A call for the government to prioritise women’s rights as COVID-19 takes toll in Zimbabwe

ActionAid Zimbabwe (AAZ) acknowledges the actions taken by the government to reduce the spread of the COVID 19 Pandemic (Coronavirus). However, we believe that more could have been done to avoid the three confirmed deaths. The current 21-day lock down imposed by government is a good move but remains a cause of concern as it risks compounding already existing gender inequality and exacerbating Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Unpaid Care Work (UCW). For instance, the Herald of 13 April 2020 reported an increase in the cases of GBV in Zimbabwe as a direct result of the lockdown. The lockdown has also seen families spending 24 hours in confined spaces together with women continuing to perform domestic chores such as cooking, fetching water and taking care of children, the elderly and sick. This has made working from home virtually impossible for most working women.

In light of the above AAZ is calling upon the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) to prioritize the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls by putting comprehensive mechanisms that prevent and address abuse and discrimination in the national COVID-19 response strategies. Using our feminist lenses and standing in solidarity with people living in poverty and marginalized groups and communities, AAZ recommends to the Government of Zimbabwe to consider the following in responding to the COVID- 19 Pandemic:

I. In the same manner the government has setup a toll-free number to report COVID-19 cases, the government should also effectively use a similar toll-free number to report GBV and provide referrals to survivors seeking immediate assistance.

II. Government should ensure that the court rulings on provision of water during the lockdown (For example Combined Harare Residents Association vs City of Harare, Minister of Local Government, Minister of Health and Child Care and Minister of Finance) are implemented fully ensuring that all parts of the country receive adequate clean water and that the letter and spirit of the judgements’ is replicated nationwide. This will tremendously reduce the burden of care for women as it will reduce the amount of time spent on fetching water for example.

III. Government should increase the amount of financial assistance being given as safety net to the rural and urban population by donors and prioritize women. The money should be benchmarked to the poverty datum line or at the very least equivalent to the US$10.00 World Food Programme standard cash transfer per person as the current 200ZWL is not enough to buy a standard food basket.

IV. The GoZ should immediately intensify investing in the public health delivery system, infrastructure, affordable electricity and research. A poor healthcare system affects women the most.

V. We urge the government to adopt a nondiscriminatory approach in the distribution of resources (cash, in kind and heath equipment) set aside of the COVID-19

VI. Government should ensure the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to all health workers (the majority of whom are women) and frontline workers in the humanitarian sector for their safety as we fight COVID-19.

Source: ActionAid Zimbabwe