Saturday, November 27, 2010

Zimbabwe News Update: 2015 Towards Gender Equality

2015 — Towards gender equality

The following articles are reprinted from the Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

— Sadc Today.

MORE pragmatic measures are needed if Southern Africa is to attain the 50 percent target for representation of women in political and decision-making positions at all levels in line with regional and continental targets.

The low number of women who made it into Parliament in the recent elections held in some Sadc countries in 2008 and 2009 proved a major setback towards achieving the desired goal by 2015.

For example, gender representation in the Namibian Parliament has decreased from about 31 percent at the dissolution of Parliament to 22,2 percent following the 2009 elections with cabinet representation at 22,7 percent.

In Botswana, the number of women in parliament has dropped to 6,5 percent in 2009, the lowest in the region, from about 18 percent five years ago. Two women were elected and two others appointed for a total of four women in a total of 62 Members of Parliament.

After the elections in Mauritius early this year, there was a marginal increase of women in Parliament to 12 percent from 9 percent in 2005.

Mozambique recorded an increase to 39,2 percent in the October 2009 elections from 32,8 percent five years ago.

The Speaker of Parliament is a woman in both Botswana and Mozambique, while in Namibia, the deputy speaker is a woman.

Figures for most of the countries still fall short of the target set by Sadc to have 30 percent women in decision-making positions by 2005, and shows little progress towards the target set by the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development in 2008 to achieve 50 percent of women in decision-making positions in the public and private sector by 2015.

The 50 percent target is also in line with the current target of the African Union and going by the current trend, Sadc is not on track to meet the desired target in five years’ time.

This calls for renewed and intensified efforts by Sadc member states to scale up interventions and ensure that the gender gap in terms of women’s participation in positions of authority is addressed.

The recent Sadc Summit said member countries should ratify and implement the Protocol on Gender and Development signed in August 2008, which would make the 50 percent target a legal validity.

The protocol aims to ensure that woman take up an active role in national development by occupying half of the decision-making positions in all structures of society.

Other issues covered in the protocol include constitutional and legal rights; governance; education and training; productive resources and employment; gender-based violence; health and HIV and Aids; peace-building and conflict resolution; and media, information and communication.

Five Sadc member states have ratified the protocol, half of the number required for it to enter into force. Angola, Mozambique, Namibia,
Tanzania and Zimbabwe have deposited the instruments of ratification with the Sadc Secretariat, while Lesotho, Seychelles and South Africa have almost completed the process.

Ratification is the act by which a state confirms its readiness to implement a treaty or agreement. Following signature of any given protocol by heads of state and government, a protocol in the Sadc region needs to be ratified by two-thirds of member states to have legal force.

In the foreword to a recent publication, the Sadc Gender Monitor 2009, Magdeline Mathiba-Madibela, head of the SADC gender unit, said the protocol provides concrete and tangible targets for the region to address its gender imbalances.

“We have to capitalise on this investment to move the agenda forward, with full understanding that the time is now,” she said.

Mathiba-Madibela also said there is need for member countries to review their electoral systems to ensure gender representations in Parliament.

The United Republic of Tanzania is the only member state to have legislated a quota, at 30 percent representation. Mozambique and South Africa use proportional representation electoral systems and their ruling parties have a policy that reserves quotas for women legislators, guaranteeing higher representation.

South Africa ranks highest in the region in representation of women in Parliament with 45 percent, and is third in the global ranking, surpassed only by Rwanda at 56 percent and Sweden 47 percent. Mozambique comes second.

Despite a few setbacks in some countries, the Sadc region has reached the third highest percentage of women in politics, at the parliamentary level, with a 20 percent average, a figure surpassed only by the Nordic countries with 41 percent and the Americas at 21 percent.

Sadc’s average percentage of women in Parliament is higher than the world average of 18,5 percent, the Sub-Saharan average of 18,6 percent, Asia at 18,4 percent, the Pacific at 15,2 percent, and that of the Arab states 9,1 percent, which is the lowest.

‘Pull down PSI billboards now’

By Shamiso Yikoniko

IN most cases, a billboard with a powerful message against extra-marital affairs will not raise any eyebrows. Yet such billboards have caused a stir in Zimbabwe, with activists calling for their removal.

Population Services International (PSI) was the first to be hit as it is being forced to pull down some of such billboards that it had erected as part of its awareness campaign again the deadly HIV and Aids.

The billboards will cease to be part of the cities’ landscape soon as their days are numbered.

What appears as a simple message against extra-marital relationships has sparked heated debate.

Women activists say the text on the billboards is not gender sensitive and is meant to portray women as the major transmitters of HIV.

The controversial billboards carry the message: “Small house yako haina vamwe vadiwa here? Pafunge!” (Does your girlfriend not have other lovers? Think about it).

The women believe that such words shape opinion and create the impression that it is them that are fuelling the Aids pandemic.

“As a women’s organisation, we are still surprised why the billboards haven’t been pulled down,” said Ms Tariro Tandi, the Musasa Project advocacy and legal officer.

“The billboards are portraying women in a negative light. To us, a woman is a woman. When they first put up those billboards we had a meeting with PSI in March this year and we agreed that they were going to pull them down.”

Ms Tandi said the message being conveyed by the billboards was synonymous with how society stereotyped women.

“Women are being viewed in terms of their sexuality,” she said. “But do not forget that it takes two to tango.

“Women are being viewed as sex objects and for women to be promiscuous is taboo, but for men it’s okay.”

She said there were various reasons why women became “small houses” and correctional measures should be taken so that they are not demeaned.

“I think it’s high time that society refrained from shifting blame to women about promiscuity,” said Ms Tandi.

“Let us all be responsible if ever we are going to win the war against HIV and Aids.”

The term “small house” refers to extra-marital affairs, which are mushrooming at an alarming rate and are viewed by some as fashionable.

The practice has been in existence for a long time, but is now being singled out as one of the major causes in the spread of the HIV virus.

Observers say factors contributing to the practice of multiple and concurrent partners include cultural and gender imbalances and the lack of effective communication among partners which leads to sexual dissatisfaction.

Some believe that fighting the small house scourge is an uphill task as the practice is usually done in private.

The co-ordinator for the Young Women’s Leadership Initiative, Ms Rudo Chigudu, said the billboards were in bad taste.

“At a stage when we think we are actually achieving our goals as women in society, it is surprising that some organisations are pulling our efforts down,” she said.

“The message being put across by the billboard is doing nothing, but perpetrating violence against women.

“What picture of a woman is being portrayed by that billboard?

Unfortunately, this is a reflection of Zimbabwe’s situation. Are we saying that women are promiscuous? Are we trying to defend men’s actions, that they too don’t have a responsibility to be faithful?”

Ms Chigudu said she strongly felt that women were victims of the advert.

“PSI, on this issue, is showing negligence and how misguided their research was to come up with such a campaign,” she said.

“We are actually in the process of mobilising people to speak against that because from the look of things, women are always the victims of every situation.”

Earlier this year, Action Institute for Environment, Health and Development Communication (IEHDC) launched the OneLove campaign in at least 10 Sadc countries to address the issue of extra-marital affairs.

The campaign promotes positive behaviour without necessarily blaming people for engaging in risky sexual behaviour.

The campaign challenges existing gender stereotypes and promotes happy and fulfilling relationships with one partner.

IEHDC also screened a television drama on ZBC-TV in a bid to expose the intricacies surrounding the issue of small houses titled “Big House, Small House”.

Concerning the PSI advert, it has emerged that not all women activists have the same feelings over the issue.

“These things are still happening and we can not whatsoever run away from that fact,” said Ms Rutendo Mudzamiri, the director for Young Women African Leaders Movement.

“As women, I feel that we must start to believe in ourselves and stop complete reliance on men.”

Ms Mudzamiri said PSI had “done a great job in sensitising the nation about the real thing”.

She said the adverts could scare those who intent to engage in extra-marital affairs.

“Conversely, men should also be responsible for their actions because if they were satisfied with what their matrimonial homes offer, the name ‘small house’ wouldn’t be in existence,” she said.

But PSI officials said although they were going to pull down the billboards, they saw nothing wrong with the message.

PSI deputy country director Ms Kumbirai Chatora said their adverts were justified.

“This campaign came after the realisation that the behaviour contributed to the spread of HIV, especially when those involved practise unprotected sex,” she said.

“It was also prompted by the realisation that behavioural change remained a huge challenge as observed in the continuing high levels of new infections.”

Ms Chatora said extensive research was undertaken before the billboards were put up.

“From our findings, we discovered that married women continue to face the high risk of HIV and Aids infection because it is difficult for them to persuade their partners to use condoms when they suspect them of having extra-marital affairs,” she said.

“Those billboards were part of the awareness campaign that we thought could conscientise all women out there who are engaging in that kind of behaviour to refrain from their ways.”

Ms Chatora said her organisation held a meeting with the women activists and outlined its mission.

“We are actually in the process of removing the billboards,” she said.

“We have a new campaign ahead of us and by the end of this month, the billboards will be removed.”

When the PSI billboards were first put up, there was an outcry from women activists.

One of the billboards, headlined Honey Pot, portrayed a woman as a pot of honey where every man would come to dip his finger, thereby spreading HIV.

Most African cultures are premised on the belief that women should submit to men, while on the other hand they are not allowed to speak openly about their sexual desires. Zimbabwe is one of the countries hard hit by the HIV pandemic.

The National Aids Council says that behavioural change has seen the decline in HIV prevalence from 21 percent to 14,26 percent.

Working ladies’ HIV prevalence rises

By Kuda Bwititi

WORKING-class women were once considered to be less vulnerable to HIV and Aids because of their status, but not any more.

A recent survey carried out by the National Aids Council (NAC) and other non-governmental organisations has revealed the worrying trend!

HIV prevalence among middle and working-class women in Zimbabwe is on the increase. Most of the women that fall into this category are working women who have steady incomes and live comfortable lives.

The survey’s findings show that there has been a deviation from the norm, as in the past HIV prevalence has been dominant among the poor, the illiterate and the unemployed.

Back then, it was widely believed that more affluent members of society had a lesser risk of contracting HIV because they were more educated and thus well versed with the potential dangers of the virus.

But this recent study, which was carried out using data gathered from HIV-testing centres, has brought a new twist to the fight against the pandemic.

These new findings have come under the spotlight as the country joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Aids Day, which is held annually on December 1.

NAC communications officer Mr Orirando Manwere said this new trend of HIV infections was a result of an increase in multiple concurrent relationships.

“Multiple concurrent sexual partnerships are common among the single working class ladies,” he said.

“Such relationships, which are long term, have been identified as a powerful driver of HIV infections.”

Mr Manwere said the high rate of transmission among working ladies could also be attributed to the fact that there has been an increase in women who prefer to be single mothers.

“There seems to be a cultural diversion as some working women nowadays do not prefer to be married,” he said.

“Such women engage in multiple concurrent partnerships and in some instances they can have more than one child with different men, thus exposing themselves to the risk of contracting HIV.

“There is also another category of married working women who also engage in sexual relationships outside their marriages.”

Mr Manwere said working-class women usually engage in sexual relationships with affluent men.

“Such men usually have multiple partners and this increases chances for the spread of HIV,” he said.

“Working-class women usually want to live the ‘high life’ with the affluent men, even though such men could be married.”

Mr Manwere said more studies needed to be carried out to determine the causes of the new trend.

The study showed that more than 20 percent of middle class women, who underwent voluntary testing recently tested HIV positive.

Also, more than 25 percent of the upper middle class tested positively in comparison to less than 20 percent of the women who tested positive in the low or poverty class.

SAFAIDS resource centre administrator Mr Joshua Chigodora said there was high likelihood that HIV prevalence among married couples could be higher than among commercial sex workers.

“Research continues to show that the rate of infection among married couples is very high,” he said.

“As such, it is highly likely that the rate of infection among couples is higher than amongst commercial sex workers.”

In a report dubbed National Response to HIV in Zimbabwe, NAC operations director Mr Raymond Yekeve said married people were the largest group of people infected with HIV in the country.

“The ‘married or living together’ is the largest group in Zimbabwe, with the most HIV infected people,” he said.

“HIV prevalence in these men and women is slightly lower for women (20,1 percent for married women compared to 21,1 percent for all women) and significantly higher for men (23,1 percent compared to 14,5 percent for all men),” he said.

Other organisations that are involved in the fight against HIV and Aids contend that the new trend needs to be curtailed to reduce the spread of the disease

A non-governmental organisation, Action, has come up with a campaign to encourage single-partner relationships.

The campaign is running across the Sadc region.

“One Love is the name of an HIV prevention campaign which is running in 10 Southern African countries, including Zimbabwe,” said the organisation.

“Its main objective is to reduce the practice of multiple and concurrent partnerships in Southern Africa and to raise awareness around the risks associated with engaging in these kinds of relationships.”

Other new threats that have been identified in the fight against HIV and Aids include the marrying of under-age girls and homosexuality.

Despite these new threats, Zimbabwe has made great strides in curtailing the impact of HIV and Aids.

One of the main achievements has been that the country has recorded the largest decline of HIV infections in the region.

This has been mainly attributed to high condom use as well as other factors.

According to the NAC report, approximately 174 million male condoms were distributed in the country between 2008 and 2009, while more than 15 million female condoms were distributed between 2006 and 2009.

From a policy level, the Aids levy, which was introduced by the Government some years ago, has continued to contribute positively to the fight against HIV and Aids as money accrued from the levy continues to increase.

According to statistics provided by NAC, US$16,6 million is expected to be accrued from Aids levy this year compared to US$5,3 million raised last year.

Although the Aids levy is laudable, some analysts argue that HIV and Aids should be allocated funds in the national budget.

Principally though, the fight against HIV and Aids should be won at the individual level.

Last Wednesday UNAIDS director for East and Southern Africa Mr Sheila Tlou said it was possible to achieve zero new HIV infections if every individual played a role to fight the disease.

“We are getting there,” she said.

“Our vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero Aids-related deaths is possible.”

With Zimbabwe set to join the rest of the world in commemorating World Aids Day on December 1, there is need for every individual to play a role in the fight against the pandemic.

Although the zero infections campaign looks like a pipe dream to some, it can be achieved if concerted efforts are made to fight the disease as HIV and Aids prevalence has declined by 17 percent in the continent in the past few years.

Mandizha a woman of distinction

Tapiwa Sigauke — Warren Park

It is true that a human being is a transient visitor to this planet earth and will depart for the spiritual and eternal world.

A dark shadow enveloped the country on November 12 2010 when the nation was robbed of one of the finest and dedicated officers the Zimbabwe Republic Police has ever seen: Deputy Commissioner-General Bar-bara Mandizha.

The untimely death of Amai Mandizha has left a deep wound in the hearts of everyone and has deprived us of a conscientious senior police officer and caring mother who made history by becoming the first woman to be appointed to the rank of Deputy Commissioner-General.

Having known her through her loving husband, Albert, for quite a long time, she became a mother, a role model, and a guiding star and I had comfortably became part of this ever-happy family.

Amai Mandizha was an oasis of humility, patience, hard work and the valiant role she played in inspiring many people and helping the needy and scores of people was immeasurable.

Her unwavering love for her husband, family and relatives, as confessed and testified during her funeral, was a marvel to watch.

It is important to point out that she was a woman of great distinction, a woman in a class of her own and an industrious senior police officer and mother of a rare breed who could put interests of others ahead of self.

No doubt hundreds of mourners who thronged the Mandizha homestead in Seke communal lands to pay their last respects were a true testimony to the good working and personal relationship she had nurtured throughout her long and exemplary career.

Her service record, as read in her eulogy by Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, speaks for itself.

It a nutshell, Deputy Commissioner-General Mandizha can be likened with the salt of the earth — purely and simply sociable and approachable and she is unarguably irreplaceable.

Her wise guidance and sound advice will be missed by all of us.

To my brother Albert, Ambuya Gakanje and Hugh I say tears may take long to dry up, but please take solace in the legacy that Barbara left behind.

We pray and hope that time will play its curative role in giving you strength to look ahead in this darkest hour.

May her soul rest in peace.

Zim will never be a colony again

S. Mugove — Harare.

Please allow me through your newspaper to challenge Sharon Hudson-Dean, the public affairs officer and spokesperson for the US Embassy in Harare, on her article titled “US explains its policy towards Zimbabwe” which appeared in a certain weekly publication of October 29 to November 4 2010 in which she struggled in vain to convince us.

For her to say that her country neither maintains nor supports sanctions against the people of Zimbabwe or the country itself is downright arrogant.

How can she say that US sanctions target certain individuals and organisations owned and controlled by the Government?

These organisations that are a target of their illegal sanctions deal with the general public who at the end of the day suffer from the effects of these sanctions.

Her cronies in the inclusive Government have even acknowledged the presence of a wide range of sanctions by signing the GNU even though they have refused to talk about them publicly.

I would like this woman to remember that US ally Britain made it clear through its former prime minister Tony Blair that they are “working closely with the MDC in order to bring a regime change in Zimbabwe” and most recently David Milliband also made it clear that Britain will only remove sanctions in Zimbabwe at the behest of MDC-T.

There are quite a number of senior MDC-T Government officials who have been implicated in public corruption. A case in point is that of Israel Marange, the former mayor of Chitungwiza, so why has he not been blacklisted by the US government?

The answer is simple: Fidelis Mhashu of MDC-T appeared on BBC Hard Talk programme in which he promised the whites that they will get their land back in the event that they got into power.

In 2008, a lot of people died due to the effects of US and EU illegal sanctions and this writer also lost a child as a result of dysentery that killed a lot of people in 2005.

In 2010 this US representative now wants to tell us that the sanctions are targeted at senior Government officials, shame on you, Sharon!

I would like this woman to know that Zimbabweans are very schooled, educated and enlightened to know what is going on around them.

They shall never let their country go back to its former colonisers no matter how many more chrome or diamond treaties those former colonisers sign with their puppets here in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe will never be a colony again.

1 comment:

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