Focus on Health Rights of Women and Girls
104 days of Covid-19 lockdown in Zimbabwe, and we continue to witness an alarming surge of Covid-19 cases from both returnees and local transmission. The period 1 July to 11 July has been a period characterised a distressing rise in local transmission cases.
The Ministry of Health and Child-Care reported that, as at 10 July, 2020, the total number of Covid-19 cases had increased to 942 after 16 new cases that had tested positive. The death toll now stands at 13, following the death of a 63-year-old female. We send our love and prayers to the family and loved ones of the deceased.
Today we join the rest of the world in commemorating World Population Day, under the theme “Focus on Health Rights of women and girls in the time of Covid-19.”
We call for a Government that demonstrates its commitment to gender equality by placing women in positions of decision making and influence in the health sector. We continue to raise the fact that until women are in places and spaces of influence in the heath sector, the health delivery system of Zimbabwe will continue to be slow, sluggish and non-responsive to the rights of women and girls.
We call upon the Government to ensure that when the power to appoint is to be exercised, it be utilised in favour of women who suffer ongoing marginalisation in health sector leadership;
- We therefore emphasize the prioritisation of raising awareness on safeguarding sexual and reproduction rights of women and girls. Particularly, where we have recorded reports of pregnant women failing to access pre and post-natal care in health facilities.
- We call for the provision of free sanitary wear, in the time of Covid-19, by Government to all women and girls requiring such assistance.
- We further urge concerted efforts in ensuring that women and girls held in quarantine and isolation centres, have uninterrupted access to sexual and reproductive services including sanitary wear, family planning products and services.
- In addition, we urge accelerated safeguarding measures within the centres through the integration of Sexual and Gender Based Violence prevention and response into the Quarantine Centres’ Management, including training of staff on how to properly service different genders.
- We further recommend establishment of Protection Guidelines on sexual violence and dissemination of information of referral pathways of help available in the 16 National Languages, within the centres.
We note with commendation that, the National Blood Service Zimbabwe (NBSZ), which is the sole blood transfusion Government institution, has stepped back from the policy position to demand cash upfront payments to patients in public health institutions as a result of Government issuing payment to the NBSZ of $43,5 million 2 days ago. Responds to our calls and engagements as the payment effectively stands in the gap, for millions of women and citizens who had been left out in the cold with the reintroduction of user fees for blood and blood related products. We commend the responsiveness of the Government in ensuring the crisis did not continue to escalate in this regard.
However, we continue to raise serious questions on the effectiveness and efficiency of Government services both administratively and operationally. This is largely due to the NBSZ crisis which reveals that the user fee policy of the NBSZ was driven by the institutions inability to function without receipt of the necessary funding, which despite the ZWL $43,5 million payment is still owed ZWL $126 million for the period of February to May 2020. This further reveals the extent to which citizens are held hostage due to administrative and operation inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in state institutions.
This approach is simply not acceptable and in our considered view, constitutes gross maladministration which erodes the rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution.
Accordingly we urge Government to;
- Prioritise better and seek to administratively adhere to the principles of the constitution.
- Address long term outstanding administrative and operational reforms as a demonstrable effort to address state inefficiency and ineffectiveness.
- Respect the right to health.
- Respect the right to life.
We take note of the following developments;
- The Launch of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Strategy by the President of Zimbabwe, His Excellency President of Zimbabwe E.D. Mnangagwa. The strategy is a strong step towards addressing this debilitating scourge in Zimbabwe. We however await the concrete actions. We continue to call for “Pay back the Money” actions, to ensure that the resources lost, are not placed on the shoulders of already overburdened women.
- The engagement between the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe, The Government and the Security Sector. We continue to exercise vigilance on this matter as it seeks to address the poison of subsidized mealie meal to communities who are facing unprecedented hunger due to a complex interplay of the continued extreme lockdown of the informal sector, the rising prices and run-away inflation which erodes incomes.
- The real impact of the costs of living which have gone through the roof by 49,29% to ZWL $13,026.17 by the end of June 2020 from ZWL $8,725.50 at the end of May. We await progressive concrete actions through the Tripartite Negotiating Forum to address this crisis.
- The launch of the ZWL $10 million Covid-19 relief fund for Sports and Arts sector. We call upon the Government to ensure that the mechanisms to sign up for the support are open, accessible, transparent and inclusive.
Critical Emerging Issues
Safeguarding women’s and girls’ rights in the time of Covid-19
The issue of safeguarding women’s rights cannot be divorced from adequate representation of women in decision-making position with the Covid-19 response structures. Women’s solutions should be informed by women’s experiences and lived realities. We therefore bring to the fore lack of adequate women’s representation, and provide the following recommendations.
- Publicization of analysed sex and age disaggregated data by Government on the composition of the Covid-19 taskforce teams throughout the country.
- A gender responsive and accountable approach to all Covid-19 preparedness, response and recovery efforts by Government, Parliament, decision-makers, local authorities and other stakeholders.
- Implementation of Constitutional provisions, particularly, sections 17, 56 and 80, which speak to gender balance, and equality in representation in all spheres of the Zimbabwe society.
- Promulgation of a Statutory Instrument facilitating mandatory gender balance in the Covid-19 Taskforces at National, Provincial and District Levels.
- Inclusion of more women’s rights organisations in the taskforce teams.
Non adherence to lockdown restrictions and containment measures
We continue to note a general trend, throughout communities, businesses and public spaces, indicating a relaxation in observing social distancing, use of face masks and sanitizers.
Further noting that the same trends have been observed within the public transport system;
Gravely concerned with the continuing spike of Covid-19 cases and concerned that failure to adequately observe social and physical distancing may erode all the gains recorded so far in the Covid-19 battle
- We recommend a strict enforcement of the lockdown.
- We remind the general populace on the need to fortify their efforts in maintaining both social and physical distancing, in every environment which may include work, public transport or supermarkets.
Source: Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe