Why I voted ‘Yes’ for the women of Zimbabwe

31 Mar

constitution

By Patience F. Dobah Madambi

Women of Zimbabwe were tired – tired of being seen and treated as secondary citizens to their male counterparts! By coming out in their millions to vote in favour of the draft constitution they raised their voices loud and clear. It was time for change – change of a legal nature and change strong enough to override any cultural and societal beliefs that had kept women yoked despite 33 years of national independence.

For many women, the rest of the document was of little significance…they just wanted to vote yes for the liberties they perceived as long overdue. Certain to be passed into the law of the land by mid-year, here’s what the new constitution holds for Zimbabwean women:

  • Women will have a legal right to challenge any decisions made against them in any situation in the name of culture/tradition or whatever imagined societal beliefs.
  • The new constitution will finally allow women to regard themselves, be seen as and be treated as equal citizens (to men) and they will have the right to apply for and get national documents for their children.  In the past grown women, mature enough to give birth, had no right to apply for these without ‘permission’ from their often irresponsible and vindictive boyfriends, husbands or partners.
  • Women will also have the freedom to travel with their children without being suspected of abduction or expected to get a written and signed affidavit from the children’s father.
  • First born women and girls will no longer be overlooked in favour of a younger sibling based on anatomical makeup.
  • Married women will no longer live in the fear of being homeless once their husbands die as the law will now regard them and the children as the natural heirs.
  • Women will also have equal access to land.
  • Women will also be regarded as equals in the workplace and all other spheres of life including within the home when it comes to issues such as property and inheritance, without necessarily usurping the man as head of the home (but of course!).

These few points might, at a glance, seem minor but do in fact address a lot of social and economic disparities – disparities that left women feeling abandoned and angry.  For instance many women who left the country at the height of economic hardships were forced to leave their small children behind and sometimes the children were barely a month old – simply because the father of the child either refused to allow the woman to register the child or assist in the application of a passport.

There are other exciting new safeguards within the new constitution but the above are the main changes that will make a significant difference in the lives of not only women but children as well who often are in the care of their mothers.

Predictably, there is a large section of men in the country who are up in arms over the declaration that women will be regarded as equal citizens to them.  They are also not happy that some cultural beliefs and practices will be regarded as an infringement on the basic human rights of women and therefore a crime.  There is a general feeling among men that their ‘powers’ have been challenged and taken away!  They fear women will dominate them and strip them of their ‘manly powers’

Unfortunately for the men, as often happens in most African states, they chose not to engage in community consultation meetings and left it to the women to attend community meetings and to do the voting. This time around, the women of Zimbabwe had big reasons to  vote and nothing was going to stop them.  The men of Zimbabwe left it a little too late to register their ‘displeasure’ and have instead resorted to forming men’s organisations to ‘protect their rights!”.

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One Response to “Why I voted ‘Yes’ for the women of Zimbabwe”

  1. Winnie April 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    Iam glad that the law will be set to protect us. But believe that our cultural beliefs will supersede the law in our day to day relations within our marriages and the way society at large including other women treat us. Second class citizens who are to be led by men. Referendum has thankfully and hopefully started equal opportunities conversation.

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