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Honourable Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Christopher Mushowe.

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

Honourable Chairpersons of Parliamentary Portfolio and Thematic Working Groups

Commissioners of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and other Commission here present

President of the Council of Chiefs, 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

Senior Government Officials here present

Representatives from Universities and Colleges

Representatives from Women’s Organisations and other

Civil Society Organizations 

Members from the Media Fraternity

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

I feel privileged to address you on behalf of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) and on my own behalf on this occasion to commemorate, the International Women’s Day. As you may be aware, the International Women’s Day is observed globally on 8 March every year to focusattention on the rights of women and provide an opportunity to reflect on progress, challenges and key issues pertaining to women.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is one of the Chapter 12 Independent Commissions Supporting Democracy established in terms of Section 232 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No 20 of 2013. Section 233 thereof outlines the general objectives of Independent Commissions.

The functions of the ZHRC are provided for in Section 243 of the Constitution and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Act (Chapter 10:30). The Constitution mandates the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to protect, promote and enforce human rights in Zimbabwe through embracing various strategies which include complaints handling, conducting research on human rights issues, human rights awareness raising, monitoring and assessing of human rights observance, protecting the public against abuse of power and maladministration and securing appropriate redress.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has three technical departments which are Complaints Handling and Investigations, Monitoring and Inspections and Education, Promotion and Research. These departments are responsible for executing the mandate of the Commission. In addition, there is also the Administration and Finance Department.

Since inception in 2010, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has assumed its role as a National Human Rights Institution in protecting, promoting and enforcing human rights in Zimbabwe. In discharging its Constitutional mandate, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is alive to issues impacting on women and spome vulnerable social groups in society and has set up eight Thematic Working Groups three of which are on a) Gender Equality and Women’s Rights b) Children’s Rights, and Special Interest Groups (Youth, People with Disabilities and the Elderly). However, the Commission is currently in the process of mobilising resources to operationalise the Thematic Working Groups.

Ladies and Gentlemen for this year 2015, the international theme for Women’s Day is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it”and the national theme is “Beijing +20: The Journey towards women empowerment in Zimbabwe: Successes and Challenges”.  The international theme reminds us of the cumulative gains that accrue to mankind if only women could be more empowered. If we refer to the right to education, there is the adage, that educate a man you educate an individual; educate a woman and you educate a generation or whole nation. Empowerment of women in education is economically desirable for four reasons:[1]

  • The rate of return of women’s education is higher than that on men’s in most developing countries.
  • Increasing women’s education not only increases their productivity on the farm/ field, in the factory but also results in greater labour force participation. later marriage, lower fertility, and greater improved child health and nutrition.

    Improved child health and nutrition and more educated mothers lead to multiplier effects on the quality of a nation’s human resources for many generations to come.

We have referred to the multiplier effects which are derived from according women the right to education, so picture it if women were to be empowered in all other political, economic and social sectors. Obviously such empowerment will result in significant improvements in their roles and status, resulting in a multiplier impact on breaking the vicious cycle of poverty.

With this in mind ladies and gentlemen, the national theme, “Beijing +20: The Journey towards women empowerment in Zimbabwe: Successes and Challenges” calls upon us totake time to reflect on the situation of women 20 years after the Beijing Conference and the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in of 1995 focusing on 12 critical areas. As a National human Rights Institution, our focus is more on strides that have been made in widening the scope of rights enjoyed by women in Zimbabwe.

Since Beijing, the government has ratified other instruments that promote gender equality and women’s rights at international, regional and sub – regional levels. These include   the African Gender Parity Principle of July 2002 – which was followed by the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa followed by the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) of July 2004, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender and Development Protocol of 2008. All these interventions promote a 50-50% parity principle between women and men in both public and private life.

At national level, Zimbabwe is guided by the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the National Gender Policy.The new Constitution represents a major victory in terms of addressing Gender discrimination and promoting gender equality in Zimbabwe. The constitution affirms the concept of equality and stipulates state obligations in promoting gender balance. The constitution provides for equal rights in terms of attainment of citizenship through marriage. The Declaration of Rights has an expanded list of constitutional rights including socio economic rights and elaborates on specific rights for women. The constitution embodies affirmative action to ensure political advancement of women since in the composition of the National Assembly, additional   60 seats (over and above the 210 elected by secret ballot) were allocated to women. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission calls upon government to expedite the process of domesticating and implementing provisions of human rights instruments Zimbabwe is party to as well as align national laws to the new constitution, where necessary prioritizing laws that have a direct bearing on the rights of women.

However, addressing the 12 critical areas identified in The Beijing Platform for Action requires priority attention by all stakeholders to harness resources and expertise from various sectors in order to enhance the status of women. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission recognizes the importance of partnering with all key stakeholders in Government, Civil Society, Local Government, Religious Organisatins, Labour Unions, Development Partners and others who are engaged in promoting women’s rights at all levels of society in Zimbabwe.  It is my hope that this seminar will interrogate some of the key issues the nation is still grappling with in achieving gender equality, empower women and propose practical steps to address them.

I wish to thank you all for taking time to join the Commission on this occasion which I hope will lead to renewed commitment among key stakeholders represented here to strive towards improving the situation of women in Zimbabwe.

I wish you all a pleasant day.

I thank you.

[1]Michael P. Todaro and Stephen C. Smith : Economic Development ,9thEdition 2006, page 377

Opening Remarks by the Chairperson of the ZHRC, Commissioner E. H. Mugwadi at the International Women’s Day Stakeholder Engagement Seminar, Crown Plaza Monomotapa Hotel, Harare