Why is it that whenever a dispute arises between a man and a woman, the first thing that comes into a man’s mind is to ask for sexual favours? I wonder! Why is it that, always men to ensure that a woman takes a higher position from where she would be, if the man is the head, he has to again ask for sexual favours which we now call sexual harassment if it is at work?
These were the questions raised by Mutasa South Member of Parliament Irene Zindi during the debate on the motion on harassment of women vendors when she queried why police were demanding sexual favours from women vendors instead of just asking them to pay fines.
Zindi said men had to respect women, give them access to loans and to business and not just to use them to vote for them and then discard them.
“Madam Speaker, if we look at the issue of non-response or non pro-activeness by the Executive, I need to bring in the issue of gender imbalance. You will notice that almost in every sector in our society, all leadership positions are predominantly occupied by men and for most of these men to be responsive to the needs of women, it does really take some time but we are saying, since the introduction of the gender disparity debates which have been going on time and again, it is high time that the Executive, which again is dominated by men, should be responsive to the needs of women.
“What we are talking about is that, the majority of the vendors in the informal sector are women. You will see the imbalance even in the Executive where we only have Madam Hon. Muchinguri here and I think she has done her best in terms of raising women’s issues but I think her voice cannot be heard that much being single handed, while the majority of people in cabinet are men.
“As the legislature we are here to support because again, you can even see the presence here in this House that the majority again are men and as Hon. Matibenga was saying, these are the women who do errands when we are campaigning; tying up mazambia and doing the slogans. That is when we need them, but when it is over, it is over and we start thinking like men and start planning for men, excluding the women.”
MS. ZINDI: Thank you Hon. Madam Speaker. I also rise to support Hon. Nyamupinga who has moved this very important motion supported by Hon. Matibenga. My observation as far as this motion is concerned is – the bottom line is that the government has to be proactive. The government has got to fit in the informal sector and respond to the needs of the people.
What it basically means is that, what is obtaining today is what is supposed to be responded to by the Executive and likewise, they have to be proactive. This cat and mouse game, I do not think will solve the current problems without being proactive and planning for the informal sector. I recall Hon. Mangami moved another motion which was really focusing on the vending activities taking place all over the country and I see a repeat to it. That is what it means, that the government has to be proactive in terms of the needs of the people as the current situation demands.
Madam Speaker, if we look at the issue of non-response or non pro-activeness by the Executive, I need to bring in the issue of gender imbalance. You will notice that almost in every sector in our society, all leadership positions are predominantly occupied by men and for most of these men to be responsive to the needs of women, it does really take some time but we are saying, since the introduction of the gender disparity debates which have been going on time and again, it is high time that the Executive, which again is dominated by men, should be responsive to the needs of women. What we are talking about is that, the majority of the vendors on the informal sector are women. You will see the imbalance even in the Executive where we only have Madam Hon. Muchinguri here and I think she has done her best in terms of raising women’s issues but I think her voice cannot be heard that much being single handed, while the majority of people in Cabinet are men.
As the legislature we are here to support because again, you can even see the presence here in this House that the majority again are men and as Hon. Matibenga was saying, these are the women who do errands when we are campaigning; tying up mazambia and doing the slogans. That is when we need them, but when it is over, it is over and we start thinking like men and start planning for men, excluding the women.
I can go further in terms of the gender imbalance and illustrate how many women Chief Executive Officers we have in our banks in order for the CEOs in banks to be responsive to the women’s needs and in order to be in a position to access loans, even soft loans. We have seen the government coming up with positive policies to support youths like the just ended policy, just before and after the elections. CABS has since said they have stopped giving such loans to the youths, simply because of non-payment.
We have heard Hon. Nyamupinga here, during her presentation, that women will always honour their loans. I am not saying that youths should not have access to loans, but I am simply giving a comparison in terms of honouring their loans or honouring their obligations. Women always want to prove that they can do it and because of this prejudice against women, women are always wanting to prove the point that they can do it and in the process, they will actually be fulfilling their obligations in as far as accessing loans and hardly a woman given a loan would not fulfill in terms of the repayments of that loan. Always, women have to honour their repayments, but when you again, refer to gender imbalance, you will notice that the banking sector is dominated by men and therefore, there is non-responsiveness by such financial institutions to support women.
Therefore, we are calling for the banking or the financial sector to start thinking and plan for women as well. Not only women in the formal or corporate world, but we are also saying the women in the informal sector, as they have done with the youths; setting aside certain amounts through CABS, Stanbic Bank, CBZ and SEDCO as well. So, it is high time we are saying and are appealing that the financial institution should be responsive to the informal sector and in particular women, who are most of the vendors.
Madam Speaker, this issue of gender imbalance, we may take it as a simple matter, but I think it is a very serious matter in the sense that everyone has got to be educated. Everyone has to understand the inclusion of women in all activities that we plan as an economy, as a country and as a society. If you go to schools mostly, this is the stereotype in our minds, you always see most headmasters in the form of men. That is the majority. If you go to churches, the priests are men. If there are women, most of them come to do things like housekeeping, making sure that there are flowers on the altar and making sure the priest is well dressed or something of that sort. I have already given the example in the financial sector.
If you go to any industry, most of the workers are men. So, it does not only take politicians to understand about the gender imbalance. What I am saying is that we need to revisit our school curriculum and come up with gender sensitivity or gender lessons, in terms of inclusivity of women in the whole system. That is when the whole society can start appreciating the idea of including women in all activities in society. As it stands right now, for just politicians to attend workshops, it ends there – [AN HON. MEMBER: Arasika.]- Madam Speaker, I need your protection.
THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, can the hon. member, please stick to the original motion.
MS. ZINDI: Madam Speaker, I was just giving an example in terms of gender disparity and the failure of society to plan for women because they are not educated. They do not even understand it along those lines. So, I thought possibly, I am still within the purview of the motion.
Further, Madam Speaker, my heart bled when I was listening to the audio as it was presented by Hon. Nyamupinga. This idea, again I may as well go back to the issue of failure to understand and respect women in their own making as women by our men in society. Why is it that whenever a dispute arises between a man and a woman, the first thing that comes into a man’s mind is to ask for sexual favours. I wonder! Why is it that, always men to ensure that a woman takes a higher position from where she would be, if the man is the head, he has to again ask for sexual favours which we now call sexual harassment if it is at work. Why is it like that – for that man to be in a position to facilitate the promotion of a woman to a higher position, which woman he would have asked for sexual favours, for him to be in that position. This is my question.
The man would have asked to sleep with that woman for her to be given the position of a Minister. I am not saying that women Ministers have been asked for sexual favours. I am just giving it as an example; or for a deputy head mistress, when making recommendations or for a secretary to be promoted to an administrator in an organisation by that an in that position; that man, for him to ask for sexual favours, who would have asked for sexual favours for that man to be in that position? This is my question and I think this is food for thought for all of us. We need to ask that question because we all know that it is happening.
Listening to those audios, as we have heard, it is actually happening in our society. Why should it be like that? I can further give you an example. Women are being harassed if women feel that they would just like to have a good time on their own. I can give an example of possibly, if they feel they want to go to Archipelago, as they just get out of their car in order to walk into Archipelago to have a good time, the police come after them soliciting for sex. Where is this coming from? This actually disturbs the whole night the women would have planned, in order for them to be out there. This is sexual harassment which I am taking also from the audios which have been played, where women vendors would have been arrested by police. Instead of them having to pay the fine, they are being asked for sexual favours in order for them to be released and I feel that this is unfair to a woman.
Madam Speaker, I can also come to the issue of the Rhodesian laws. We have 34 years after independence. I think that one reason for us to fight for independence was to make sure that we come up with laws which facilitate for the growth of our economy, us as Zimbabweans, ourselves. Why should we be seen to be still holding ourselves to the Rhodesian laws in this day and age? This is my question.
It is the responsibility of the Minister together with his staff to make sure that all these laws are repealed. There is the need to come up with laws which are actually encompassing as to what is obtaining today, which the mover and the seconder of the motion have been talking about. That is in terms of repealing those laws which curtail our own development. In this instance, we are seeing that these laws are curtailing our development. All of us know of the unemployment levels, hence for people to earn a living, they are engaging in these informal activities in the economy. So, for us to allow them to thrive, we need to plan accordingly and repeal those laws which curtail such activities. For instance, we have made recommendations, as I was referring to the motion which was moved by Hon. Mangami on vendors.
First Street as we see it, we can actually plan for the informal sector there and we can segment accordingly to say, those who are selling cellphones, fruit and vegetables, the Kotamai boutique and so on. Likewise, we can play around with the hours for the formal shop owners and the informal sector, they can trade up to eight or nine o’clock. We know as we are talking right now in this House, the informal traders or the vendors trade up to nine or ten o’clock in the evening. I remember reading in one of the newspapers where they were saying that they trade up until as late as ten o’clock because this is when most people are coming from work and they will be on their way home. Most shops would have closed and they tend to sell their groceries cheaper than the formal grocery shops or the supermarkets; and this is when they make most of their money. So likewise, we can plan along those lines. This is being proactive and we cannot go on curtailing ourselves Madam Speaker.
Remember Madam Speaker, between the years 2007 to 2009, it was the women in the informal sector who were actually contributing for the economy to tick. They were the ones who were going out to South Africa, Botswana and wherever bringing in small parts of vehicles, diesel and anything that was required. For the industry to tick, it was women through the cross border shopping.
So, if they had done that, why can we not be proactive and support the women in the informal sector because we already have a testimony where they have proved beyond doubt that the women can do it. Therefore, Madam Speaker, I am supporting that the vendors and in particular women, should be planned for by our government for them to be in a position to access loans and whatever support for them to thrive in this informal sector; in the informal activities as vendors and so on so that they can succeed in their efforts. I thank you.