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“We are not asking for too much but for the right thing.” Zimbabwean Women at the ‘Have Your Say’ Women’s Summit to the Constitutional Making Process.

Zimbabwean Vongai Chikwanda participated in the April 2008 ‘Women’s Leadership in Public Life’ Vital Voices political training, where representatives from 13 African countries joined to engage in political campaign and public leadership training. Vongai is a researcher and program assistant with the Women in Politics Support Unit, an organization working for the equal participation and inclusion of women in political processes.

More than 1000 women thronged the Harare International Conference Centre on the 18th, 19th and 20th of June to attend the ‘Have your Say’ Women’s Summit to the Constitutional Making Process in Zimbabwe. Women were strongly advised to take part in the drafting, join select committees and subcommittees so as to ensure a balanced representation of women. Zimbabwean women were demanding equality in all clauses to be drafted in the Constitution.

The ‘Have Your Say’ Women’s Summit was held to ensure that women also own and are part of this big process in Zimbabwe. The Summit informed women of the constitution-making processes, women’s rights, and the issues that women want to see in the new constitution. Zimbabwean women were challenged to take ownership of the process and also drive it to women’s favor as the current Constitution, with its 19 Amendments, does not adequately address women’s issues.

Participants were drawn from all across Zimbabwe through women’s organizations including the Women’s Coalition, mainstream organizations, women Members of Parliament and councilors constituents. The meeting was attended by key women in decision-making positions, and these were the Vice President of Zimbabwe, Mrs Joice Mujuru, the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms Thokozani Khupe, the Minister of Women’s Affairs and Community Development, Ms Olivia Muchena, her deputy Ms Evelyn Masaiti, the Secretary General for the Women’s League in ZANU PF, Oppah Muchinguri, Chairperson of the Women’s Assembly MDC (M), Hilda Sibanda and Chairperson of the Women’s Assembly MDC(T) Mrs Theresa Makone, who is also the current Minister of Roads and Public Works as well as the Acting Finance Minister.

Since the advent of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), a select committee has been put in place to ensure a democratic, inclusive and people driven constitution-making process. The committee, established in May 2009, comprises 25 members tasked with spearheading the drafting of a new constitution in Zimbabwe within 18 months, which is in line with Article VI of the GPA. Only eight of the 25 members are women, which already depicts an unfair and imbalanced representation of women as equal citizens of the country. The 25-member select committee has been tasked to consult stakeholders on their representation in committees and subcommittees, and thus the select committee held Provincial Consultative meetings in the 10 provinces on the 24th and 27th of June 2009.

The Secretary General for the Women’s League of ZANU PF, Ms Oppah Muchinguri, highlighted how the Committee needs to be sensitive of the difference between urban and rural women’s constituencies. She stated that their needs are different and also that their challenges will be different in calling for consultation to the constitution-making process. Many a time in the rural areas, communication is affected by distance, inadequate electricity supply, bad roads or lack of proper mediums of communication. She also spoke of how women could turn this process into their advantage by asking for the domestication of international human rights instruments for women.

Mrs. Makone, the Chairperson of the MDC (Tsvangirai), spoke of how women should not be afraid of engaging in this process. “We are not asking for too much,” she stated, “but for the right thing.” She highlighted that men in the political parties knew the need for women’s equal representation.