Culture hindering women's full participation in Matobo district

By Makhosi N. Sibanda

The Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development has expressed concern that cultural practices are hindering Matobo district women from participating in developmental and political decision-making.

In an interview, the ministry’s district development officer Mrs Christine Nyathi said women are culture bound and do not make meaningful contributions in public meetings where their male counterparts will be present.

 “In this district people still follow tradition. In meetings where both males and females must participate, women hardly contribute because they feel that it is disrespectful for them to talk in front of men,” said Mrs Nyathi.

 She said in public policy meetings, women are not fully engaged because in some instances they even seek permission from their spouses to attend public meetings.

 The ministry’s concerns coming amid concerted calls for greater women’s representation in politics which is believed it contributes to a more equitable distribution of community resources, including more gender-sensitive spending on programmes related to health, nutrition, and education.

 “Some developmental organisations which work with our community have found it difficult to empower women here because they first need a by-in from their partners for them to join in on cooperatives on farming as well as financial hedging schemes, “said Mrs Nyathi.

 She added that the level of submission means that some domestic abuse cases go unreported.

 “If you look at the trend here chances of women coming out to advocate for their issues are not high, we strongly believe there are a lot of things that happen in homes that go unreported and that worries us a lot,” said Mrs Nyathi.

 The ministry further called for women to shun the archaic cultural practices hindering their development.

 She also bemoaned a shortage of field officers in her ministry who are key in driving awareness campaigns in communities.

A culture of patriarchy in Zimbabwe, especially within local power structures, makes it often next to impossible for women to compete for political power.

 According to the United Nations  Zimbabwe faces challenges of limited coordination of the national gender management system, inadequate implementation of the national gender policy, partial domestication of international and regional instruments, low participation of women in politics and decision making positions, limited access productive resources, and gender based violence.