By Takemore Mazuruse
As Zimbabwean communities continue to grapple with rising cases of gender-based violence (GBV), Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum, an organisation which seeks to challenge the status quo in gender relations of power and to promote a gender-just society, will this week undertake a two-day workshop at Wild Geese Lodge in Harare on Tuesday and Wednesday targeting male parliamentarians and senators given their role in lawmaking processes in Zimbabwe.
Speaking to Standard Style, Padare programmes officer Paul Vingi said the workshop will be part of their ongoing memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Parliament of Zimbabwe where they seek to enlighten male parliamentarians on issues to do with women’s rights and gender-based violence.
“Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum has got a standing MoU with the Parliament of Zimbabwe where we have been engaging male parliamentarians with a view to encourage them to speak out about gender issues,” Vingi said.
“We have noted that in most cases issues to do with gender are mostly driven by women even in parliament where feminist leaders like Honourable Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga speak passionately to gender issues. Our thrust with this continuing engagement which started last year is to have male voices speaking on gender issues hence the two-day workshop this week.”
According to Vingi, this week’s engagement will target members of specific parliamentary thematic committees whose overall responsibility is to have an executive oversight of reviewing and monitoring operations of government programmes and policies.
“The delegate make-up of this planned two-day workshop is drawn from specific thematic committees who are either parliamentarians or senators and have executive powers to oversee and scrutinise government programmes,” he said.
“They do so through portfolios and thematic committees for efficient use and allocation of national resources. For this workshop, we are engaging them from a gender and development thematic committee entry point but also incorporating members from the other thematic committees namely peace and security, human rights, HIV and Aids, indigenisation and economic development and the one for sustainable development goals.”
According to Thando Makubaza, Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum’s programmes development and fundraising manager, engaging these thematic committees will capacitate them to speak out and add voice when it comes to implementation of GBV laws and policies as well as realignment of Zimbabwean laws with a view to have everyone moving gender issues as compared to leaving that to women and development organisations.
“Our goal is to have lawmakers playing their part in realignment of our laws like the Marriage Bill, inheritance laws, the Domestic Violence Act as well as child marriage issues where there is no clarity on what the constitution and the law says,” Makubaza said.
“We want to empower and capacitate leaders so that they have an understanding of what we are talking about so that they are fully involved in curbing cases of domestic violence as parliamentarians and senators to drive the gender equality agenda.”
The workshop will also draw friends of Padare/Enkundleni Men’s Forum experts with technical understanding of these laws so that they help enlighten and capacitate the leaders.
Another important aspect of the workshop will focus on the rise of GBV cases during the Covid-19 pandemic and how to deal with victims of gender-based violence.
National director for the organisation Walter Vengesai said they were excited about the strides they are making in engaging all key stakeholders and key interlocutors on gender issues.
“As Padare we are very excited with this development. This is a huge step towards our interventions because by engaging senators and parliament thematic committees we are on the right path to achieving our goals,” Vengesai said.
“Achieving gender equality is not an event, it’s a process and we believe all the processes that we have undertaken and are undertaking will take us far in achieving a gender-just society that understands that gender equality goes beyond violence, but also covers other relevant issues like the 50-50 representation in parliament and in the workplace.”
The workshop is part of a broader project supported by Christian Aid and focuses on having gender-based violence being discussed by and becoming an agenda for all including policymakers beyond the usual non-governmental organisations role and women’s input.