Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) Press Statement on the International Women’s Day, 8 March 2022

Theme: Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) which is the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) and Public Protector for Zimbabwe joins the Government of Zimbabwe, other stakeholders and the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day (IWD), 2022. International Women’s Day has been celebrated by the United Nations (UN) annually on 8 March since 1975. The day is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace. The annual commemorations serve to focus attention on the rights of women around the world, and highlights women’s issues globally focusing on their historical, cultural and political achievements. The day is also celebrated in support of taking action against gender inequality around the world.

The UN theme for IWD 2022 commemorations is: Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow. The theme recognises the invaluable role of women and girls towards achievement of sustainable development within the context of climate change. Zimbabwe is party to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015 and intended to be achieved by 2030, are the ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.’ Sustainable Development Goal 13 is on climate action and calls upon nations to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. Section 73 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Amendment 20) guarantees sustainable development in terms of environmental rights, that is the right to an environment not harmful to health or wellbeing and protected for the benefit of present and future generations.

Almost all countries have experienced and suffered the drastic effects of climate change. Zimbabwe is no exception, and the detrimental effects of climate change have been felt in the short – term through natural hazards such as cyclones, floods, droughts and tropical storms and in the long term through gradual degradation of the environment. The adverse effects of these events are felt in many facets of people’s lives in relation to loss of life, destruction of infrastructure and property, food insecurity, and scarcity of water resources and other natural resources. These effects have been worsened by the devastating impact of the COVID -19 pandemic. Climate change, thus impacts negatively on several rights guaranteed in the Declaration of Rights in the Constitution of Zimbabwe that include the right to life, the right to healthcare, the right to education, the right to property, the right to safe, clean and portable water, the right to sufficient food and environmental rights.

These effects of climate change are mainly felt by poor rural communities. In many of these contexts women and girls are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change as globally they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods that are threatened by climate change. Because women perform care giving gender- based roles, they shoulder the greater challenges arising from the negative impacts of climate change as they are charged with the responsibility to secure water, food and wood for cooking and heating. When coupled with unequal access to resources, and to decision making processes, women, particularly in rural areas are in a position where they are disproportionally affected by climate change.

As the nation commemorates IWD, ZHRC reminds that so much as women are vulnerable to climate change effects they are also effective actors or agents of change in relation to both mitigation and adaptation. Women often have a strong body of knowledge and expertise that can be used in climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies. In addition, women’s responsibilities as stewards of natural resources in communities and in household resources, positions them well to contribute to the livelihood strategies adapted to changing environmental realities. SDG 5 urges State Parties to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls in all aspects including ending gender disparities, eliminating violence against women and girls, eliminating early and forced marriages and securing equal participation and opportunities. It is therefore important to identify gender sensitive strategies taking cognisance of equitable participation of women in decision making processes to respond to the environmental and humanitarian crises caused by climate change. There should be gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Commission

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