via Meet the new gender commissioners – The Zimbabwean 21 July 2015
Most of the commissioners on the recently established Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) lack appropriate background in the area they are supposed to manage.
A close look at the commissioners shows that the majority of them have not directly participated in activities or institutions relating to the rights and welfare of women, men and children. Gender activists fear that the lack of a strong background would compromise the effectiveness of the commission.
“The problem with picking people who don’t have a direct background in gender issues is that they may lack the knowledge, capacity and enthusiasm to steer the work of the commission,” Melanie Chiponda, the coordinator of the Chiadzwa Community Development Trust (CCDT) and a post-graduate gender researcher, told The Zimbabwean.
“Gender mainstreaming, inclusion and the redress of past marginalisation of women, and general social inequality are areas that require passion and commitment. Those who selected the commissioners should have taken this seriously, otherwise the commission will not achieve much,” she added.
The commission comprises Margaret Mukahanana-Jangarwe (chair), Sibongile Chambakale-Mauye, Naomi Chimbetete, Tsungirirai Hungwe-Chimbunde, Nyepudzai Nyangulu, Victor Nkiwane, Bishop Paul Kadzima, Obert Machalaga and Peter Mawonera.
The chairperson has professional interests in natural resources management and sits on several boards—among them the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe (IDBZ) and the Mosi oa Tunya Development Company. She is also a former permanent secretary in the tourism ministry. None of these activities has any direct link with gender development.
Chimbetete is an environmentalist, but is the only commission member with a gender history, having worked as the executive director of the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre Network (ZWRCN).
Mawonera, also known as Chief Chikwizo, is a male traditional leader. Traditional leaders are widely seen as custodians of local culture that is widely patriarchal and thus biased in favour of men.
While his appointment to the commission is seen as a move to safeguard men’s interests, it is feared that he might be heavily biased against the inclusion of women as decision-makers and role players in various aspects of social, political and economic development.
A university lecturer and gender consultant, who declined to be named, said the involvement of traditional leaders in the commission was retrogressive. “Chiefs and other traditional leaders sit on the extreme end of the gender pole and they may bring instability to gender inclusion, balance and sensitivity,” she said.
New to gender issues
Kadzima, a former Zanu (PF) MP for Nyanga and a cleric, also has no known history as an advocate for gender rights, while Mauye, an ex-provincial administrator in Manicaland who has worked at the University of Zimbabwe’s economics department, has no background in safeguarding or promoting women’s agendas.
Hungwe-Chimbunde has carved a name for herself as a health practitioner and former health deputy minister while Obert Matshalaga, the former deputy minister of foreign affairs and home affairs, also seems new to gender issues.
“Of course, the commissioners can deliver if their hearts are in it, but it would have been better to take people who are already active in the women’s movement and male gender activists such as those from Padare,” said the lecturer.
Nyangulu is mostly known as professional in the financial sector, having worked as the chief executive officer of the National Investment Trust and is currently a training manager at Steward Bank.