution are aligned to articles in CEDAW and the SADC gender protocol.
Globally, through the Millennium Development Goals, important gains have been made in access to primary education for girls and political representation by women. Often these gains have been a result of constitutional measures. With the adoption of the new Constitution, female representation in parliament increased from 18% to 35% in Zimbabwe – well above the global average (21%). However, affirmative action to promote gender equality is required in the country in other sectors as well.
The need to address gender based violence and other forms of inequalities were articulated consistently in the UN-led consultations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. In the UN led “My World Survey”, education, health care and job opportunities – all so central to women’s empowerment – are top priorities for the more than 1.4 million people who participated in the survey.
In Zimbabwe, the gender based inequalities, manifest themselves in low participation of women in the labour markets and economic activities, high maternal mortality, and high HIV infections among women. To address these inequalities, there is an urgent need to examine the structural barriers that continue to constrain women’s potential and requirement for social and mind-set transformation in Zimbabwe.
In his message on International Women’s Day, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said, “We are highlighting the importance of achieving equality for women and girls not simply because it is a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but because progress in so many other areas depends on it.”
The evidence is clear and the new constitution provides a strong legal framework where equality for women is progress for all.
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