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An audit of
the Urban Councils from the gender perspective
Residents Association (ZURA) & Combined Harare Residents' Association
Urban Councils Act governs the administration on urban authorities
in Zimbabwe. It purports to be gender-neutral instrument by its
silence on gender issues. It does not refer, in any of its provisions
to men and women as groups requiring different treatment in order
to achieve equality between them. It presupposes that men and women
are equals and therefore the provisions of the Act will apply to
them as a homogenous group. This is the position with the majority
of Acts and other legal instruments in Zimbabwe. They are gender
blind in that they refuse to take into account the differences between
men and women, which may result in unfair or unequal application
of the law.
This brief seeks
to outline some of the gender issues arising from the provisions
of he Act and their impact on women, who are a marginalized group.
The issues arose mainly from the consultative meetings held by CHRA
with different stakeholders, i.e. its members, the executive NGOs
working in the area of local government.
Women’s Participation in Urban Councils
- The language
of the Act is not friendly in the sense that the ordinary person
cannot readily understand it. This is the case with all legislation.
It was recommended that CHRA should simply and translates the
Act in to local languages so that it is more accessible to the
public. This would be a big advantage to women, the majority of
whom do not have a high literacy level. In Zimbabwe two out every
three illiterate persons are women.
- The language
of the Act was viewed as not being gender sensitive because it
refers to both men and women as "he".
- Whilst the
Act states that any person can be voted in as a councillor or
Mayor, (as long as they meet the other general requirements),
the situation on the ground was not conducive for women to effectively
participate. In recent years there has been increased political
violence making it difficult for women to participate. Women are
also disadvantaged in that they do not have the resources to finance
a campaign and therefore lose out because of this. Mechanisms
must be put in place to ensure that women also participate in
election processes as candidates. There were suggestions of a
quota system so that a certain percentage of council seats are
reserved for women. This can be between 30 and 50%. According
to the SADC Declaration on gender governments must ensure that
30% of Parliamentary seats are reserved for women. The same could
be recommended for councils.
- A quota will
ensure that their voices and issues are expressed to council and
council acts on them. The Harare Council has only 6 women, whilst
they are 46 women councillors out of the 333 Urban Councillors.
- Due to their
low numbers in urban councils it becomes difficult for women to
effectively participate in council matters. This refers to the
committees and other business of council. The concerns of women
may fail to be articulated and defended in council.
- The budgetary
process is not gender sensitive in that there is no effort made
to ensure that women input into the process. Further, in terms
of allocations it is not mandatory to make specific allocations
for "women things" or to ensure that the services that
are used more by women are given priority. These include issues
of health services; sewer services, education and provisions of
child care facilities. If the council does not make provision
for this it impacts more on women than men because women will
then be burdened with caring for the sick, looking after the children,
ensuring that the refuse from the burst sewer does not get into
the house, e.t.c. This takes them off more productive work like
selling the wares and vegetables to supplement the family income.
There is need for council to ensure that the budget allocations
take into account the different needs of men and women in the
- In light
of the AIDS pandemic a lot of women are burdened with home based
care because Councils and central government do not make meaningful
allocations to this area. In countries such as the Philippines
Councils are mandated to make a certain percentage of its allocations
to "women things" the councils determine in consultation
with the women what areas should be granted the resources.
- The provision
of the Act fails to provide for the general participation of citizens
in council matters and decision-making. These matters include
the making of bylaws, budgeting and appointment of commissioners.
The fact that these processes are not participatory worsens the
situations for women who are traditionally not perceived as people
who should participate in the public sphere, such that where the
consultation does take place women are generally excluded. The
recommendation was that the Act should make consultations a must
and make specific provisions for the consultation of disadvantaged
groups including women. There is need for the Act to provide for
citizen participation and ensure the participation of women as
- The appointment
of Commissioners as provided for by the Act does not talk about
a gender balanced Commission. Women can be excluded and there
is no resource to the Act to ensure that women too participate.
- There were
other problematic areas such as the Ministerial powers, which
the stakeholders were of the view that they were excessive.
government is the first port of entry into the public arena of politics
and decision-making. It is crucial that women are included at this
stage so that they are groomed to participate in national decision-making.
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