Yesterday Zimbabwe joined other countries in celebrating 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. Our Senior Reporter Felex Share spoke to Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa to find out the achievements of women in the media industry, participation of women in leadership positions, measures needed to ensure more women participate in leadership positions among other issues.
FS: Minister let me begin by your assessment of women participation in the media. How is it now as compared to the past years?
MM: I am a woman and the Minister of Information in charge of the media. So, from that point of view you have a woman participating at the highest level in the media sector. Right off the bat, I should say I am the poster child of women participation in the media today. As the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, I am responsible for steering the ship when it comes to the media, and presently I have the task of introducing media reforms in line with the New Dispensation’s thrust of opening Zimbabwe for business and dialogue.
Still in the media industry, Zimpapers recently appointed the first ever female editor for The Sunday Mail, Victoria Ruzvidzo. In the private sector, there are women such as AB Communications CEO, Susan Makore, and several others who are part of the decision-making matrix in media houses. This is proof that we are headed in the right direction when it comes to women participation in the media.
FS: Do we have enough women in leadership positions?
MM: I believe we have made strides in terms of opening up opportunities for women across the board. Since the coming in of the New Dispensation we have seen the rise of women into key positions in Government and in various commissions. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba; Procurement Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe board chairperson Vimbai Nyemba; ZIMRA Commissioner-General Faith Mazani; Women’s Bank CEO Mandas Makarinda and the Auditor-eneral Mildred Chiri are some of the women who are making major moves in the country and they are the trailblazers for all others who aspire to do their part in developing this country. Relatedly, we have seen the appointment of the country’s first ever Minister of Defence, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is also my party, Zanu-PF’s first woman chairperson. One could say, the New Dispensation has ushered in a wave of firsts for women and as such we can expect to see more women taking up leadership positions.
FS: There have been concerns such as abuse of female journalists and interns in newsrooms. How have you addressed the issue?
MM: One of the first issues I attended to when I assumed office as Minister of Information was to meet with media organisations and the media houses to tackle various challenges affecting journalists and abuse of female journalists and interns is one issue I have spoken about at length at each of these engagements.
I also plan to take it a step further and meet with deans at universities and colleges in order to hammer the point home that abuse will not be tolerated not just in the workplace, but even in the learning institutions.
Equally, as part of media reforms, we are looking at working conditions in the media industry with a view to increase professionalism and set up structures that will deal with grievances, salaries, employment conditions and a code of conduct. This will go a long way in addressing the issue of abuse.
FS: Are women issues in general finding voice in the media?
MM: Women are an integral part of society and they cannot be left behind by the media. The media is celebrating women’s achievements now more than ever; this is partly thanks to the developmental thrust that the country has adopted. There cannot be development if women who make up more than half of the population are not heard and do not contribute to the national discourse.
As a ministry, we have taken it upon ourselves to ensure that parastatals that fall under our ambit are overseen by boards that are not only gender sensitive, but where there is an odd number of members, female members are the majority. This is part of the process of ensuring that as women we are part of the decision-making processes when it comes to media issues.
The country’s main daily, The Herald, has a Gender Editor, who is responsible for all gender issues reported in that paper. That particular paper also makes sure to give equal voice to sources and subjects in its stories and pictures. It is my intention to engage with other media houses to ensure they have the point persons dealing with gender issues and issues of gender parity.
ZBC has several programmes that highlight women and their stories, these include Women in Farming, Women in Business, Girl Child, and The Scribe.
FS: What should be done in the long term is to ensure women’s participation, ownership and finding a voice in the media?
MM: I encourage women to take advantage of opportunities that Government has availed that include the Women’s Bank, which is an initiative that addresses issues to do with exclusion of women from the financial sector as most do not have savings or collateral. As women we have a whole ministry dedicated to us, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, SMEs and Community Development which is also breaking ground in capacitating women so that they can set up and successfully run their own projects and businesses.
I am a mentor, and I have seen the benefits and rewards that come through mentoring young women. Initiatives such as mentorship programmes help in not just nurturing talent, but also provide a network which as women we can use to uplift each other. The media plays an important role of not only providing women with information of which opportunities are available for them, but also showcasing the strides women are taking in. Section 56 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe on equality and discrimination clearly states that women and men have the right to equal treatment including to the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres. It further states that every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, pregnancy, disability among other grounds. In addition, Section 17 of the Constitution calls upon Government to ensure full gender balance and to take measures to promote the full participation of women in all spheres based on equality with men.
This includes 50/50 representation in all institutions, agencies of government, commissions and other elective bodies at all levels. The Government of Zimbabwe also made significant strides in putting in place Laws and Policies that promote gender equality and women empowerment such as the National Gender Policy which provides a guiding framework for mainstreaming gender in all sectors of the economy. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission was also established to deal with gender discrimination. Furthermore, various progressive pieces of legislation have been enacted which promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. These include;
- Equal Pay Regulations (1980)
- Legal Age of Majority Act (LAMA) which was promulgated in 1980
- Public Service Pensions (Amendment) Regulations (1985).
- Matrimonial Causes Act (1987).
- Sexual Offences Act now part of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (2001).
- Labour Act (2006).
- Domestic Violence Act (2007).
At the global level, Zimbabwe has ratified a number of International and Regional Instruments that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment like the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development among other instruments.
Government through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Communuity, Small and Medium Enterprises Development led by my colleague Hon Sithembiso Nyoni is also developing a National Strategy on Women in Decision Making. The main objective of the Strategy is to increase women’s participation in decision making in public, political and private sectors. The Strategy will also inform the formulation of specific gender equality laws that promote and ensures boardroom diversity paying particular attention to gender. The Ministry has also developed a Girls and Young Women Empowerment Framework, which advocates for the inclusion of girls and young women in decision making and leadership positions. This covers all sectors including the media.