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Charlotte Bronte in her book “Jane Eyre” made an apt observation when she said women were just as entitled as men to be involved in any form of action and be recognised for their efforts.

Women want to be active players across all sectors, just like men.

“It is in vain to say human beings ought to be said satisfied with tranquillity, they must have action, and they will make it if they cannot find it.”

Although Bronte wrote her book in the Victorian era, when it was the norm for women to be subservient to their husbands and other male figures, her thoughts and ideologies speak into the Zimbabwean scenario where women are demanding their share of the cake.

With their efforts ably supported by the new Constitution and other existing pieces of legislation, expectations are high that the establishment of the Gender Commission will be a panacea to gender equality challenges that the country has been battling with.

The Gender Commission draft has been approved by Cabinet and is now ready to be tabled in Parliament, sometime next month, before it is enacted into law.

A child of the new Constitution, the Gender Commission aims to address problems of gender disparities across the country’s various economic, political and social sectors, and will act as a watchdog for possible violations of rights relating to gender as stipulated by the new constitution.

Probably the biggest mandate of the Gender Commission would be to conduct research into issues relating to gender and social justice, and to recommend changes to laws and practices which lead to discrimination based on gender. It will also be tasked with receiving and considering complaints from the public and to take such action in regard to the complaints as the Commission considers appropriate.

It is also within that regard that the commission is also expected to monitor issues concerning gender equality to ensure gender equality as provided for in the constitution.

For a long time, the Government has been enacting a number of legislative pieces aimed at addressing gender imbalances, but there have always been challenges in their implementation, exposing serious gaps in the whole process.

The country has a number of economic policies that seek to empower the generality of women who want to venture into business are there, but only few women have been able to benefit because of the bottleneck structures that exist at the implementation stages, rendering the whole processes null and void.

Rather than aide the empowerment process of women, by relaxing some of their requirements, financial institutions and other organisations will still demand the same collateral conditions, making it impossible for the ordinary woman to get into mainstream economy.

However, there is no doubt that the mandate of the Gender Commission should be more than a talk shop platform. The members would have to deliver and address gender issues that are on the ground.

Thirty-four years after the attainment of Independence, women still face high incidence of sexual abuse and cases of gender-based violence that have in some instances proved fatal. The majority of women encounter barriers to their career aancement among them unemployment, hence the high turnover of women in the informal sector.

The problems that the female populace face in Zimbabwe are too numerous to mention. It is for that reason that members of the Gender Commission should be made up of men and women who have an appreciation of gender issues, premised on the existing inequalities where women are still greatly disaantaged in many ways than one, so that they can take the discourse to another level for the benefit of everyone.

That should not be a challenge if the same group does have a track record of gender activism that is not in any way inspired by the consultancy trappings that comes with the territory if one masters the art of parroting the issues, without necessarily buying into the cause.

We do have women and men in our midst who have become beacons of hope in furthering the cause of women in addressing the gender imbalances that exist within the country’s structures. They have trudged the road and are still in the trenches to secure a better life for women, right across the broad spectrum of issues.

If anything the composition of the Gender Commission should bring in diversified ideas but which will contribute to the cause and filter to a shared vision of gender equality across the nation. They should be elected on meritocratic basis and their comprehension of issues at hand to plug in loopholes that currently exist in both the legislative and implementation blue prints on gender equality.

Such a solid foundation for the Commission will ensure that the team will hit the ground running, making Zimbabwe the third country after Kenya and South to set up such a commission.

Source : The Herald

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