Women’s Group Pushes for Gender Sensitive Legislation

A women’ rights advocacy group says gender insensitive laws have diminished the role of women in decision making. Addressing participants to a Food for Thought discussion session held at the United States Public Affairs Section offices on Tuesday, representatives from the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) said government should be at the forefront of promoting women and girls’ involvement through advancing upholding women’s, political, socio-economic and civil rights across all spectrum.

“In terms of representation of women, we realize we are a country with a population of 52% but we have 18% representation of women in Parliament,” said Glanis Changachirere, an activist and director of the organization. “That means a lot in terms of representation and articulation of needs and realties of women to inform policy and laws,” she added.

IYWD said its work seeks to promote effective participation of women and girls in decision making processes. According to Changachirere, some governing measures are not practical to women’s needs. She gave prescribed regulations for maternity leave as an example. “The statutory law says once women come from maternity leave they have an hour per day to feed the baby,” she noted. She questioned the practicality of time allocation especially in instances when one has more than one baby.

The current Labor Act states that a female employee who is the mother of a suckling child shall be, during each working day, granted at her request at least one hour or two half-hour periods, as she may choose during normal working hours, for the purpose of nursing her child. It says the employee may combine the portion or portions of time to which she is so entitled with any other normal breaks so as to constitute longer periods that she may find necessary or convenient for the purpose of nursing her child.

Co- presenter Precious Gombera, Policy and Governance Programs Officer, concurred and said her organization has been successful in working involving women from marginalized communities; rural areas, farming and mining sectors. She said these are the communities where patriarchal values are observed more than in the urban areas. She said some chiefs now welcome women in their council. Their work, she said, had involved challenging stereotypes labelled on women to disadvantage them from getting involved in decision making processes.

“They have managed to count the number of women who are not married but are in top positions, and yet they can also start counting those that are married,” Changachirere observed. “What is the big issue about being married or not married? Have you done adequate research about man in positions of influence that are not married?”

The presenters noted that a lot of work needed to be done to ensure meaningful participation in decision making processes to empower women as well as curb social ills that most affect them.

“Some of the devastating statistics around domestic and gender violence are a result of the mere fact that most women are dependent on their male counterparts and women are perceived as the weaker sex,” said Changachirere.- ZimPAS © July 21, 2016