I congratulate the President on his election to office by the people of Zimbabwe, I read through his inauguration speech and was filled with much remorse when I recognized that once again women remain the forgotten group.

Whilst there is general reference to inclusivity and embracing diversity the Presidential speech does not mention the word woman or gender equality. This is a common mistake often made that equality means sameness therefore the assumption being all these opportunities that the President refers to shall be enjoyed by all – men and women alike.

In Zimbabwe today, for far too many women, gender equality has remained largely rhetorical normative frameworks that ensure equality for women need to be translated into daily reality in the lives of all women. Mr President, the advancement of Women needs to remain a central part of Zimbabwe’s development plans.

In the decade that Zimbabwe has struggled women have remained the backbone of the economy and society – therefore more effort needs to be made to increase the economic rights of women and girls in rural areas , to increase their part in development strategies .

Achieving social justice and equality in land cannot happen if women are not a central part of the conversations. Women in Zimbabwe still need to acquire land in their own right, with security of tenure. Our legal framework needs to integrate the right to free prior informed consent to ensure rural communities especially women are protected from arbitrary land grabs for large scale investments without compensation.

An agriculture driven economy as referred to in the Presidential speech cannot be achieved without giving careful consideration to the role of women in food production. Extensive research has continuously shown that 60-70% of food production is carried out by women in rural communities, without adequate support items of assets and inputs. As such government needs to take all necessary steps to implement terms of Human Rights instruments, the 2003 Maputo Declaration (otherwise known as the Protocol to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) on women’s rights) specifically requires African states to “promote women’s access to and control over productive resources such as land and guarantee their right to property”.

As we endeavour to open up Zimbabwe for” investment led economic recovery” it is important that the government takes measures to improve on the following;

  • Promote disclosure of basic information about projects – payments, contracts, environmental impacts, etc. – is a necessary but not sufficient condition for improved management of these valuable resources.
  • Citizens, especially women must have basic information about these projects, the revenues they generate and the impacts they produce in order to have a democratic debate on their management and use.
  • In addition, governments must allow for freedom of expression and association to allow citizens especially women, CSOs, journalists and others to use information for accountability purposes.
  • Adopt policies to wean ourselves off of dependence on extractive commodities and use existing revenues to invest in economic diversification, in sectors where women participate the most.
  • To prevent corruption through increased transparency of revenue and expenditure flows.
  • Reduce inequalities in taxes and ring fence taxes/revenue from mineral resources towards community development programmes that benefit women such as improving access to water , renewable energy, health sector among other things

Furthermore government should take all measure to implement the Constitutional provisions on gender equality by promoting women  to participate at all levels of activity, and should be involved, above all, in decision-making levels. This includes but is not limited to ensuring that the new Cabinet has 50% women .The President needs to promote women’s rights, so they could be “agents of change” for sustained socio-economic development. “Without women’s empowerment and gender equality, Zimbabwe will not be able to achieve the SDG Goals and their full development potential,”