On a Tuesday morning in the beautiful mining town of Bindura, the Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD) invited the ZHRC to meet the young women and women of Mashonaland Central. According to a Situational Study on the Gendered Effects of Conflict on Justice and Social Cohesion in Zimbabwe Conducted by the IYWD in February this year, “80.4% of the research participants indicated that they did not know of the existence of Chapter 12 Institutions (especially the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission)”. It was also apparent that young women and women face a cocktail of violence from socio-cultural, economic and political violence of a structural nature Armed with this evidence, we took it upon ourselves to facilitate the setting up of Peace Committees across Mashonaland Central. We also invited the ZHRC to Bindura to pave way for the young women and women to have a chance to interact with the Commission and exercise their agency with regard to the issues they face on day to day basis and to converse with the Commissions how young women can play an active role in promoting social cohesion in the country.
The young women and women exercised their agency as they paused critical questions on topics such as arbitrary evictions, inheritance matters, barriers to access to justice, maladministration by police officers and retaliation in communities when they seek transparency and accountability. The ZHRC being headquarter in Harare with a sister office in Bulawayo, this interaction was a unique opportunity for young women and women to exercise their agency through articulating the issues that affect them on a daily basis and to also hold accountable the Commissions on issues that go unresolved, compromising citizens’ rights. We were joined by the ZHRC Executive Secretary Ms Delis Mazambani who expressed her honour in being in such a space, “since the virtual Peace Indaba where you launched the Situational Study, l was looking forward to working with you and continuing the conversation”. At this meeting Ms Mazambani educated participants the role of the ZHRC amongst other Independent Commissions, the pathways available for the young women and women to seek recourse from the ZHRC and the powers which this Commission holds. One of the pertinent issues that arose was that of the recent Mapunga Farm Evictions that have left young women and women sleeping alongside the Bindura Harare Highway for days on end. While the IYWD facilitated for a formal complaint to be lodged to the ZHRC, there is need to follow up on the status of the report. Memory Chakaodza expressed that, “this was my first time engaging the ZHRC in this manner. l am happy that Ms Mazambani also took note of our issues and we will be following up with her soon.”
The established Peace Committees will serve as Local Peace Committees with equal representation of young women and women who will hold the ZHRC and National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) to account on peace and social cohesion. A society in which peace and social cohesion exists gives young women and women, as well as other marginalised groups a better chance to thrive. Kundai elaborated that, “Since we went through the ZHRC and the NPRC complaint forms it will be easier for me to report issues arising in the communities to the two Commissions.” Going back into the communities the young women and women have a good understanding of how the ZHRC operates, complaints handling procedure, contact numbers as well as a tailored Peace Committee Manual that will accompany in the communities. Going forward, the IYWD will continue supporting the young women and women with the community level cascading trainings that will equip more young women and women with knowledge on the NPRC and ZHRC. It is through these women led Peace Committee’s we aspire to be a step closer to achieving a peaceful and social cohesive society where women’s are louder without fear and more audible to inform policy and development.
Source: Institute for Young Women Development