By Rumbidzai Ngwenya
Last week marked International Women’s Day, a global celebration of women’s social, political, and cultural achievements from the past to the present, while pushing for progress for future generations.
WomenInLaw Connect, a networking group for women in the legal profession, also joined the international community in celebrations.
They celebrated their day in style as they observed and honoured their “Legal Eagles”, the name they chose to give to outstanding female lawyers from the year 2017 to 2018.
They held a breakfast meeting at Royal Harare Golf Club to coincide with the day. Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza, the guest of honour at the meeting said the celebrations were not only to renew female lawyers commitment to the global campaign for women’s rights, equality and justice, but also to celebrate the achievements of women lawyers and judges who have made great strides in the profession.
“There have been numerous awards for women rights activists in civil society and the profession,” she said.
“However, there have been few opportunities to celebrate the successes of women lawyers who have been appointed to the bench, commercial boards, parastatal boards and university councils, let alone those women judges and lawyers who head constitutional commissions in Zimbabwe.”
The theme for the International Women’s Day 2018 campaign was “#Press For Progress.” The UN theme for this year’s celebrations was “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”.
Justice Gwaunza said she believed the two themes happily conflate with female lawyers in Zimbabwe as they have been at the forefront of establishing, running and heading non-governmental organisations which promote and enhance the rights of women and children in Zimbabwe.
“The membership of organisations such as Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is populated by women lawyers who are committed activists,” she said.
“They are working in both rural and urban communities across Zimbabwe to raise awareness of gender equality and to advocate for laws and policies that actualise women’s constitutional rights to equal opportunities in the political, economic and social spheres.”
The judge also encouraged female lawyers to take part in the next harmonised elections for more representation as the number of women in parliament over the years have been insignificant.
“I would encourage more female lawyers to consider running for election for municipal, government and the national legislature. While female lawyers have not been reticent in putting their name forward for consideration for appointment to the Superior Courts, the number vying for seats in local government and the national assembly has been negligible.”
WomenInLaw has also been advocating for the review of the Legal Practitioners Act.
Gwaunza said the review would ensure gender equality within the Council of the Law Society of Zimbabwe in line with the provisions of the 2013 Constitution,
“I am informed that the profession is engaged in an exercise to review the Legal Practitioners Act and am pleased to learn that WomenInLaw is spearheading a campaign by women lawyers for amendments to the Act,” she said.
“That development will ensure gender parity, the specific inclusion of sexual harassment as an act of professional misconduct and the expansion of the membership of the Council to cater for full representation of special interests such as lawyers with disabilities, young lawyers and regional representation.”
Nqobile Munzara, one of the Legal Eagles, who in November last year was appointed Group Company Secretary at Old Mutual said the day was important in recognising the challenges modern women especially young girls were facing and how best they can be encouraged to strive.
“I would encourage young women that they have huge value and potential,” she said.
“They should not let their present circumstances or the current situation define them as two or five years from now things may be better. Young women ought to hold close their personal value and integrity and also keep themselves away from social vulnerabilities that they find themselves in and not compromise themselves because of now.”
As much as the core mission of the gathering was to celebrate each other, WomenInLaw Connect also took time to urge all women across Zimbabwe to persevere in making their lives better.
“For us as female lawyers in Zimbabwe l think we are the torch bearers for many women in Zimbabwe and role models for young women,” said Precious Chakasikwa, WomenInLaw Connect coordinator.
“We would want to encourage women that it is possible to achieve a lot in life, so they should not give up even if they face challenges, which is normal when one is trying to climb the ladder.”
“Women should endure and look for assistance from one another,” said Law Society of Zimbabwe programs manager Anesu Chirisa.
She encouraged people regardless of gender to appreciate problems that affect women in Zimbabwe as the first step in solving them.
“People need to transform their attitude towards women rights, equality and justice for women to change the current imbalances and have a prosperous country,” she said.
WomenInLaw Connect was established early last year together with Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association. The platform created by the organisation enables female lawyers to meet, socialise, inspire, learn and celebrate each other. WomenInLaw Connect will be celebrating both International Women’s Day and “Legal Eagles” annually in a bid to inspire more women around Zimbabwe regardless of profession. Women lawyers in Zimbabwe continues to advocate for human rights and gender parity in the country.
List of 2017-2018 Legal Eagles
Justice Priscilla Chigumba — Appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairwoman.
Vimbai Nyemba — chairwoman of the Procurement Regulatory Authority, a position she was appointed to by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in January 2018.
Philda Muzofa — Appointed new High Court Judge.
Sylvia Chirawu — Appointed new High Court Judge.
Itai Valerie Pasi — acting chair Cooperate Finance Institute Board
Roselyn Hanzi — director Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Blessing Gorejena — director Zimbabwe NGO forum.
Nellie Tiyago-Jinjika — Stanbic Bank Board.
Doreen Gapare — councillor, Marondera University Council.
Fadzayi Mahere — Entered mainstream politics and is vying for parliamentary seat for Mt Pleasant Constituency.
Cynthia Mungwira — NSSA board secretary.
Nqobile Munzara — Old Mutual PLC Legal Services manager.
Kuzivakwashe Ngodza-Chingoma — Law Societies Young Human Rights lawyer of the year 2017.
Ropafadzo Majaja — Zimra board secretary.
Brenda Matanga — Law Society council.
Brenda Mahari — International Trademark Association Board member.
Nontokozo Tachiona-Dube –vice chair Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Dr Makanatsa Makonese — director Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.
Nancy Chauraya –Net-one board member.
Faith Mushure — deputy registrar Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe.
Ruth Nyabgulu Mungofa — Stimulus Africa Board.
Bettie Musanhu — commissioner National Peace and reconciliation commission
Pauline Kadembo — British American Tobacco Board company secretary.