Ncube: Celebrating Zim women of excellence

via Ncube: Celebrating Zim women of excellence – New Zimbabwe 23/10/2015

THIS week, I find it so refreshing to for once write in celebratory mode, following the successful qualification of our women’s soccer team, the Mighty Warriors into the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. For the time being, we can enjoy the fruits of hard work, determination, conviction, finesse and heroism that our women soccer team has brought us – a stroke of lunar genius in the midst of galactic political, economic and social misery!

I – and no doubt all members of our youthful Party MDC – want to share our excitement with women’s national soccer team striker Rudo Neshamba and the other fifteen Mighty Warriors as they prepare to fly the Zimbabwe flag high in Rio de Janeiro. This only proves what I have been saying all along – that women and girls are the biggest untapped resource in the country and deserve support be it in sports, politics or economics. I think it is safe to say, when girls succeed, women succeed and when women succeed, Zimbabwe succeeds.

It was no doubt not easy to face the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon; what with their once-invincible male counterparts’ reputation! However, at the end of the day, the best team won and that team was Rudo Neshamba and her history-making paratroopers.

I would like to congratulate each and every one of these tremendous women for their dedication to the sport. Their qualification during these gloomy times we face as a nation is further proof that girls have the potential to succeed in sports, academics and anything else they set their minds to achieve and it is our duty as a nation to make the necessary investments to provide equal sporting, academic and economic opportunities for them.

We hope the Mighty Warriors will bring such sporting glory to our country as did another bunch of Zimbabwean girls in 1980. Our young country, as it was then, reverberated with continental excitement when captain Ann Grant, Anthea Stewart, Liz Chase, Arlene Boxall, twin sisters  Sandy Chick,  Sonia Robertson, and the other ‘golden girls’ struck Olympic hockey gold in Russia. For once, the nation was immersed in collective euphoria that set aside all racial prejudices. Not until 2004 did we win another gold. Kirsty Leigh Coventry won all manner of medals at the Athens Summer Games, and in 2008 in Beijing. Her fame, up to this day, rings tones of sweet harmony in the ears of those who despise Zanu PF instigated racism.

The lethargy that afflicts the Zanu PF government in ‘legitimising’ such constitutional clauses as section 17 has no scientific justification other than incompetence. Many ‘women-now!’ pressure groups have looked with awe as Women of Excellence get excluded from critical national decision-making processes. Even Zimbabwe’s cabinet is weak on women representation because the President claims that he ‘did not know where to find suitable women’.

These are still residual symptoms of a nation with men whose attitudes are steeped in patriarchal tradition. Zimbabwe has not seen enough of women heroes like the ‘golden girls’, Kirsty Coventry and of course,  Rudo Neshamba and her women soccer paratroopers. Contrary to rock superstar Tina Turner’s ‘we don’t need another hero’ lyrical line, we need more women heroes in councils, universities, Parastatals, hospitals, NGOs, media, arts, Parliament and companies.

Our national constitution does create a legal justification for women to be supported. In section 17 (gender balance) paragraph (1): “The State must promote full gender balance in Zimbabwean society, and in particular – (a) the State must promote the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men”. Unfortunately, thousands of institutions in Zimbabwe still use so-called ‘traditional values’ to subvert the law by downplaying and denigrating women sporting and artistic glory.  I would want to resist the temptation to portray myself as a saintly gender equality activist. However, my Party MDC goes out of the orthodox norms by ensuring women operate at the highest level.

This is not the time for the ‘Doctor Amais of the world’ to be wasting scarce national resources perpetuating the ‘PHD’ – pull her down syndrome! It must be an era of solidarity. Zimbabwe has committed itself to numerous protocols that push the agenda for women empowerment. The Women of Excellence phenomenon – at least from my side of the mountain – must not be seen as an exception, but a norm. Our country is desperate for a new liberation ethos – liberation from poverty, dictatorship, unemployment and disease. It is up to us as men, political party and community leaders to have the necessary solid scaffolding in place that allows more Women of Excellence to ascend higher leadership echelons.

In our current manifesto under the MDC ACTIONS for Devolved Gender and Women’s Rights Practices section, we note how “a quick look at women leaders in public institutions tells a sad story of the prevailing male domination within our publictions and private corporations. Permanent secretaries in government, Ministers, Judges, Professors, Vice Chancellors, Corporate Directors and various other roles still speaks of a Zimbabwe that has a long way to go in empowering women as breadwinners and real leaders that make decisions and recognised national policy. Despite the rulings in courts and legislative aspirations, women are treated as second-class citizens. Stereotypes and paternalistic traditional attitudes reinforce this negative state of affairs. Over the years, credible policies on women empowerment have been designed in terms of regional and international thresholds, yet more needs to be done, especially since there are guarantees of gender parity in our new constitution.”

My party, the MDC, has a grand plan around women empowerment beyond the simplistically feudal ‘munhu wese kuna Amai ’ phenomenon. We identify four key areas of intervention where the party has a keen interest in responding toprevailing needs, challenges and concerns of women. Legislation must continueto provide a solid framework for participation of women in governance and economic prosperity.This can be done through ensuring that women achieve 50/50 status in all national processes.Concerted efforts must be made for disadvantaged women and girls to access affordable, at bestfree kits to cater for personal hygiene needs at local level, supported by regular sexeducation for high school children to enhance tolerance and appreciation of the femininegender.

More so, enforcement of constitutional provisions of women empowerment through equal opportunity is another MDC priority, especially at community level. A legislatively designed and mandated quota system must be enforced in every conceivable sector. The MDC continues to encourage women to explore social and business opportunities that have previously been dominated by men. There must be incentives for women to participate in areas like management, leadership, military, mining, agriculture and construction.

Rather than wait for fate to ‘discover’ new Olympic golden girls, swimmers and Women of Soccer Excellence like the Brazil-bound Mighty Warriors, the MDC manifesto insists that there be some leeway to promote women in sports to represent the nation in all categories.