Statement on 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence

Women Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) joins millions of Zimbabwean women and girls and the rest of the world in commemorating 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence (GBV). This year’s commemorations are being held under the theme: ‘Zero tolerance to sexual harassment in the work place.’ WALPE believes that the work place is broader and hence we extend the scope to include women in the informal sector, home based industries, domestic work and those undertaking unpaid work such as raising children and home based care.

We also note, with serious concern, that the commemorations come at a time when there is a spike in cases of GBV in the public space. In recent months, women working as vendors have been attacked and their wares looted by the police in a crackdown that seeks to place the aesthetic looks of the city ahead of livelihoods. Women and girls have also been victims of violent attacks some of which have been fatal, the recent examples being the multiple murders of women who were using private taxis.

On 22 November 2018, women Parliamentarians were attacked by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) at the Parliament of Zimbabwe at the occasion of the 2019 budget. The brutal attack by the police which left dozens of female Parliamentarians traumatised and two injured reinforces the fact that women are not safe in their work places.

We therefore make the following key demands to the Government of Zimbabwe and its organs:

Safety of women

We demand that the Government of Zimbabwe and its security organs ensure the safety of women in the public space by providing protection and upholding their rights. It is saddening that the police and other security organs are some of the major perpetrators of GBV in Zimbabwe. This must stop and public security personnel should be trained in human rights so that they have an appreciation of why they are important to protect and uphold in a democratic society.

Continuation of the women quota

We also demand the continuation of the women’s quota of 60 seats in Parliament which is constitutionally coming to an end in 2023. WALPE shall work with other Civil Society organisations and the women parliamentary caucus to push for this amendment.

Equal opportunity and affirmative action

WALPE also calls on Parliament and local Authorities to provide equal opportunities for female parliamentarians and Councillors to access resources as much as their male counterparts. This is in relation to ensuring gender balance on international trips and in giving opportunities to be heard in Parliament and Council. More importantly, they should adopt affirmative action policy for women to access specialised trainings and resources so that they effectively deliver on their mandate.

Budget ceiling on election campaign

Lack of resources is one of the reasons limiting women’s participation in key leadership processes. As a way to address this challenge, we propose that legislation be introduced to put a ceiling on how much a candidate can spend in a constituency. This will enhance participation of women who are often side-lined by rich and powerful men who spend fortunes buying votes.

WALPE is in the process of identifying women leaders across the political divide who want to run for public elected positions from both urban and rural areas and taking them through rigorous, long term, capacity building programmes in the form of trainings, coaching and mentoring exercises. The program aims to give Zimbabwean women the necessary skills and confidence to take up leadership positions and push for good governance and inclusive socio-economic development that benefit all citizens. It is our firm belief that if women have access to more power and authority in leadership positions, they can craft and enforce policies and laws that enhance security in the work place and broadly balance the gender disparity. Thus as WALPE, we reinstate our commitment to working with women so that they are able to occupy leadership positions from all levels in society and change the skewed power dynamics which is one of the central causes of GBV.

Source: Women Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)