Despite the little socio-economic changes brought about by the unity government after a decade of political and economic instability, a latest World Economic Forum (WEF) report showed that Zimbabwe moved merely three places up the Global Gender Gap Index to 92nd position in 2010, from 95th last year.
The report showed the country trailed behind its peers in the14-member SADC bloc, except Mauritius, 95, and Zambia at position 106. It is ranked far below its neighbour, South Africa, which is in 12th position. Lesotho climbed to 8th position from 10th place. Iceland retained the top spot while Norway ranked 2nd, Finland 3rd and Sweden 4th.
The index ranked 134 countries surveyed on how much they reduced gender disparities based on economic participation, education, health and political empowerment.
Whereas there is marked improvement in the area of basic education, with more girls enrolled at primary schools, males still dominated at secondary school level in Zimbabwe. At tertiary institutions, the female to male ratio is 3 to 5.The ratio tilted in favour of men in the labour force, at 61 to 75. Healthy life expectancy for women was lower than that of men.
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said over the past decade, health services had been out of reach for many Zimbabweans, with a maternal mortality rate of 880 per 100 000 live births .
“Most of these deaths are avoidable and treatable, and yet years of decline in the quality of service at the institutions has left many … face death when complications arise,” UNICEF said.
Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe has pledged to ensure that no pregnant woman or child under five will be deprived of their right to health care because they cannot afford the fees by the end of 2011.
Way Forward for Zimbabwe
“Lesotho has a high level of female participation in the labour force and female literacy, with more girls than boys enrolled in primary and secondary education. However, levels of healthy life expectancy remained low for both women and men,” said the Switzerland-based group.
In South Africa, higher numbers of women were now in parliament and ministerial level positions. This, combined with narrow gaps in education, had propelled the country into the top 20.
Tafadzwa Muropa, a political economist and gender activist with the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), said Zimbabwe’s ranking was commendable, given the rough political and economic climate that existed in the past decade.
“One should appreciate that Zimbabwe has been in a transition for almost two years, and it is not automatic that such swift changes should take place as we are dealing with a patriarchal system which believes in ensuring that gender issues are always put second to other issues such as national security,” she told ***The Zimbabwean on Sunday***.
She said more women should be aided into politics through a quota system, encouraging girls from Primary school level and creating a good political atmosphere for women to participate. Ratifying of gender protocols should be followed by action and a change of attitudes by society towards women participating in politics starting from the family level.
Access to education by women must be improved and more resources must be channelled to the sector through good debt management. Women must be included in all decision making levels of the economy because they already constituted 90 ‘per cent’ of the informal sector. The health sector must be revamped and supported financially so that it becomes easily accessible to both men and women.
Submitted by: Jennifer Fierberg, MSW