Source: The Herald
For the past 101 years, women across the globe have commemorated International Women's Day a special day set aside to celebrate womanhood her achievements and the challenges she encounters.
A century of celebrating gender equality in an environment of inequities is not only a milestone, but it is also a moment to reflect on what those 101 years have meant gains, constraints, strategies and more. 2012 is special because it is the first year of IWD's second century.
The importance was underscored by one of the pioneers in 1921: "It is new for women to be making history not just a few queens, empresses or exceptional geniuses, but hundreds, thousands, millions of women now entering history knowing we have made history by changing our lives."
Thus we applaud the organisers of IWD Zimbabwe, for taking the celebrations out of the glitzy and glamour of city hotels to rural Mutoko District in Mashonaland East province where the launch of the Women Development Bank by Minister Sithembiso Nyoni gave credence to the day's importance.
It was a gesture that reassured "ordinary" women and girls that they too are worthy of IWD.
From the thousands of reports, books right up to analysing the situation on the ground, it is evident that the 101 years have not been an easy road for women, for there is no country that can claim to have achieved 100 percent gender equality. The truth of the matter is that "gender" as a concept and a social relation has conveniently been made into a woman-only construct.
This year's theme, "Connecting girls, Inspiring futures" is a pointer that there is more that should be done.
Despite the successes of the past few years, the United Nations Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-Moon in his message underscored the work that lies ahead: "There is a long way, so women and girls can say from birth that they enjoy their fundamental rights of freedom and dignity." He also called for an end to discriminatory laws and to respect women's rights to land.
It is important that the UN continues to speak about the significance of upholding equality for all, and for striving to ensure that gender equality is realised for, the blueprint that women use to fight for their rights, "The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women" (CEDAW), was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979.
CEDAW, which has been ratified by a number of UN member states has become an international bill of rights for women.
However, as we look at the IWD themes, it is important to see how each theme connects with the past and how it carries women and society into the future.
Although the girl child has become the focal point we should critique some of these themes, and ask whether we can move forward and adopt new themes, when more work needs to be done with the old one. A good example is the 2007 theme: "Women and men Unite to end violence against women and girls".
How practical is it to connect girls and inspire futures when we know that gender-based violence against women and the girl child in various forms continues to be a cause for concern?
Despite our concerns, we still applaud the efforts made by millions of women, some willing male counterparts, governments and civil society in ensuring that IWD speaks to the letter and spirit of the CEDAW document.
Zimbabwe as a member of the Sadc regional bloc has ensured that women are not sidelined, and has a number of legal instruments to that effect. The Sadc Gender Protocol has become one of the key instruments in achieving gender equality.
It is an instrument that citizens can also use to measure the progress being made by their governments in implementing gender equality, and it is also an instrument they can use to question lack of progress.
We know that Rome was not built in a day, but the concerns we have regarding the status and future of the girl child in the areas of education, health, social services, economy, peace and security and opportunities that lead to self-actualisation still stand.
We hope that these will continue to receive maximum attention from relevant stakeholders, supported by appropriate policy frameworks.
According to a Gender Links officer, "It is time for Sadc leaders and governments to implement the comprehensive gender equality package provided for in the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development.
This means addressing all women's and girl's needs in urban and rural areas. Particular attention must be given to increasing women's participation in the economy. Women's economic development is central to gender equality and economic growth."
We look forward to that day when women will participate in nation-building side by side their male counterparts instead of operating in predefined menial roles.
There is no empirical evidence to show that if women are placed in certain positions they will not perform just as well as their male counterparts. The idea also is not for women to compete with their male counterparts, but to complement each other's roles. The future, just like today, depends on men and women working together in unity.
It also calls for the women to be connected amongst themselves before they accuse men of being gender biased.