To accelerate the implementation of gender equality, equity and empowerment of women several conventions took upon themselves to address the then existing gaps. United Nations and other regional bodies like South African Development Committee (SADC) endorsed and committed themselves to integrating various resolutions and commitments into their policies and programmes of action. This paper is going to review how provisions in the Beijing declaration and platform for action (1995), Convention on elimination of all discrimination against women and United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 have helped ensure equality amongst women and men in Zimbabwe.
It will go on further to scrutinise the conventions to check on to what extent they have been implemented in Zimbabwe. Definition of termsGender inequality Gender inequality is defined as the disparity in status, power and prestige between people who identify as women and men. Hence forth it involves ranking of the sexes in such a way that women are unequal in power, resources, prestige, or presumed worth (Smith and Kendall 1998).
Gender inequality, or in other words, gender discrimination refers to unfair rights between male and female based on different gender roles which leads to unequal treatment in life (Wright & Rogers 2009). In this paper, gender inequality is understood as the discrimination of one sex by another based on sexual difference in relation to access to power, resources in a manner which is unequal.Theoretical Framework Several theories can provide a valuable framework for conceptualizing gender equality issues, the focus of this paper. These include the social role theory. The social role theory holds that gender differences occur as a consequence of two related processes: social learning and societal power relations behavior Kacmar (2011). What may be considered as gender-appropriate behaviors are usually learned through social modeling and reinforced through society’s power and status structures. Kacmar et al. (2011) argued that people internalize gender roles that society has defined, and they have a tendency to view the world and behave in ways that conform to the societal expectations associated with these roles. As Kacmar et al. explained, women and men tend to respond to social information in predictable ways, and over time, these processes generally lead either to communal or agentic behavior patterns. Communal behavior patterns are considered nurturing and socially oriented and emerge mainly among women; wherein agentic are competitive and achievement oriented behavior patterns and tend to emerge more among men. According to this theory, it is the society that moulds how both women and men are viewed.Liberal feminism is rooted in the tradition of the16th and 17th century liberal philosophy. Liberal feminism focused on the ideas of equality and liberty (Wollstonecraft, 1792). Mary Wollstonecraft western feminist theorist argued, that women’s capacity to reason was equal to that of men and that biological sex differences were irrelevant in granting any rights. She further argued that the reason women appeared to be intellectually inferior was due to their inferior education and therefore, was a result of inequality, rather than justification for it. Liberal feminist see women subordination as resulting from gendered norms, rather than biological sex, and aim to change these norms. Liberal feminists focus on equal opportunities for men and women in education and all sphere of life. The same education provided to a man if provided to a woman will allow a woman to assume responsibility for her own development and growth. But unless society provides equal education with the same civil liberties and economic opportunities a man has, a woman will only exercise her hard won autonomy only within the private or domestic realm. Thus, according to liberal feminism society is to provide women with opportunities. These feminists are also concerned with ensuring that laws and policies do not discriminate against women. Liberal feminists are further looking forward to the removal of barriers that prevent women from operating effectively in public spheres on equal terms with men. The ball has been set in motion and instruments such as the Beijing Declaration, United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the United Nations1325 Resolution have been put in place in a bid to address gender issues.BackgroundThe Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 is a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women. It still remains today the most comprehensive global policy framework and blueprint for action, and is a current source of guidance and inspiration to realize gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, everywhere United Nations (1995). The declaration raised some provisions that were aimed at empowering women and girls who were disadvantaged in most aspects of their lives. The convention was attended by 189 countries and the respective governments committed to implementation of its provisions through aligning with their various developmental policies. According to United Nations (1996) the Beijing convention declared among other provisions that the full implementation of the human rights of women and of the girl child is an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Governments and regional bodies to take all necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and the girl child and remove all obstacles to gender equality and the advancement and empowerment of women. The need to promote people-centred sustainable development, including sustained economic growth, through the provision of basic education, life-long education, literacy and training, and primary health care for girls and women. The provision also seeks to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. The adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by the United Nations General Assembly in December of 1979, and its subsequent entry into force in September of 1981, marked a significant milestone in the international struggle for addressing gender inequality. The treaty is one of the most widely ratified human rights treaties in the world (Musingafi et al 2013). Its widespread ratification resulted in its prominence in the global fight for gender equality which is embedded in all articles of the treaty including Article 3 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women which mandates states to take measures to uphold women’s equality in all fields. The treaty has aided in achieving gender equality in Africa through constitutional and legislative reform, affirmative action, quotas, establishment of gender machineries and equal education opportunities. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is often described as an international Bill of rights of women. It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end discrimination (Byrnes & Freeman 2012). By accepting the conventions states commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women, to incorporate the principle of equality between men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt ones which prohibit discrimination against women, to ensure elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises. The convention also provides the basis for realizing equality between men and women through ensuring women’s equal access to opportunities in political, public sphere including the right to vote, equal education ,health ,and employment, fight against exploitation of women United Nations Women (2008).Countries that have ratified the convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice and are supposed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. The United Nations resolution 1325 was adopted in October 2000. Its focus is on the achievement of increased participation and representation of women at all levels of decision-making, protection of specific needs of women and girls in conflict, gender perspective in post-conflict processes, gender perspective in United Nations programming, reporting, and training in United Nations peace support operations. (Gibbings 2011). It was the first UN resolution to specifically mention women. The key components and recommendations of the resolution were preventing sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict (Peterman et al 2011). The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, therefore highlights the importance of bringing gender perspectives to the centre of all United Nations conflict prevention and resolution, peace building, peace keeping, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. Implementation in the Zimbabwean ContextThe revised National Gender Policy 2013-2017 replaced the 2004 document. Its aim is to eradicate gender discrimination and inequalities in all spheres of life and development. It calls for gender justice, equality, integration, inclusiveness and shared responsibility for sustainable development in Zimbabwe. It sets out priorities, builds coherence and facilitate resource mobilization in support of gender equality and equity. The new National Gender Policy was developed to address the shortcomings of the 2004 policy, and address emerging issues at the national, regional and global level including alignment to the international gender instruments discussed above. It also reflects recent developments in the country including the 2013 Constitutional provisions that are explicit on the promotion of gender equality and removal of discrimination between men and women.Despite the milestones that have been achieved, women are still faced with gender issues in Zimbabwe. The July 2018 elections saw women occupying 33 percent of the Parliament of Zimbabwe. This is below the 50 percent quota set by the National Gender Policy. Furthermore, a large majority of the country’s women are excluded from participating in governance and national development processes due to gender bias, gender inequalities, cultural norms, gender based violence (GBV) and their low economic status.Gender based violence is one of the most common yet unacknowledged and serious human rights violations against women. The Domestic Violence Act (DVA) provides protection for survivors of all forms of gender violence. The prevalence of all forms of violence against women, especially physical and sexual violence, continue to be high despite the country’s relatively strong GBV legal framework (GoZ 2017). More women (and young girls) than men (and young boys) suffer from various forms of violence (GoZ, 2017). This implies that though a proactive approach is being advocated for through the National Gender Policy and other legislation, the discrimination of women in Zimbabwe is still prevalent. Comparison between Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan countries in Parliamentary representationDespite major efforts over the past two decades to create equal opportunities for women to participate in politics and to increase female representation in government leadership in sub-Saharan Africa, women’s inclusion continues to be a major challenge. According to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report 2013, the proportion of seats held by women in single or lower houses of national parliaments in sub-Saharan Africa increased by just 8 percentage points between 2000 and 2013, from 13% to 21%. This indicates that countries in the sub-Sahara are falling short of the 30% target set by the Beijing Platform. This is an indication that women participation is a problem prevalent in the region. However, in Zimbabwe, women occupied 34% of the parliamentary seats during the same period (GoZ). This is above the target set by the Beijing Platform, but below the 50% set standard by the national Gender Policy and the Protocol on Gender and Development of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).This figure indicates that though women participation in political leadership is an issue in the region, Zimbabwe is performing better than most countries in the region. However, this is not a scapegoat for failure to achieve standards set at regional and national level.RecommendationsFor gender equality to be achieved in Zimbabwe, there is need for the government to allocate adequate organizational, human, technical and financial resources to the national gender machinery to enable it to carry out its mandate to coordinate, monitor and assess the impact of the implementation of public policies and national action plans for the advancement of women.Secondly, the Government is to be held accountable so as to fulfil its commitments on women’s rights, including its commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the constitution. The Government should also ensure compliance with laws and policies that protect women.Lastly, there is need to redress culture as a barrier to progress and advocacy for affirmative action for women needs to be supported by the government. A fairer distribution of national wealth through pro-poor policies and policies that ensure women empowerment are to be adopted for progressive realization of women’s equality ConclusionIn conclusion, all the three international instruments discussed above seek to address gender inequalities in Zimbabwe. The National gender Policy is a periodic action plan that has been put in place to enable assimilation of the provisions of the instruments at national level. It has helped in addressing inequality against women. All this is in a bid to ensure an end to discrimination against women and to improve the de facto position of women; and address prevailing gender relations and the persistence of gender stereotypes. To achieve this, the government should ensure allocation of adequate funds towards achievement of the National Gender Policy objectives. Even though there are still numerous challenges to achieving gender equality, the Zimbabwean government has taken notable strides in enhancing gender equality. Achievement in this regard has been the consensus not only to ensure equality of men and women before the law (de jure) but also in real life (de facto).