Biata Beatrice Nyamupinga
Harare — Zimbabwe is in the process of formulating a new constitution, following the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in September 2008, and the formation of the inclusive Government in February 2009.
Part of the management structure of the constitution-making process includes organising public hearings, consultation with, and the gathering of views of the people, and the drafting of the new constitution.
The question is, do women out there know what to say?
On political and governance issues, the inclusive Government, through the Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme I document, Articles 25 and 27 recognised and expressed its commitment to the making of a new and people-driven constitution.
Indeed, the surest guarantee for a good constitution is to ensure that all persons and interested groups participate in its formulation.
For Zimbabwe, with 52 percent of its population being women, it is paramount and legitimate that women participate in this process as respected and equal citizens.
The most reliable means women can participate fully is through the 50-50 representation, which is in line with the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development, which was ratified by the Parliament of Zimbabwe on October 23, 2009.
The Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus recognises the significant progress that has been achieved in enacting laws that promote the status of women in this country.
Further to that, Article VI of the GPA acknowledges the fundamental right and duty of the Zimbabwean people to make a constitution by themselves and for themselves; and to make the constitution inclusive, democratically owned and driven by the people.
The same article provides that the new constitution needs to deepen the national democratic values and principles of equality of all citizens particularly the enhancement of full citizenship and the equality of women.
Below are excerpts from Article VI (Constitution) of the GPA, which reads in part:
Acknowledging that it is the fundamental right and duty of the Zimbabwean people to make a constitution by themselves and for themselves;
Aware that the process of making this constitution must be owned and driven by the people and must be inclusive and democratic;
Recognising that the current constitution of Zimbabwe made at Lancaster House Conference, London (1979) was primarily to transfer power from the colonial authority to the people of Zimbabwe;
Acknowledging the draft constitution that the parties signed and agreed to in Kariba on the 30th of September 2007;
Determined to create conditions for our people to write a constitution for themselves;
And mindful of the need to ensure that the new constitution deepens our democratic values and principles and the protection of the equality of all citizens, particularly the enhancement of full citizenship and equality of women.
More importantly Article XI of the GPA bestows special duty to and recognises political parties as critical role players in the constitution making process.
Consistent with the GPA, Article 42 of the STERP document refers to the need to avail resources to ensure women's effective and equal participation in the process and outcome of the constitution-making process.
However, as women have already argued, it is quite evident that they are under-represented in the management structures of the constitution-making process. Below are examples to demonstrate that:
The Management Committee comprises seven members who include three co-chairpersons, three negotiators, and the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs. However, out of the seven, only one of the members is a woman. This translates to 14 percent women representation in the Management Committee.
The Steering Committee comprises six members who include three co-chairpersons; the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, and two co-chairpersons from the first Stakeholders' Conference. Again, from the six-member group, there is only one woman. This translates to 16 percent women representation in the Steering Committee.
lThe Select Committee has 25 members, and there are only nine women members. This also translates to 36 percent women representation in the Select Committee. Only two women hold positions of deputy chairperson.
Thus, the average representation of women in the management structure of the constitution-making process's management structure is only 16 percent.
In addition, women chair only four of the 17 thematic areas. This translates to 22 percent female representation.
The above statistics fall far short of the 50-50 gender and women representation as provided for in the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development.
The Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus has called for urgent rectification of this anomaly in order to ensure that the constitution-making process is as credible and as legitimate as possible, in accordance with provisions of Article VI of the GPA.
The three major political parties are mandated with the responsibility of ensuring that there is gender balance through the nomination of women representatives who should be put into the restructured constitutional management committee.
The Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus expresses gratitude to Vice President Joice Mujuru and Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe for coming out forcefully to seeing to it that women representation is effected within the constitution-making process management structures.
As the Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus, we hope to come up with a strategic plan and budget to enable us to go and carry out the constitution-making exercise; to educate people, women in particular, at grassroots level so that they are ready for the constitution-making process.
However, our problem is funding. At the moment, no one is coming up to help us with funding, and we are frustrated.
Thus the Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus is calling upon co-operating partners, development agencies, women support groups and UN agencies to come on board and assist with the funding required.
Biata Beatrice Nyamupinga is the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus, and also Zanu-PF Member of Parliament for Goromonzi constituency.