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Honourable Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan Province, Mrs. Miriam Chikukwa.

Honourable Chairpersons of Parliamentary Portfolio and Thematic Working Groups

The Chairperson for Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Commissioner Elasto Hilarious Mugwadi

All Commissioners of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission here present

President of the Chiefs Council, Chief Fortune Charumbira

Representatives from Embassies and Development Partners here present

Permanent Secretaries for Ministries here present

The Executive Secretary and other staff members of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Secretariat

Government Officials here present

Representatives from Universities and Colleges

Representatives from Labour Unions and Civil Society Organizations

Members from the Media Fraternity

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour on behalf of the Government of Zimbabwe and on my personal behalf to address you on this very important day on the International Human Rights Calendar, the International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of March annually, when various events across the globe are conducted to mark and celebrate women’s rights and empowerment as well as their achievements. To that extent, as Zimbabweans, we are happy to be gathered here to commemorate this day by way of a seminar being hosted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).

 In different regions, the focus of the commemorations range from general celebration of respect and appreciation for women to a celebration of women’s economic, social, political and cultural achievements as well as appreciate the challenges they grapple with every day. Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who continue to play extraordinary roles in the development of their countries, communities, and families.

For this year 2015, the international theme is ”Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it”and the national theme is “Beijing +20: The Journey towards women empowerment in Zimbabwe: Successes and Challenges”. Ladies and Gentlemen, today we are taking time to reflect on the position of women 20 years after the Beijing Conference in China in 1995 which marked a watershed in worldwide recognition of the significance of women in our society. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is regarded as the most progressive blue print for advancing women’s rights. As a defining framework for change, the Platform for Action made comprehensive commitments under 12 Critical areas of concern. On this day 20 years later, the Beijing Platform for Action remains a powerful source of guidance and inspiration to government and for us all. The Beijing Platform for Action made comprehensive commitments under 12 critical areas of concern which are as follows;

  1. Women and the environment
  2. Women in power and decision making
  3. The girl child
  4. Women and the economy
  5. Women and poverty
  6. Violence against women
  7. Human rights of women
  8. Education and training of women
  9. Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women
  10. Women and health
  11. Women and the media
  12. Women and armed conflict

Zimbabwe has to continue to progressively follow through the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action until all the 12 critical areas on the rights of women and girls are addressed. I am glad that this year, International Women’s Day is being commemorated when Zimbabwe is at an advanced stage in aligning laws  to our new people-driven Constitution which represents a major milestone in terms of addressing gender discrimination and promoting gender equality. The alignment of existing laws to ensure they comply with the supreme law is expected to result in cumulative effect on gender equality.As a country, we are also   developed the second National Gender Policy (2013 – 2017) whose vision is to build a gender just society in which all women and men enjoy equality and equity and participate as equal partners in the development process of the country.

In addition, the Government of Zimbabwe has adopted the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio – Economic Transformation (ZIM ASSET), partly so as to continue to build on the progress made in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) In the Social Services and Poverty Eradication Cluster, ZIM ASSET has a key result area on Gender and Development which seeks to improve on gender equality and equity through 7 strategies which include:

  1. Community awareness on rights, gender based violence responsive laws, mechanisms and services
  2. Increase the number of women groups benefiting from the women’s development fund, mobilise resources
  3. Set up quota system for women in decision making
  4. Capacity building of elected women MPs and Councillors
  5. Mainstream gender in policy formulation implementation, monitoring and evaluation
  6. Strengthen or establish mechanisms for women to effectively participate and benefit from various empowerment programmes
  7. in Implement sector gender policies and programmes

Leading the implementation of this key result area of ZIM ASSET is my Ministry responsible for Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development. The execution of the ZIM ASSET socio – economic blue print is guided by the mission to provide an enabling environment for sustainable economic empowerment and social transformation to the people of Zimbabwe, women and girls included.

Ladies and gentlemen I want to applaud and congratulate the ZHRC for hosting this seminar which brings together state and non-state actors represented here for the sole purpose of taking stock of achievements, gaps and challenges in our efforts to work towards the uplifting of women and girls. I  have no doubt that your deliberations will go a long way to  inform the post 2015 development agenda with regard to achieving  gender equality and women’s empowerment.  As you may be aware, this year’s commemoration of International Women’s Day is very important as we see the timeline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) coming to an end. The MDGs, in the same vein as the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, are a cornerstone providing a framework in the advancement of women’s issues relating to gender equality and the assimilation of women in decision making positions. Zimbabwe as a country mainly focused on Goals 1, 3 and 6; and of note is goal 3 aimed at promoting gender equality and empowerment of women.

The goal has two targets:

  • 3a: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and to all levels of education no later than 2015.
  • 3b: Increase the participation of women in decision making in all sectors and at all levels (to 40% for women in senior civil service positions and to 30% for parliament) by 2005 and to a 50:50 balance by 2015.

While we have made commendable progress to meet target 3a, we unlikely to meet target 3b, therefore more affirmative action to promote gender equality in higher positions is required. Thus, although we have made significant progress as a nation in addressing gender discrimination and gender imbalances, a lot still needs to be done if we are to realize the desired motivation of the Beijing Platform for Action.Women continue to constitute the majority of people in the informal sector and in low paid jobs of the formal sector and are underrepresented in higher management and decision making positions in both the public and private sectors. In politics and decision making, women account for lower numbers in spite of affirmative action measures provided for in our constitution. Despite progress achieved in education, women continue to lag behind in technical fields such as Science, Mathematics and Technology. Gender based violence continues to be an issue of concern. In addition, customs, traditions and religion continue to be used to suppress and marginalise women.

May I conclude by urging the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to double its resource mobilisation efforts so as to ensure the Thematic Working Group on Gender Equality and Women’s Rights is operational to enable the Commission to fully realise its broad Constitutional mandate of promoting, protecting and enforcing human rights, obviously focusing on the rights of women and girls. But above all, the Government of Zimbabwe acknowledges the collective efforts that different players in the country are making towards full realization of the Beijing Platform for Action at different levels and in different sectors. This stakeholder engagement seminar is therefore an opportunity for all of you to share ideas, expertise and experiences as you reflect on the journey towards women empowerment in Zimbabwe and recommend further steps to promote the recognition and advancement of women in our country beyond 2015.

I thank you.

Keynote Address by the Guest of Honour, Honourable Christopher Mushowe, Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development at the International Women’s Day Stakeholder Engagement Seminar, Crown Plaza Monomotapa Hotel, Harare, 13 March 2015