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Zimbabwean women's groups Angered by ZANU PF attempts to Diminish COPAC draft constitution

There have been harsh words, shock, disbelief and anger expressed by women's groups in response to the ZANU PF attempts to put on the table a revised draft from the one released by COPAC on 18 July 2012.   The ZANU PF revised draft was brought about after ZANU PF said they were not happy with the current draft, insisting that, "it did not represent the views of the people and the liberation values of the party €.

Women's groups have expressed that it was unfair for political parties to disenfranchise Zimbabweans through a premature and immature campaign to abandon the constitutional review process without affording the people an opportunity to engage directly with the draft document. The Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), a body representing over 36 women's organisations, was instrumental in encouraging the participation of women in the constitution making process. The Women's Coalition and its members say they worked very hard to ensure women's rights are met and that their views are well captured in the draft.

Speaking in an interview with the Crisis Report WCoZ Chairperson, Virginia Muwanigwa, said most of the rights women advocated for were enshrined in the COPAC draft that could become the new constitution if passed in a referendum. She added that,

"As women we are not concerned about whether ZANU-PF's amendments will be incorporated or not, our point is whatever document that shall be put to the referendum has to have the same gains we have in the current COPAC draft constitution or more €.

According to WCoZ, the women's groups have listed five minimum demands for women in the constitution. These are:

·  the quota system - women's political participation;

·   socio-economic rights;

·  non-discrimination (all forms of disability);

·  making customary law subject to the Bill of Rights, and

·  Access to and control of resources.

The women's group feels that the above issues are largely captured in the COPAC Draft constitution as it is currently composed. The COPAC draft constitution has also captured some tenets of their 50/50 campaign, which calls for gender balance in political representation.

The Women's Coalition Chairperson further shared that the constitution making process

"is not a perfect train, it can break down along the way, it is overloaded, people can come in through windows, people can go in without paying, some can sneak and contribute, but the train will reach its destination at some point in time. After investing so much time (over two years) and resources into the constitution-making process it is only fair that the process be taken to its logical conclusion towards covering the last mile in the process. It is unacceptable that all these efforts by women and for women concerning the draft be dismissed €.

The Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWALA) also highlighted that the Constitution of Zimbabwe which was adopted as part of the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement was a document which offers little opportunity for women. ZWALA Director, Emilia Muchawa applauded the current COPAC draft arguing that, "After carrying out a Gender Audit of the Working Draft Constitution it can be safely said that 75% of women's concerns had been included. € According to ZWALA the draft constitution captures the views of women of Zimbabwe and ignoring the efforts made by various women's movements and civil society to bring about a change in the order of this, will be unfair.

In their statement, 'WHAT WOMEN WANT IN A NEW CONSTITUTION, A REMINDER- LEST WE FORGET', ZWALA noted that, "as the drafting of the new constitution reaches a conclusion and we gear up for the referendum, the nation must support women's demands in the new constitution".

Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN), an information-based organisation committed to gender equality and equity, also urged the people of Zimbabwe to support the COPAC draft constitution and emphasised that:

'If women form the majority of Zimbabwe's population, their voice can dominate debates, determine the result of the constitutional referendum and they can also influence the election results! Let the women speak!'

 

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