“Social norms must be challenged to improve the status of women”

02 Dec, 2021 - 17:12 0 Views
“Social norms must be challenged to improve the status of women” Walter Vengesai

The Sunday News

Robin Muchetu in Victoria Falls

SOCIAL norms such as patriarchy need to be challenged to ensure that male engagement is mainstreamed in the quest to have women’s representation in politics and leadership positions improved.

Male engagement has been highlighted as one of the key factors in ensuring that women’s political participation is enhanced as patriarchal masculinities prevent most men to actively support women leaders.

Speaking during the Africa Regional Symposium-Towards a Pan Africa Model Gendered Electoral Law in Victoria Falls, Mr Walter Vengesai, the national director from Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum on Gender, gave a perspective on male engagement in regard to women’s political participation.

“Women are grossly underrepresented in leadership positions, as a result, men occupy dominant leadership positions in our society but they are largely not part of the gender equality conversations. Patriarchal institutions and strictures continue to place barriers for women’s participation in leadership positions,” said Mr Vengesai.

He said it was unfortunate that men and boys have been using violence to maintain the status quo. He also said the settings present a glass ceiling that stops women from being leaders which is being sustained by an irrelevant archaic patriarchal system that needs to be taken down.

However, he said the women’s movement in Zimbabwe and worldwide was working hard towards taking down the patriarchal system and through their work, some men were beginning to see the light.

“They are now seeing the pitfalls of systems anchored on unjustified male privilege at the expense of women and girls. To these men, patriarchy is not only bad for women but also for them.”

Mr Vengesai said there was deep prejudice against women in leadership with some believing that women’s place was in the kitchen and not in leadership and politics. He said patriarchy has made people to believe that married women can only venture into politics with the permission of their husband who paid the bride price.

Mrs Virginia Muwanigwa, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Chief Executive Officer said there was need for the inclusion of traditional leaders in a bid to change social norms that still exist in communities.

“We need to start speaking about male involvement from the traditional leaders themselves to create the space that is needed for these conversations to happen form that level,” she said.

At the same event Women and Law Southern Africa launched the Pan African Model Gendered Electoral Law also called the Model Law, a Model Law that serves as a sample or reference law that can be used by national Governments.

The objectives of the Model Law are to provide model provisions that assist Member States enact laws on elections that aim to consolidate electoral democracy through creating gendered normative standards to regulate the conduct for the electoral process. It also seeks to mainstream gender into the electoral obligations for Sates that are scattered in various electoral instruments such as the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the Benchmarks for Assessing Democratic Elections in Southern Africa.

The Model Law also seeks to assist in the domestication and implementation of the gender principles, guidelines and obligations.

Dr Antony Chikutsa, the Research and Development at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said the electoral body was delighted to be part of the launch of the Model Law.

“As ZEC we are happy to be part of this event as it gives us highlights of how we should work as a commission. We believe women’s rights are human rights. We are dedicated to making sure we promote gender equality and equity in terms of the laws of this country. We are one of the few commissions that have a gender policy and want to improve in gender aggregated statistics in our work,” said Dr Chikutsa.

Model laws are not developed with a specific country in mind, but rather as an overarching template that could be applied to several countries. Model legislation is often taken from User-Guide SADC Model Law on Eradicating Child Marriage & Protecting Children Already in Marriage


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