The International Women Day being celebrated under the theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow” comes at a time when there is a growing discrepancy between policy and practice in terms of tangible actions aimed at promoting gender equality in Zimbabwe.
While section 17 of the Constitution provides for gender balance to ensure that all genders are equally represented for both elected and non-elected positions in all tiers of government, the under-representation of women in councils is worrying and retrogressive.
We bemoan that women comprise just 14% of councilors in Zimbabwe and this figure has declined by two percentage points in each election since 2013.In the 2018 local government elections, women occupied only 6 seats out of 46 wards in Harare.
We anticipated that the local governance reform agenda provided an opportunity to come up with laws that will address gender equality in terms of representation in local governance structures including councils.
However, we are gravely concerned that the proposed framework of having 30% seats reserved for women and distributed on a proportional representation (PR) basis fall short from the gender equality provided in Section 17 of the constitution and will not address the gender inequalities in our local authorities.
We are of the view that the poor service provision in particular water, waste management and maternal health care service can only improve when the main service users who are women are equally represented within our local authorities and other local government structures.
The current poor electricity and water supply, and the continued deterioration of maternal health care services are fueling inequalities between men and women, with women shouldering the burden of poor service provision from our local authorities and other public institutions.
The maternal mortality rate of 614 deaths per 100 000 live births (UNFPA 2021) is worrying as it has serious implications on women and calls for urgent action in improving maternal health care services.
We are of the view that unbridled corrupt practices in public institutions are catalysing inequalities and human rights abuses among women. We warn that any effort to combat corruption in our local authorities without adequate and equal representation of women will fail.
In view of the above we recommend the following;
- The need for equal representation of women, young women, youth, people with disabilities and any other special needs groups in the composition of auxiliary structures of the provincial council and all elected and non-elected local authorities’ structures.
- Increase fiscal commitment (budgetary allocation and disbursements) toward maternal health care services in both local and national budgets.
- The government of Zimbabwe must scale up efforts to eradicate all forms of corruption and all local authorities must put in place mechanisms and systems that are aimed at fighting corruption.
- Improvement of service provision in terms of water and electricity by local the City of Harare and Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority will relieve the burden of unpaid care work for women. such as fetching water and firewood which further put women at risk of all forms of violence on women.
Source: Combined Harare Residents Association