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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: June 20 2009 »

http://www.zwrcn.org.zw/blog/

Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network has the pleasure of
announcing the launch of its blog platform, Zimbabwe Women's Voices.
The blog will begin on the Constitutional Reform Process and seeks to
provide Zimbabwean women and community at large an opportunity to
voice their perspectives on the Constitutional Reform process between
now and November 2009 when public consultations are scheduled to be
complete.

Pambazuka News # 438
Fahamu - Networks For Social Justice
http://www.fahamu.org
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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
Global Moderator
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Posts: 819


« Reply #1 on: June 20 2009 »

The Constitutional Reform Process: Women Why Bother?
June 12th, 2009

Posted By: Catherine Makoni

At its most basic, the term Constitution refers to a system of government. It sets out rules and procedures for governing as well as the powers and duties of government. The Constitution determines the relationship between the State and its people and confers rights on the people of a particular political territory. So why should women in Zimbabwe be concerned with whatís going on with the Constitutional Reform process currently under way?

Itís simple. The Constitution ďis the supreme law of Zimbabwe and if any other law is inconsistent with this Constitution that other law shall be void.Ē  It is that big a deal. The Constitution therefore has the potential to govern every aspect of womenís lives whether we like it or not. From whether we have a right to be citizens of Zimbabwe, to whether the children that we give birth to have the right to be citizens of Zimbabwe among a host of other things.

I have a problem with the way we as women and womenís NGOs in Zimbabwe have looked at Constitutional issues. There has been a tendency to confine our analysis of the Constitution to section 23 of the Bill of Rights. We have argued (with some reason), that it is in matters of personal law that women are most impacted. That may have been true of the past but l doubt it remains entirely true of the present. I am quite positive that that will not be true of the future. A constitution is supposed to be a living document. One that encapsulates a peopleís hopes, aspirations and ideals. If that is true, then our obsession with section 23 has to stop. It is self limiting, myopic and self defeating.

Self limiting because our obsession with section 23 reflects our limited experiences and capacities (working with women who are abused, women who are getting divorced and women and girls whose husbands and father have died and now have to contend with inheritance disputes.) But that is just a fraction of the lived realities of women. We have professional women. We have powerful career women in industry and commerce. Powerful women in business. Skilled and competent farmers. Dedicated and exceptional home makers and home executives. Eloquent and fearless women in politics. Does the section which deals with womenís rights in matters of personal law speak to the aspirations of all these women? I do not think so.

I have often listened with disbelief as some women in the movement have blithely dismissed civil and political rights, stating that the constitution disregards womenís concerns because it only deals with civil and political rights and yet a lot of women are located in the personal arena. Really? Are women not political animals? Isnít there a slogan that says somewhere ďthe personal is politicalĒ? Isnít the political also personal? If you get raped because your husband is the local organiser of political party X, isnít that personal AND political? If you get abducted in the middle of the night leaving your children without a mother isnít that personal and political? I have been left dumbfounded by some organisations which in the past sad year have claimed that they will only assist women who are victims of gender based violence and not women who are victims of political violence! That is how self defeating we have become! We should be wary of propagating false dichotomies. What happened to the notion that human rights are indivisible?

This is not meant to be a diatribe against the womenís movement to which l belong. It is meant to be a wake up call to women and their organisations. We have to deepen our understanding of issues. We have to strengthen our capacities and broaden our knowledge. Let us go beyond the usual suspects who regularly populate our workshops.
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