Author Archives: madubesbrainpot

About madubesbrainpot

A fighter for basic freedoms and fundamental human rights

#CSW58- MDG 8: Developing Global Partnership for Development


As the era of the MDGs draws to a close-(2000-2015) – one of the things that need paying attention to is; why did we fail to achieve the milestones? Why did Zimbabwe fall short on so many of the indicators? Central to these questions, is the issue of resources. This is because no policy, however brilliant, cannot be successfully implemented without the required financial and human resources. These resources can be attained where there is a clear fundraising strategy. Usually states fundraise through sustained economic growth in areas such as taxation, trade and consequently decreasing debt.

Zimbabwe has seen a steady growth of its GDP since 2009 recovering from the terrible 2007-2009 period of economic decline. However this growth has not translated into increased income in the home. External debt remains high, pegged at 113 % of the GDP. Overall availability of vital medicines has increased although there is low production of drugs, with CAPS-the leading pharmaceutical company- almost shutting down.  There is general improvement in access to cellular networks and internet with about 20% coverage. 65 in every 1000 people have access to a laptop. However the uptake of ICT’s remains largely centralised to the young and urban population. The lack of ICT legislation continues to hamper access.

What have we done well?

  • The Economic Recovery Programme implemented by former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, emphasised economic and governance reforms which brought stability and recovery to the economy
  • Overall availability of vital medicines has remained stable because of the local production of drugs, enough to actually export some of the drugs.
  • Our creation and use of technology continues to improve; both mobile penetration and internet usage have significantly increased.
  • We are linked to both the Seacom and the EASSy undersea fibre optic cables, developments that have significantly improved our country’s internet connectivity.

What have we not done well?

  • We have no industry to talk of. Our manufacturing sector is still underproductive because of the many challenges it faces such as electricity load shedding and the liquidity crunch.
  • Domestic policy such as indigenisation and land reform, whose implementation is unclear continue to pose a threat to investment resulting in low foreign direct investment
  • Our proud and arrogant stance in our engagement with the international community continues to alienate possible allies in spearheading economic recovery.
  • The health sector still relies heavily on foreign funding, with our main donors being the Unites States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom and Australia. Our own government has not dedicated enough money to fund our health system.
  • We have not taken full advantage of our membership to regional integration initiatives such as COMESA, SADC and EU-ACP; for instance, we have not utilised the fact that SADC is a Free Trade Area which represents a large market to our goods and produce.
  • Although we are producing and exporting vital medicines, they are still expensive for the average person on the ground; as there is a leaning towards protecting the interests of the pharmaceuticals above those of the patients who are just ordinary citizens
  • We do not have an ICT policy to regulate the ICT industry resulting in stunted growth in that area.

What more can we do?

  • We need to re-engage the international community understanding that we live in a global village where we need allies and partners. Re-engagement should not mean begging, we do not need donations- we need good trade relations in which we bargain for the true value of our goods, both processed and raw.
  • We need an ICT policy to cater to the needs of a constantly changing technology landscape
  • We must learn lessons from the region. Rwanda is a good example, especially where the health system is concerned. In just 19 years Rwanda;
    •  increased its life expectancy from 28 years to 56 years;
    • decreased the size of its population living below the poverty line from 77.8% to 44.9%;
    • decreased child deaths from 18% to 6%;
    • increased the size of the population with health insurance from almost 0% to 90.6%;
    • maternal mortality dropped by 60%;
    • HIV,TB and Malaria deaths decreased by close to 80%;
    • The poorest pay nothing to access health care.

We have so much potential as a nation. We do not need aid! We have enough resources. If we deal with corruption, work to redistribute our resources equitably ad ensure that everyone, and not just the big fat-fatty cats continue to benefit, the challenge of failing to implement the MDG’s will cease to exist and be another old archive in the history books.


#CSW58- MDG 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability


The environment is our most valued/priced natural asset because in it exist all the elements that make our lives what they are; air, water, sun, wind, rain, food among others. The conservation of the environment is hence a priority area as failure to conserve it could spell our demise or extinction. Yet, more often than not, the protection of the environment is relegated to the least of our priorities. Even at the global level, recognition that environmental protection is needed is there but the political will to do so is as good as non-existent. The big powers, whose greed and reckless quest to grow their economies is largely responsible for the rut we are in with climate change, refuse to take up responsibility in mitigating further damage and stopping further degradation by reducing their emissions and giving financial assistance to the countries affected by climate change already to adapt to the current climatic trends.

Yet in all this, the poor suffer more. How, one would ask; climate change affects the environment and in doing so poses the biggest human security threat to the poor and the vulnerable. The majority of our women in Zimbabwe live off the land, vana gogo vanorima (women farmers), vana tete vanochera mbambaira (sweet-potato harvesters), madzimai emusika anotengesa maveggie (vendors), makorokoza echidzimai (female gold panners) they all live off the land.

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York)

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York)

Climate change could bring either droughts or floods. Droughts will mean that the farmers, who depend on consistent and sufficient rains, will be affected. The failure of the rains to come means their failure to produce food (crop failure); which means there will be food insecurity, which will bring hunger, which in turn causes malnutrition. Poor yield means increased poverty and with poverty come health risks. Droughts also mean less water available, the less clean water we have available, the more our chances of being exposed to contaminated water which will result in the contraction of terrible diseases like cholera and typhoid, something that Zimbabwe has already experienced.

Climate change could also mean floods. As the experience of Zimbabwe with the Tokwe-Mukosi disaster illustrated, floods bring many issues: displacement, homelessness, food insecurity, disease, poverty and a general drawback to the development agenda.
Our main energy source in the rural areas, firewood comes from the land and results in the cutting down of trees, the very same forests we need to mitigate against climate change. But what other alternative do they have; gas is expensive, electricity is scarce-and although solar is readily available and can be successfully converted for cooking, it is slow and is hardly a favoured option in many households.

What have we done well?
 Although in the SADC region, Botswana, Mauritius, Tanzania, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Seychelles, Swaziland, Malawi and Lesotho are doing better than us, we are ranked number 100 in our carbon dioxide emissions. This makes us one of the lowest net emitters of greenhouse gases. One could argue that this is the case because we have no industry to talk about as most of our factories and plants have closed and are largely dysfunctional.
 However, should we begin boosting our exiting efforts at adopting green energy, this could prove useful in maintaining our emissions really low and preserving our environment.
 We are producing ethanol fuel which is home-grown and in the process creating jobs, developing our economy and preserving the environment.
 We are improving our solar technology to reduce the use of wood in rural areas.

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York

What have we not done well and how can we improve?
 There is increased deforestation. This is because of the increased reliance on firewood for energy both in the rural and urban areas. With increasing power cuts, populations have turned to firewood for cooking. Until we address our energy deficit by increasing and improving electricity supply as well as exploring alternative energy sources such as gas, our forests will continue to deplete.
 There is increased environmental degradation through veld-fires.
 The existence of the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) in itself is a positive development. However, this government body is underfunded and is hence plagued by corruption. Anyone can pollute as long as they can pay some in the EMA.
 There is increased poaching of wildlife in our national parks (especially in Hwange), and again this is being made possible by the rampant corruption in that sector. The lack of resources to patrol the parks makes poaching easier.
 There is increased desecration of valuable environmental sites such as vleis, sanctuaries and wetlands. This cannot just be a case of ignorance of the need for environmental protection as most of the desecration is sanctioned by government. It is clear the problem is corruption; those who stand to benefit from the building of malls on wetlands or the allocation of residential stands on wetlands are the real culprits that need to be weeded out. (And I am glad that the ugly-Chinese-mall-built-on-the-wetland-is-cracking-up-proving-it-was-built-on-a-wetland).
 Our water and sanitation situation is pathetic. The housing backlog and the overcrowding in urban areas does not help the situation either. And it must be pointed out that the housing problem is a man-made disaster, a consequence of the demolition of houses by government in Operation Murambatsvina in 2006 and the subsequent failure to replace those destroyed homes.
 Climate change has begun to show its presence with seasonal changes and drastic changes to our weather patterns. The impact that this has on our environment and our food security is something that has little talked about. We need to increase dialogue around the meaning, cause, consequences and impact of climate change to improve our adaptation strategies.
 We are destroying our conservancies (such as Save) all for the love of money. Are the diamonds not enough nhaimi?
 We need to have more public-private partnerships on sustaining the environment. Most environmental degradation affects the public but is caused by corporates accessing resources be it minerals, land or forestry.

Above all, this goal needs us to do three things; the first is to deal with Corruption, the second is to deal with corruption and the third to deal with corruption. That green eyed monster called corruption that’s being passed off by those who practise it and being substituted with the s (for sanctions)-word which I dare not pronounce, needs to be dealt with effectively. Until and unless we do that, we are a doomed nation.

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York

Credit: Greeningtheblue.org (UNHQ exhibit, New York


#CSW58- MDG 6: Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases


I saw a headline in one of yesterday’s papers which said: “MDC official succumbs to Malaria.” Yes, Malaria, as a disease only becomes topical when it kills a prominent individual. Outside such circumstances, the media pays it very little, if not, no attention. Yet malaria remains one of the biggest health problems our country has to deal with. Did you know that 50% of our population is at risk of Malaria? And, did you also know that 1 in 12 children die before their 5th birthday of Malaria? Do you now see why we must pay malaria as much attention as HIV/AIDS?

Another disease, well known and feared but with hardly any statistics to tell us what it is and how much it has affected our people is cancer. All we know is that the number of death certificates, with the cause of death written down as cancer, are dramatically increasing. Women are being diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer while the number of men with prostate cancer is also increasing. We have many cases of individuals seeking donations to have surgery done on growths in the stomach, jaws, throat abroad and a vast number are also succumbing to lung cancer. Costs of getting cancer treatment are steep, estimated at $500 per session and government no longer subsidises the patients because they says government has no funds.

Typhoid and Cholera are also killing many people. The annoying thing about the scourge of these diseases in Zimbabwe is that it was purely man-made. Yes, I said that! We brought cholera and typhoid unto ourselves through the failure of our government to provide us with clean water and ensure sanitation for its citizens. Meanwhile, the bosses at the municipal councils responsible for collecting our rubbish bins, repairing our sewer pipes and providing us with clean water were always whining that there was not enough money for it while they paid each other $35 000 salaries.

Tuberculosis is also killing many of our people. Fortunately, the drugs are available for free in our public hospitals so once diagnosed; an individual can be helped and healed. Although about 79% of the people treated of TB in 2011 also had HIV/AIDS, 21 % were just cases of TB-something that a lot of people have lost touch with; assuming that only HIV positive individuals can suffer from TB.

We have been doing well in our fight with HIV/AIDS. Infections reduced from 30% in 2000 to 15% in 2011. However it is worrying to note that HIV/AIDS affects more women than men as prevalence is 6% higher among women (18% prevalence) than men (12% prevalence). And so it is perplexing to understand why some people JUST don’t get what we mean when we speak of the feminisation of HIV/AIDS, or the need for addressing gender relations in ending HIV/AIDS. Can she negotiate for safe sex [with her HIV positive partner]? Can she say no to sex with her [HIV positive] husband? How many of the women will get HIV/AIDS from their [HIV positive] husband in that polygamous marriage? How many of the women will contract the disease from that serial rapist? And so the nature of the relationships [where women have less power] determines the risk [higher] of getting HIV/AIDS and reflects in the prevalence [higher among women].

What have we done well?

  • HIV/AIDS testing has significantly improved. It takes less time to get tested and the counselling services have improved.
  • The roll out of the Anti-Retro Viral Treatment (ART) has been largely successful, with free drugs being provided for patients in public hospitals.
  • The successful implementation of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) has helped reduce new infections in children.
  • The availability of malaria and tuberculosis (TB) drugs for free in public hospitals has helped the fight against both diseases.

What have we not done?

  • We only have 2 public hospitals treating cancer – Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa in Harare.
  • These hospitals have very little in the form of radiation therapy equipment, drugs and manpower in the form of specialists.
  • We have not opened our eyes to the reality of the increase in cancer detections enough to take steps to prevent its outbreak.

What more can we do?

  • We need to allocate more funds to addressing all these diseases. Relying on external partners’ support is unreliable and risky and as proved by the withdrawal of funds by the Global Fund, the plug on such funds can be pulled off any minute. Government must adequately budget so that donor funds become surplus, not the core.
  • More focus needs to be paid to dealing with cancer as cancer deaths are on the increase. Further, awareness efforts on what causes cancer and how it can be cured need to be scaled up.
  • Above and beyond the policy and practice, we need to address our ethos as a people. The reality of the high HIV infections among women lies in unequal gender relations where women are unable to negotiate for safe sex. Without addressing these gender relations, women will remain vulnerable.
  • We must address corruption; Salary-gate is part of the reason why people died of cholera and typhoid. Those who sanctioned and those who took fat salaries home while some poor people drank infected and dirty water to their death bed have blood on their hands.

#CSW58-MDG 5: Promoting Maternal Health


When I reflect on the risk and sacrifices that women make in this world, it makes me wonder when, why and how it came to be that in many parts of the world, they are regarded as second class citizens. What am I saying?

According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) of 2011, at least 10 women die every day due to pregnancy-related complications. Did you hear that, 10 women die every day while giving birth to children, some of them sons, who will then turn on their mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces and cousins and treat them as second class citizens. Isn’t that ironic?

Millennium Development Goal 5 is definitely one of the goals that Zimbabwe will not be able to meet. With maternal deaths estimated to be above 960 deaths for every 100 000 live births, the target of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters can remain an aspiration for now. Given that the 960 deaths are official statistics, which God knows how accurate they are, with the way our government is out of touch with the issues on the ground on so many levels, the rate is possibly even higher.

Let us assume for a minute that these statistics in fact are right, I am still perplexed by the worrying trend that factors such as education, class, location and age are no longer critical in determining who is affected. Uneducated and educated, poor and rich, rural and urban, and older and younger women are all dying in child birth. Clearly there are hidden nuances to the problem and successfully dealing with maternal health will needs exploring these. For instance, cases of celebrities who passed on in child birth, grabbed the headlines, raising the need for a more concerted effort into addressing the issue of maternal mortality.

What are some of these nuances?

  • We simply do not have enough trained health professionals to deal with the delivery of our babies. Our nurses left and we are not doing much to motivate those who remained behind to remain in our service and to be motivated at work.
  • The private health-care system has not been effectively regulated. Just in the past year I have had 2 friends and a relative who have had nasty encounters with private health practitioners. The first friend went to a reputable women’s health centre where she was told she had a growth in her uterus and needed to have her uterus cleaned. Fortunately for her, she chose not to do that and sought a second opinion. Guess what-the supposed ‘growth’ in her uterus was a baby. And to think these people have advanced machines for scans and all that other fancy stuff!!

Another friend elected to deliver her baby through a Caesarean and informed her gynaecologist of her choice. However, he kept pushing the dates for the performance of the Caesarean forward, in what she feared was an attempt to create complications in her delivery, leading to her increased stay in hospital and increased bill=more money for the doctor.

My other relative had had two babies, delivered through normal births without any complications. However for her third baby, the doctor dramatically chose to ‘induce’ her labour prematurely. She could not understand why he did so when her labour was not delayed and her pregnancy was advancing normally. Eventually she found out why when the bill came with a breakdown of:

  1. Costs for inducing labour
  2. Costs for delivering the baby
  3. Costs for doing the ‘stitches’ on the mother
  4. Costs of medication to clean the wounds

She also complained that the same doctor had developed a reputation of forcing women whose babies he delivered to have more ‘stitches’  or proclaim non-existent complications requiring caesarean delivery because doing so meant he would charge more for sewing them back together and performing the surgery. It seems the love for money far exceeds the observance of medical ethics these days.

What have we done well?

  • Our implementation of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme (PMTCT) has significantly reduced cases of HIV/AIDS infections in children at birth. HIV testing has improved and the responsibility lies with the mothers to choose life for their children.
  • The adoption of the National Campaign to Accelerate the Reduction of Maternal Mortality (NCARMM) directly corresponding with the African Union (AU) Campaign on the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa in itself is an important development as it affirms government’s recognition that maternal mortality is a serious problem that needs addressing.

What have we not done well?

Government admits that most maternal deaths are a result of time taken to seek healthcare because of ignorance or lack of funds to pay for hospital care; time needed to reach a healthcare because hospitals are too far and there is no easily accessible transport to and from the health facility or the cost to do so is high and unaffordable and time taken to access care at the health facility-where there is generally an air of neglect of women in health-care facilities by highly unmotivated nurses.

Generally health services are inaccessible particularly in rural areas where hospitals and clinics are not within easy reach and the transport networks to the major clinics and hospitals are not easily accessible. Increasingly, the service in hospitals, particularly public/government hospitals, has deteriorated and has become poor. Pregnant women suffer neglect in hospitals resulting in some avoidable losses and deaths. Socio-economic challenges, related with the current economic environment significantly impact women’s access to medical services as they cannot afford to pay the user fees. There has been reduced uptake of contraception for inexplicable reasons.

What more can we do?

  • We need to adequately fund all our health institutions. Although a government policy stating that women should not pay user fees exists, it is impractical. If clinics do not make women pay, then they will not have the gloves, medication and swabs to attend to the women at child birth. Until and unless government adequately funds these facilities then the assertions that user fees have been scrapped will remain what they are; mere rhetoric!!
  • We must address religious and traditional practices that deny women access to medical facilities or that delay until patients are in critical condition. Zvitsidzo (Apostolic sects’ version of maternal wards), located in bushes in the middle of nowhere, secretive and denying access to the public, are an example of how maternal care is being compromised. Because of the veil of secrecy that these sects throw over these spaces, it is not clear how many women actually die and whether there are any complications that women have to live with for the rest of their lives for failing to give birth in certified maternal health care facilities.
  • We must maintain our reliable supply of contraception BUT we must find out, through comprehensive research, why there is reduced uptake of contraceptives.
  • We must take measures to motivate our nurses to do their jobs effectively. Without the necessary incentives, women will continue to lose their lives in avoidable circumstances.

#CSW58-MDG 4: Reducing child mortality


In 2013 we are losing 57 children for every 1000 children that are born alive. These children are dying because of neonatal causes such as birth complications (34%), others from HIV/AIDS (20%), Pneumonia (10%), Malaria (9%), Diarrhoea (7 %)), Injuries (3%), Measles (1%), Meningitis (1%) and other causes. One famous (and hot) actor recognised the source of the problem as lack of political will and conscience and stated;

“Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a child dies every three seconds simply because he does not have the drugs you and I have. Let us be the ones to say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right to life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold.”-Brad Pitt

He is right. The major reasons why our children are dying are circumstances that can be avoided and addressed with the relevant political will to do so. We would have less babies dying in child birth if our hospitals were more accessible and affordable. Women are already doing a national duty in giving birth; should they be made to pay for it as well? If anything, should they not be given allowances for allowing our nation to grow? Service fees must be scrapped; however the reality at the moment is that this is not a viable option because government is not allocating enough funds for the public clinics and hospitals to run efficiently. How about switching that defence budget and making it the health budget, dear government?

The high levels of diarrhoea are a direct consequence of the poor sanitation (where 35% of our population has no proper sanitation) and unsafe water (with 20% of our population having no access to safe and clean drinking water). When will our government get its priorities right; to address corruption within local councils, to cut those $35 000 salary pegs for top municipal bosses and reallocate the funds to purchasing water treatment chemicals instead? When will our rural district councils stop buying fancy land-rovers and prioritise sinking and maintaining boreholes so that the 50% of the rural population who have no safe drinking water can have their needs met?

Malaria can be prevented with the availability of mosquito nets, mosquito coils, and mosquito repellents, fumigation of households and swamps and ingestion of anti-malarial tablets. It can also be cured if the drugs for curing it are made available, readily and easily. How about government allocating all its available funds to address malaria to ensuring its prevention and cure-more practical efforts, less printing of Ministry of Health with the ‘Let us prevent Malaria message at the back’ t-shirts that I see people brandishing at the gym?

Previously it was almost like a death sentence for a child to be born to an HIV positive mother but technology has shown that mother to child transmission can be avoided during pregnancy and during birth as well. Government should increase its efforts at rolling out the PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) programme. We want an AIDS free generation as soon as yesterday and as long as we do not prioritise preventing the birth of HIV Positive babies; that will remain a pipe dream.

What have we done well?

  • Zimbabwe has been doing well with its voluntary HIV testing of expectant mothers. PMTCT has significantly reduced HIV/AIDS infections in young children.
  • We have successfully vaccinated the majority of our children with BCG, Whooping Cough, TB, Polio 1, Polio 2, Diphtheria and Measles vaccines being administered.

What more can we do?

  • To succeed in significantly reducing child mortality, we need to get rid of malnutrition and that is possible when we improve food security broadly and have supplementary feeding programs for children in schools and at clinics;
  • We need to scale up our PMTCT;
  • We need to have free and accessible vaccination of children from curable diseases;
  • We must improve our water supply and sanitation to avoid avoidable deaths from diseases such as cholera, dysentery;

We should never forget that the solution to adult problems tomorrow depends on large measure upon how our children grow up today. (Margaret Mead)


#CSW58- MDG 3: Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women


Achieving gender equality remains one of the biggest challenges in Zimbabwean society. The problem is rooted in society’s conceptions of the phenomenon of gender equality itself. Talk of gender equality has ignited terrible backlash, mainly because of a misconception that gender equality is a misguided notion that is eating away at ‘our culture’ AND ‘our religion’ in which women are simply trying to take up an ‘unnatural’ position in life. For some, gender equality is understood as the process through which women want men to do women’s chores and women are ‘overstepping their mark;’’ wanting to become like men. Others argue, erroneously of course, that concentrating on women’s rights has seen men’s issues being side-lined and that focusing on gender equality is placing men ‘under threat.’

Consequently, there is low and slow acceptance of the idea that gender equality is about recognising that men and women were born equal, they deserve equal chances and opportunities, and to be treated with the same dignity. There is still slow acceptance of women’s participation in politics and decision making. This is reinforced by the skewed publicity with which female politicians’ occasional blunders are profiled as compared to the ongoing and consistent blundering that male politicians commit on a daily basis.

There is prevalent rejection of the independence of women’s thought process, financial status and existence, with such women often labelled as “loudmouths,” “difficult” and “bossy.”

What have we done well?
• We have a comprehensive gender policy that emphasises the need to achieve gender equality.
• We have a new Constitution that addresses gender imbalances especially those previously caused by the application of customary law in resolving personal law issues such as marriage, division of property, custody of children, divorce and inheritance.
• We have a good legislative framework with Acts such as the Domestic Violence Act, the Criminal Law Code and the Deceased Estates Act providing remedies regarding women’s challenges with violence, crime and inheritance, respectively.
• We have set up institutions that seek to enhance women’s safety and security in the community such as the Domestic Violence Council, the Victim Friendly Courts, the Adult Rape Clinic, the Victim Friendly Units at police stations all dealing with gender based violence.
• We have achieved gender parity in ensuring primary education.
• Our women are beginning to enter male dominated spaces in highly technical fields such as engineering, ICT’s, the defence forces and mining.
• Although our target in women’s representation in Parliament is 50/50, we have significantly increased this representation by introducing a quota through proportional representation. Although the quota is limited to only 2 terms of Parliament, it is hoped that the 10 years will give the women exposure to the political processes, increasing their chances of running for contested seats and winning. Also the use of the Zebra type of proportional representation in allocating seats to the Upper House of Parliament (Senate) has seen a significant increase in women’s representation, so much so that at this #CSW58, Zimbabwe was recognised as one of the few countries that has the highest number of female senators, an unprecedented 47.5%!

What have we not done?
• We have not carried nearly enough dialogue to shape an understanding of gender equality that builds support from communities and removes the antagonism that exists towards achieving gender equality;
• We have not domesticated international treaties that promote gender equality in their entirety;
• We have not allocated adequate funds to the gender machinery to allow it to function as effectively as is possible;
• We condemn but do not regulate traditional and religious practices that limit women’s public participation and perpetuate gender discrimination.

What more can we do?
• We need to work on aligning our policies and laws to the new Constitution regarding provisions that call for:
• Gender parity in appointments to constitutional commissions. We have already failed doing this in the anti-corruption commission and the human rights commission;
• Ratification of all international instruments promoting gender equality;
• Domestication of all international instruments promoting gender equality; and
• Setting up of a gender commission;
• We need to allocate adequate funds in the national budget towards promoting gender equality.
• We need to promote women and girls’ increased venture into Science, Technology, Engineering and other technical fields.
• We also need to see an increased number of women managers who currently make up 21% of MD’s in the country as well as company secretaries who are only 17% female. This occupational category remains largely male-dominated although the women in that field have proved themselves equally capable.
• We need more women at the levels of Permanent Secretaries, Principal Directors, Directors, Deputy Directors, Ambassadors and Heads of Missions; currently they constitute only 28%. This business of claiming that “there are no women” to occupy these posts is highly disrespectful and utterly false.


#CSW58- MDG 2: Achieving Universal Primary Education


Of all the millennium development goals (MDGs), achieving universal primary education is something that Zimbabwe has recorded tremendous progress in.  We boast of the highest literacy rate in Africa, recording an impressive 90.7%; the only country on the African continent with a literacy rate above 90%. I, as some Zimbabweans do too, consider these statistics with a pinch of salt, given that in my context-it is not how the world views us but how we view ourselves that matters the most. Even though we may be considered highly educated, I am disgruntled with the quality of education that our children are receiving. The education system is fraught with challenges, among these;

  • the inability of parents to pay fees because of the harsh economic climate resulting in school drop-outs and frequent absenteeism;
  • the inability of government to protect children who cannot pay fees from getting expelled from school. Even though policy says children should not be expelled, its implementation is weak;
  • the brain drain which has seen  many qualified teachers migrating to so called “greener pastures” because they can’t stand a life of grooming other people’s children to become significant members of society while their own become paupers given their meagre salaries;
  • the lack of motivation amongst our teachers because of their poor working conditions characterised by low salaries and no incentives, which causes them not to teach our children in normal time and forces parents to pay for “extra-lessons;” and
  • the challenges that the examination body; the Zimbabwe Schools Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) faces in creating examination scripts, disseminating examination material, marking examinations and distributing results of examinations on time.

It is consoling however to hear that enrolment into primary school is still high despite the fact that primary education is not free anymore as it was soon after independence. Rural areas record higher rates of enrolment (84.1%) than the urban areas (73.4%). This could partly be explained by the fact that the majority of Zimbabwe’s population resides in the rural areas. The number of girls in primary school also remains high, although dropouts begin to increase from secondary level going upwards.

Picture Credit: Eileen Burke-Save the Children

Picture Credit: Eileen Burke-Save the Children

What have we done well?

  • The Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) has been instrumental in enhancing girls’ and boys’ access to education, especially orphans and other vulnerable children. This programme has paid school fees and other levies for the under privileged members of society. However it is worrying that this programme is undergoing financial challenges, meaning that many of its beneficiaries have been left stranded and are likely to fail to continue going to school.

What have we not done?

  • Our budgetary allocation to education remains low. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), recommend that an education budget should be at a minimum 6% of the Gross National Product. Although we have done this to the book, our economy’s performance means that this amount is so little that it only pays for teachers’ measly salaries.
  • We have not been compiling statistics on the completion rate of primary level education by girls, to understand in particular why girls drop out of school. This would help us to understand the prevalence of some of the factors that cause girls to leave school such as child marriage,early marriage, sexual violence against girls, teenage pregnancy, domestic servitude and inability to pay fees and how much girls suffer because of it. It would also help us to know where we should focus our interventions.

What more can we do?

  • We used to have free primary education soon after independence, what happened to that? Now parents have to bear the costs of sending their children in a challenging economic environment. Let us bring it back if we want to ensure that we have an educated nation. Primary education is the most basic form of education and if we can’t give that to our citizens then what kind of population are we growing?
  • It is clear that some traditional and religious practices are preventing children from going to school or continuing with their education kunyanya mapostori. Mere policy encouraging them to send their children to school remains inadequate. We need stronger penal provisions to force such religious sects and traditionalists to conform and allow their children to have the most basic need in their lives; an education. If politicians are going to mix and mingle with mapostori when they campaign during elections, but fail beyond the campaigns to have meaningful dialogue with them about treating their women and children better,  then the politicians have failed us all and these children.
  • We allowed our schools, especially primary schools to be used as political bases where rallies and political meetings were held. In the 2008 election period, such activities were marked with devastating levels of violence which children either experienced or witnessed resulting in some dropouts. Teachers were also targeted, some beaten, others abducted and causing many teachers to desert their posts and migrate. Most of these were replaced by unqualified temporary teachers. Cumulatively, this has also affected the quality of our education and we need to address this and ensure the highest quality of education.

We love bragging, and we have reason to brag because we are better educated than all the other African countries but can our government fix all these problems already so we brag some more!


#CSW58 Zimbabwe’s progress- MDG 1: Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger


Over the past 15 years, Zimbabwe has not made great strides in achieving the goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger due to the economic decline that has persisted since 2000. Although efforts have been focused on improving economic growth, with our GDP improving from 5.4% in 2009 to 9.3% in 2011, the process of growth has not been inclusive. A comprehensive approach to ending poverty and ensuring inclusive growth, to me, would mean
1. the creation of decent employment;
2. the promotion of entrepreneurship through development of ICTs and other infrastructure;
3. the enhancement of access to and quality of social services;
4. a reduction in inequality between men and women and between social classes;
5. the promotion and implementation of a strategy to address the effects of climate change and the environmental hazards it brings

We still have a lot of our people living on less than $1.25 per day which is the global index measure of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2012 we only managed to reduce hunger by less than 10% while other countries such as Ghana, Congo, Mauritania, Malawi and Angola reduced hunger by a margin of 50% or more.

There is limited availability of loans translating into poor access to loaning facilities. This means more corruption by those who hold the reins to the finance, but of course in Zimbabwe that has a different name-it s called sanctions. The conditions of accessing the loans are extremely stringent for women, who predominantly are outnumbered by their male counterparts in owning immovable property that is required as collateral. If anything the last 15 years have seen increasing levels of poverty as our country has lost its middle class to create two classes, the poor and the rich. I am one of the poor. The majority of women-66% are in the informal sector, providing domestic labour and farm labour. Only 34 % are in formal employment.

What have we done well?

  • There is a marked decline in the number of underweight children under the age of 5 from 11+% in 2009 to 10% in 2012. This means that our fight against malnutrition in young children has largely been successful. I reckon the feeding schemes in schools and hospitals are what has paid off. I am not sure how these will be sustained since most are funded by donors (read western stooges and detractors).

What have we not done?

  • Our agricultural sector has not been performing well and we are being mocked, left right and centre as the classic example of a nation that turned from a bread-basket to a basket case. Food insecurity has also increased as a consequence of increasing concentration in commercial cash crop farming rather than growing food crops.
  • We continue to marginalise the people who till the land-the women- in land allocation processes. Only 20% of the beneficiaries of the land reform are women.

Photo

  • We redistributed land to poor peasants but have not followed up their ability to utilise the land through the provision of capital.
  • We have no data on how well we are doing. Most of the available statistics are outdated to 2011 [Is this a reflection on the incompetence of ZIMSTAT or are they just underfunded?]
  • We do not have gender disaggregated data [again this is an indictment on ZIMSTAT to pull their socks up].
  • We have not and are not adequately funding women dominated sectors of the economy including small scale farming and other small to medium enterprises (SME’s).
  • We have no comprehensive social protection services [and how could we when our National Social Security Authority (NSSA) is busy investing the funds workers contribute  in shady deals]

What more can we do?

I have a proverb that I like which says “Give a woman a dollar and she will either create another dollar or feed her family with it. Give a man a dollar and he will buy a beer.” Yes, this may sound stereotypical of men but the reality on the ground indicates this is true. The majority of women place the needs of their families and children above their own in almost any given circumstance. This is why a wise government should know that ending poverty is possible when we invest in our women. This is what I propose we do;

  • Our commitment through the budget to fund women’s projects must increase and extend to ensuring equitable, non-partisan distribution of the funds. This business of giving farming inputs to certain political-party-card holders should stop.
  • We need to increase women’s participation in both small scale initiatives and large scale ones, be it in mining, agriculture, fisheries or any other area.
  • We must recognise the informal sector as the current backbone of our economy and give better protection to the women in the informal sector through enacting the relevant legislation. Current labour laws are focused on regulating the formal sector with very little attention paid to the informal.
  • We must negotiate the inter-Africa trading space with women in mind. Our cross-border traders, who are predominantly women, need a friendly and safe working space to enable them to continue to provide for their families. We must never forget that had it not been for cross-border traders, Zimbabwe would have collapsed in 2008-2009. They brought us bread, mealie-meal, soap, cooking oil, milk and even eggs from across the borders.
  • We must have a land audit to ensure optimal utilisation of the land by repossessing all the land not being fully utilised and redistributing it with a focus on women farmers. We cannot afford to have idle individuals with big-fat behinds to claim ownership of land that they do not know how to till, do not till and does not produce anything meaningful except spans of grass and thorns.
  • We must increase our investment in women farmers as a means of increasing production, reducing hunger and malnutrition and increasing food security.
  • Our reliance on the rains (which are erratic) to sustain our agricultural sector is unsustainable. We must invest in irrigation. However this will also mean improving our electricity supply, which at the moment is nightmarish for the average urban dweller and totally gothic for the rural dweller.
  • We need to resuscitate our manufacturing industry, which used to provide employment to the majority of urban dwellers and whose closure has resulted in increased unemployment and poverty among our urban population. This business of grabbing productive companies and industries and turning them into rat-breeding warehouses must stop. Let those capable of running industries do so. If we want to capitalise from their hard earned productivity then let us create a taxation regime that gives the fiscus significant gains. Alternatively we should create a labour system that allows the employees of these companies to have share schemes and benefit from the huge profits we are sniffing after. We do not have to own companies to benefit from their existence in our country when we can’t run them profitably; although owning them and making them truly productive would be ideal.

#CSW58: 1. Reflecting on Zimbabwe’s fulfilment of the MDG’s and mapping the post 2015 Agenda


Today, the 10th of March 2014, I find myself here in New York, where one of the biggest events on women’s rights; the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) is kicking off. The history of CSW dates back to 21 June 1946, when the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) set up the Commission, whose core function is to promote the rights of women in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. So every year, representatives of states which are members of the United Nations as well as women’s rights activists gather at the UN Headquarters in New York to assess if any progress has been made in achieving gender equality, to see what challenges remain, to set global standards and be innovative at devising means to formulate policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

This year’s CSW comes amid the growing discourse of an Africa that is “rising.” Indeed the dictates of mainstream economics suggest that this is the case. Africa’s economy is said to be growing faster than any other continent’s economy. 33 % of African countries are said to be recording annual gross domestic products (GDP’s) of 6%.  Many predictions have been made by forecasters:

  • By 2015, mobile penetration in Africa would have reached 84%;
  • By 2020, 50 % of African households will be so economically sound that they will have discretionary spending power;
  • By 2030, 50 % of Africa’s populations will be living in urban areas;
  • By 2035, Africa’s workforce will be bigger than China; and
  • By 2050, Africans will make up 25% of the world’s workers.

Analysts are justifying why Africa’s time is now with one Jonathan Berman giving his 7 reasons why Africa’s time is now. I have dared to explain Berman’s idea as I have understood it namely that:

1. Africa has a huge market opportunity.

[Africans love consuming and the fact that our own industry is underdeveloped means we rely heavily on imports hence providing a market for other continents’ goods.]

2. Africa is increasingly stable.

[Though ridden by conflicts as compared to other continents, the trends of conflict in Africa have seen a decrease rather than an increase. Governance patterns are also changing, with the biggest challenge being stolen elections rather than military coups. Previously coups were the norm, with Africa recording an unprecedented 85 violent coups and rebellions from the time of the Egyptian revolution in 1952 until 1998, 78 of these between 1961 and 1997, but more recently coups are uncommon and considered pretty uncool.

3. Africa is recording increased intra-Africa trade although it still is in its infancy.

[Trade within Africa has increased particularly along the lines of the regional blocs which promote regional economic integration. The most successful being the East African Community (Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya) and the Economic Community of West African States (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo) where regional integration is being fostered through, among other things, the removal of trade barriers such as the requirement of travel documents and other limitations to freedom of movement of people and goods , the creation of a common market, and standardisation of customs tariffs .

4. Africa will soon have the world’s largest workforce.

[Africa’s population is rising so much that in projections to 2030, the African population is expected to peak at 1.6 billion from 1.0 billion in 2010, which would represent 19% of the world’s population. The demographic boom on the continent is expected to be an asset in the form of a workforce, which will drive Africa’s economy forward.

5. 20% of African governments’ budgets are going to education.

[Increasingly, governments are allocating a significant amount of money to education budget lines. This commitment towards the education of African populations will eventually yield results as Africa increases its local technical competence.]

6. Africa’s mobile networking and connectivity is exploding.

[Africa’s mobile network coverage is increasing and more so, spreading to traditionally marginalised communities in the rural areas. This is directly translating into easier and quicker access to information and at the same time the transfer of money more efficiently through mobile banking and cash transfer services such as Ecocash and Telecash in Zimbabwe. Consequently, doing business in a time of mobile phones is much easier and much more efficient as it reduces costs, saves time and increases efficiency].

7. Africa contains most of the world’s uncultivated land.

[ Africa holds almost 50% of the world’s uncultivated land. This is about 450 million hectares of land that is not forested, protected or densely populated. According to the World Bank, if this land is fully utilised by 2030, it could have created a trillion-dollar food market for Africa.]

It is well and good that these positive trends are taking place on the continent, however one question remains largely unanswered; which Africa and who in Africa is rising? Are the women of Africa part of the rising? If so, how many of them are part of it and how many are being left behind? Who is prospering and are the majority of citizens benefitting from the rising?

15 years ago, in 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and many other deprivations culminating in the development of a strategy to eradicate these deprivations. This strategy, to try and address the unequal rising of citizens in different economies, was centralised in the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs) a set of goals serving as milestones for all the countries of the world to achieve development in their countries.

MDG 1: This goal focused on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Notably, the goal did not seek to achieve the eradication of poverty but extreme poverty.

MDG 2: This goal focused on achieving universal primary education. Notably, the goal is not to ensure universal education at levels relevant to increasing citizens’ critical competence and competitiveness in the global sphere, such as tertiary and technical education.

MDG 3: Focused on promoting gender equality and empowering women.

MDG 4:  Focused on reducing child mortality.

MDG 5: Focused on improving maternal health.

MDG 6: Focused on combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases.

MDG 7: Focused on ensuring environmental stability.

MDG 8: Focused on developing Global Partnerships for Development.

The 8 Millenium Development Goals

The 8 Millennium Development Goals

2014 marks the last year for the observance of the Millennium Development Goals.  As the women of the world are converging in New York to state their position on what they consider to be the priorities in mapping the post-2015/post-MDG agenda, at #CSW58, I shall be exploring the progress and challenges that Zimbabwe has faced in achieving the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I shall also be reflecting on the main outcomes from the discussions at #CSW58.


Part 2-One Good Road


So as the BUS DROVE ON, we all gulped the dust, bore the bumpy road with gritted teeth and wished the driver could slow down just a little bit. He could not have cared less that the once-tarred-road was now more of a gravel road. He was out to make money and make it fast. It being a holiday, (Christmas and the New Year), business was good and he needed to drive as fast as possible, dump us at our destinations and go back for another load.

I thought to myself; all it will take is one good road. One good road that links the farmers to the market to sell their produce. One good road that allows the citizens to have access to a reliable transport network. One good road that allows businesses to transport their goods to the farming communities and limit the time farmers spend travelling to get basic goods. One good road that enables the citizens to have quick and easy access to hospitals. I recalled the stories told of the women dying of complications in childbirth, and the many other people who died on their way to the hospital.

The area I am concerned with today is among the highest cotton producing areas in Zimbabwe. The road is frequented by large haulage trucks transporting farming produce, linking the farmers to the market. That road is so terrible, however, that I had to park my car in Kadoma and use public transport. Many transport operators are unwilling to tour the route arguing that the road will damage their vehicles, causing them to incur more expenses in repairs hence making their businesses unprofitable. The value of a good road both for human development and economic development cannot be overstated and as the African Development Bank always emphasises, good roads facilitate the movement of goods and people from remote areas to the main economic and social structure of the country.  The availability of a good road network, increases traffic flows and hence decreases the economic costs of transporting goods to and from markets. The same roads facilitate access to health, education and information.

The road stretches for only 140 kilometres connecting Kadoma, Patchway, Chakari, Golden Valley, Sanyati, Copper-Queen and Gokwe.Five ( 5 ) different MPs represent the people who need this road to work; Kadoma Central MP -Fani Phanuel Phiri of ZANU (PF), Chakari MP-Aldrin Musiiwa of ZANU (PF), Sanyati MP-Blessed Runesu of ZANU (PF), Gokwe Nembudziya  MP-Mayor Wadyajena of ZANU (PF) and Gokwe Mapfungautsi MP-Mirriam Makweya of ZANU (PF).

Surely if these 4 men and 1 woman are true representatives of their constituencies, the issue of this road shall be a priority on their 5 year mandate as the issue of jackals/hyenas in Buhera is to Comrade Chinotimba. Yes, the rural district councils in some of these areas are tasked with the responsibility to construct and maintain the roads but central government, which the MPs have direct access to and are part of, is bound by national policy to provide resources through the national fiscus, to ensure that the local authorities perform their responsibilities as provided for in the Local Government Act.

I will certainly be watching them. After all, it’s only one good road.


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