Setting the Record Straight: The Patriot’s Misplaced Allegations Against the Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD)

The Institute for Young Women’s Development (IYWD) notes with grave concern, a prejudicial article written by Special Matarino, titled, “NED by elections shocker…Zimbabweans beware!”, dated 11 March 2022 and published by “The Patriot”, a newspaper run by the Zimbabwe Heritage Trust. The aforementioned article went on a defamation spree, unilaterally accusing Civil Society Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations of being conduits and championing what the writer termed ‘elite American interests and a regime change agenda in Zimbabwe’ by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) ahead of the by-elections held on 26 March 2022 and future harmonised elections. In particular, the article is short of facts as it attempts to manipulate publicly available information to advance an incorrect agenda which deliberately misrepresents the partnership between IYWD and the government of Zimbabwe in advancing the participation of young women in democratic and developmental processes within the historical context of exclusion. A crucial aspect, deliberately missed by the writer and by association the publication, is the basic journalism tenet which requires that journalists give those being publicly criticized and/or accused, the right to reply.

For the benefit of our internal and external stakeholders, the IYWD has seen it fit to set the record straight and allay any misconstrued perceptions which may have been caused and perpetuated by the unnecessary, partisan, unilateral, targeted and baseless article, regarding its work in Zimbabwe and beyond. Founded in 2009, the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) is a legally registered feminist and membership-based organization with proven experience in promoting the participation of young women to inform and influence socio-economic and political processes to realise sustainable livelihoods. This is achieved through Transformative Feminist Leadership programmes, and providing services that strengthen young women and women’s agency to participate in decision making, earn sustainable livelihoods and build climate resilient communities and promote climate justice in marginalised areas in Zimbabwe. The IYWD is committed to mobilising and strengthening the agency, voice and power of young women and women in marginalized communities to challenge structures, systems and norms that oppress them and cause their discrimination and poverty.

Grounded in young women and women’s realities, we collectively create pathways to imagine a better future and promote and defend the rights and wellbeing of women and girls. Our work derives from the rights of young women and women as enshrined in the Zimbabwean 2013 constitution and various supportive policy and legislative framework that Zimbabwe is part of at home, regionally and globally. Drawing from Feminist Principles our rights-based-community organizing, advocacy, movementbuilding, documentation and thinking alongside marginalised young women and women, promotes the socio-economic, civil and political rights of marginalised young women and women.

Since our formation in 2009, we have successfully built a movement of more than 10 000 young women and women organised through community structures at ward, district, provincial through to national levels. Our work has built our members’ agency resulting in them further building additional organic community collectives, mobilising communities and strengthening their organising to influence social services delivery, holding local governments accountable, promoting inclusion of women in traditional courts and leadership structures, conducting advocacy in our programming areas of feminist leadership, agro-based feminist economic empowerment, environmental care and climate justice. We have formal partnerships with various local organisations that share our principles of transformative feminist leadership and smallholder women organic farmers. We deliberately work with and engage various government Ministries and independent commissions on the issues of young women’s rights, participation, livelihoods and environmental justice as highlighted above. Our work is funded by various independent and governmental development agencies that are interested in advancing the rights and development of Zimbabweans and other citizens of the global south. We also collaborate with various regional and international organisations through which we continue to advance our work. Over time, IYWD has seen young women and women championing their personal, community and national development towards the fulfilment of their constitutionally guaranteed rights as provided for by sections 17-national objective for gender equality; 20- right of youth (young women included) to participate in all spheres of life; 56- right to equality and non-discrimination; 80- rights of women and 52-right to personal security. The women’s quota provided for by the constitution of Zimbabwe as cited by the writer, is a bridging measure aimed at having the country move towards gender equality as socio-economic and political conditions shift accordingly.

It cannot therefore be referred to as sufficient legislative support, also given that it is only provided for the Lower House of Assembly. From our empirical work and analysis, a robust legislative framework is urgently needed across all levels of governance, from community all the way up to national structures and institutions of governance for the country to move towards fulfilment of its national objective of gender equality as enshrined in the country’s constitution. IYWD has thus been proactive and is working collaboratively with other civil society organisations (CSOs), community based organisations (CBOs), relevant government ministries and independent commissions supporting democracy (ICSD) to contribute towards alignment of national legislation on gender equality and democratic governance in line with the provisions of the constitution. To this end, extensive consultations on the legislative framework has been done across all levels of Zimbabwean society, and a Model Gender Equality Bill, together with the attendant Memorandum of Principles have been developed and shared with relevant government institutions responsible for law making for consideration. It is our fervent hope that this media release meets the needs of our esteemed stakeholders and those who are interested in the work we continue to do on a day to day basis.

Our lines of communication remain open to respond to any points of clarification that our stakeholders may have and we invite all those genuinely interested in advancing the rights of young women and women to come forward and partner with us as we further this people-driven national, regional and global agenda of not leaving anyone behind including socially marginalised young women and women.

Source: IYWD

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