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Ratification, rhetoric and rare implementation of international and regional standards on women's right to participate in decision-making in Zimbabwe: if adopted, will the new Constitution change anything?

By Rumbidzai Dube: This full article can be downloaded from our website by visiting this link

Executive Summary

Women in Zimbabwe constitute 52% of the population meaning that they are in the majority. This statistic does not translate to women's proportionate representation in decision-making processes. Women are under-represented and are often left on the sidelines, while men position themselves as the front runners in politics as political leaders, in the law as judges, in business and corporate giants as directors and top management. The advantage that men enjoy, and the disadvantage that women endure are due to a number of political, social and economic factors including the nature of politics characterised by patronage and violence, the patriarchal nature of society, gender stereotyping and how these factors impact women's decision making abilities, the distribution of wealth and women's inability to access resources to improve their financial status.

However there are various regional and international instruments that seek to improve women's participation in decision-making among these the Protocol to the SADC Gender and Development Protocol, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Zimbabwe has done very well in ratifying these regional and international instruments, signifying its willingness to be bound by the provisions therein. The implementation of these regional and international norms has, however, not been as smooth. It has been hampered by a plethora of challenges- top of which is the non-domestication of these norms.

This has largely been a function of the dualist system that the Constitution of Zimbabwe advocates; namely that any conventions or treaties that Zimbabwe signs and ratifies cannot become binding and have the force of law unless Parliament puts in place an Act of law giving them such force. Now, Zimbabwe is in a process of making a new Constitution, whose likelihood of becoming 'THE' Constitution of Zimbabwe is becoming more real by the day. It is hence trite that in light of that development this analysis be conducted to determine if at all, the possible adoption of a new constitution will improve the implementation of regional and international standards that seek to improve women's participation in decision-making processes.

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