UNFPA Zimbabwe

Promoting gender equality and protection of women's rights

Date: 30/03/2011

Women play a critical role in sustainable development. When they are educated and healthy, their families, communities and countries benefit. Yet gender based violence (GBV) undermine opportunities for women and deny them the ability to fully utilize their basic human rights. UNFPA in Zimbabwe seeks to strengthen institutional mechanisms and socio cultural practices that promote and protect rights of women and girls and advance gender equality.

The Context

WomenZimbabwe has achieved a lot in terms of promoting gender equality and women's empowerment. The Zimbabwean government is a signatory to various regional and international conventions, treaties, declarations and protocols that seek to promote and create an enabling environment for the attainment of gender equality and women's empowerment.  These include, the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) (1991), the Convention on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR); the Global Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration (1995). In 1997 Zimbabwe signed the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development as well as its addendum on the Prevention and Eradication of Violence Against Women and Children. The Legal Age of Majority Act, the Matrimonial Causes Act, the Sexual Discrimination Removal Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the Domestic Violence Act are some of the legislation put in place to promote gender equality and protect women's rights. The National Gender Policy (2002) provide guidelines and the institutional framework to engender all sectoral policies, programmes, projects and activities at all levels of the society and economy. Gender focal points have been established in all ministries and parastatals to spearhead gender mainstreaming. In 1995 the government created the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development (MWAGCD) to oversee coordination of all gender programmes and to facilitate gender mainstreaming in all sector ministries.

However, despite the significant progress made in the area of policy and legislation reform, the legal, socio - economic and political status of women remains relatively low. In the 1998 Human Development Report, Zimbabwe was described as a "highly unequal society", which is a reflection of the general low status of women in terms of access, control, ownership of economic resources and positions in decision making processes.

Most women do not exercise the rights that laws specifically guarantee them, among other factors due to ignorance of the law, its administration, economic hardships that make it difficult to pursue their legal rights, cumbersome court procedures, customary laws and fear of breaking valued relations with family kin.

Women's representation in key decision making positions in both the public and private sector, in spite of recent improvements, still remains relatively low. Political parties have adopted a quota system which has seen an increase in women representation in politics though this is still below the 30% quota set by the AU and SADC and the 50/50 gender parity in the SADC Protocol on Gender. In the 2005 parliament there were 24 women out of a total of 150 members. At the initiation of the inclusive government in 2009 women representation in Cabinet increased from 13% to 20%. This includes the female Vice President, President of Senate and Deputy Prime Minister.

Women also have limited control over their sexual and reproductive health.  Due to the poor economic base women are exposed to risky behaviour, which increases their vulnerability to GBV and HIV / AIDS. Of the 1.2 million living with HIV, 62% are women (2009 HIV Estimates).

According to the 2005/6 ZDHS 95% of victims of domestic violence are women and girls while 99% of the perpetrators are men. 25% of women experienced sexual violence, 36% experienced physical abuse, 57% are emotionally abused and 8% reported that they experienced violence whilst pregnant. Violence against women remains a challenge and is sustained by prevailing negative socio - cultural practices, attitudes, values, norms and beliefs as well as the weak implementation of laws and policies.

UNFPA's response  

The gender programme seeks to strengthen institutional mechanisms and socio cultural practices that promote and protect rights of women and girls and advance gender equality through advocating for policies that protect women's rights; supporting implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA); Gender Based Violence (GBV) prevention and service provision for GBV survivors; and promoting GBV data collection.

The major implementing partners for the programme are:

Ministry of Women Affairs Gender and Community Development (MWAGCD): This is the national Ministry tasked with coordinating gender programming. The main focus of its activities with UNFPA are policy advocacy and implementation of the Domestic Violence Act.

Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) is a NGO made up of women lawyers that works to improve the status of women and children through utilization of the law. It also works to amend laws and policies that do not accord women the right of recognition as equal members of society.

PADARE / Men as Partners
is an anti - sexist men's organization. It is the lead organization in working with men to reduce GBV and HIV and AIDS.

Musasa Project: It's a civic organization whose vision is to have a society free from GBV. It provides counseling, public education and training and shelter to survivors of GBV.

Achievements to date

Key achievements are centred around laying the ground for effective interventions in reducing Gender Based Violence.

1. In collaboration with the MWAGCD, UN Agencies and civic organisation, UNFPA successfully advocated for enactment of the Domestic Violence Act which came into operation on 25 October 2007. This has been a major stepping stone in GBV programming in Zimbabwe.

2. As the lead agency in GBV prevention, UNFPA is instrumental in implementation of the DV Act. To date the following has been achieved:

  • Supported the establishment of the Anti Domestic Violence Council.
  • Conducted a multi - media awareness raising campaign on Gender Based Violence including DV and its interface with HIV.
  • Sensitisation of communities on GBV and the DV Act.
  • Training of police officers, including Victim Friendly Officer and Officers in Charge on implementation of the DV Act and victim friendly handling of GBV cases.
  • Training of judiciary officers in all provinces.
  • Training of traditional leaders on their role in the implementation of the DVA.

3. UNFPA is the current chair of the UN Gender Theme Group. It has been chair for three consecutive years. The UN Gender Theme Group was established by the United Nations Country Team in Zimbabwe to provide an oversight rolw in mainstreaming gender in the implementation of the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Framework. It is the main coodinating mechanism for the joint implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the ZUNDAF outcome 4, on "Reduced negative social, economic, political, cultural and religious practices that sustain gender disparity".

4. UNFPA in collaboration with UNWOMEN, continuously support commemoration of the International Women's Day and 16 Days of Activism

5. Capacity building of women parliamentarians to bring out policy gaps in reproductive health, gender, HIV and AIDS and adolescents sexual and reproductive health rights on the agenda.

6. In partnership with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare - AIDS & TB Unit UNFPA has been instrumental in the development of Management of Rape Survivors guidelines as well as coordination of multisectoral training workshops on GBV and management of rape within the country. With funding from the Norwegian Government, UNFPA also supported establishment of an Adult Rape clinic within the premises of Parirenyatwa hospital.

7. In partnership with IOM, provided GBV response and prevention services to mobile and vulnerable communities including cross border migrants at the Zimbabwe / South Africa border.

8. UNFPA within the UN Gender Theme Group adopted a joint work plan to support the constitutional reform process. UNFPA supported capacity strengthening of traditional and religious leaders, civil society and the media to advocate for gender equality and women's, girls and boys demands in the constitution. 

9. In partnership with PADARE, the men's forum on gender, UNFPA promotes male involvement in prevention of GBV.

Current key initiatives or interventions

1. Supporting a coordinated multisectoral response to survivors of sexual violence:

The objective of this project is to increase access to life saving, multi-sectoral response services with an emphasis on health, psychosocial and legal support of adult and child survivors of GBV. Due to the current challenges the country is facing in provision of basic health, police and legal services, the focus of the project is to strengthen existing services to enable them to integrate victim friendly services. Key activities are training of multi-sectoral teams of nurses, doctors, prosecutors, police and social workers to enhance their understanding of survivor centered approaches, referral and coordination mechanisms, refurbishment of relevant assessment and counseling rooms at hospitals and debriefing rooms at police stations in selected districts and development of standard operating procedures linking law enforcement and health services.

UNFPA Representative Dr. Basile O Tambashe handing over drugs and equipment for the Makoni one stop center to the Honorable, Minister of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Dr. Olivia MuchenaThe project was launched during the 2010 16 Days of Activism Aganist Gender Based Violence celebrations at the Makoni one stop center which was established through partnership with government, UNICEF, IOM and UNFPA.  UNFPA's role was overall coordination of the project as well as providing the financial and material resources for setting up the center. This includes equipment and furniture used to furnish the center as well as drugs.  Between August and September 2010 about 71 people accessed medical services at the one-stop center and 64 accessed legal aid. In addition, 1127 people were reached with awareness raising activities, among which 272 were community leaders.

UNFPA and partners have also implemented the coordinated multi-sectoral response in Mudzi, Marondera and Mberengwa districts. Plans are to establish 5 more one stop centers at provincial capitals (Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Masvingo and Matebeleland North) where no such services are available.

2. Support implementation of the DV Act. UNFPA continues to support implementation of the DV Act and key activities include: 

- Training of Domestic Violence Counselors whose role includes advising, counselling and mediating the solution of any problems in personal relationships that are likely to lead or have led to domestic violence, providing counselling to complainants and respondents, and carry out at the order of the court investigations into the financial status of a complainant or respondent.  To compliment the training UNFPA has supported development of a Handbook for counselling cases on domestic violence.

- Continue community mobilisation and awareness raising on GBV and the Domestic Violence Act through mass media campaigns. This will also include mobilising men, traditional and religious leaders for social transformation on gender.

3. Strengthening GBV monitoring and evaluation. UNFPA has supported the development of a national M&E framework to enable data collection in a standardize manner. Key steps include training of partners at provincial and district level on the M & E framework and data collection tools, piloting the tools in two districts and the results will be used to create a database which will be rolled out in all districts.

 4. Advocating for gender equality and women's empowerment. In partnership with Gender Theme Group members and civil society, UNFPA will continue advocacy efforts towards gender equality and women's empowerment.