In February 2015, at the 24th session of the African Union (AU), President Robert Mugabe was elected the President of the AU, the same year the AU has dedicated 2015 as the year for women’s empowerment. In addition, Zimbabwe is the Chair of SADC until August 2015. During his tenure, the SADC protocol on women and development, like the MDGs winds down on commitments until 2015. As the outgoing Chairperson of SADC, he will remain as the leading head of state for the SADC troika that deliberate on politics, defence and security. The position Zimbabwe holds within the Southern African Development Community and African regional bodies is significant for the UN Women Zimbabwe country office as it provides opportunity to support and assist government with focusing on the development, empowerment, political participation and safety of women within Zimbabwe. It also ensures the country develops and implements measures based on their leadership and commitments.

Gender sensitivity within the country’s development and implementation of national, regional and continent wide commitments still needs support and improvement. Despite regional and international commitments to 50/50 parity representation by 2015 Zimbabwe only holds on average 25% representation in public service institutions and in one case no women representatives in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces positions at the highest levels despite the government’s commitment to the UN Resolution 1325 in relation to peace and security. In addition Women’s representation in the Parliament of Zimbabwe remains low at 35% following the last elections in July 2013 elections. Female representation in the country’s 92 urban and rural councils still remains below 20% and the country’s new 26-member cabinet has only three female ministers.

While the SADC gender protocol and the MDGs come to their deadline date, the commitment to Africa’s Agenda 2063 has been the focus of Zimbabwe through the alignment of the The Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF) 2016-2020 where there is ensured focus on the Gender agenda, which in turn aligns with the National Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim ASSET). Critical components for women’s development, safety and security included in the Social services and Poverty eradication cluster of Zim ASSET include; gender mainstreaming, women’s economic empowerment, access to land and agricultural inputs and alignment of legislation to the new Constitution. In Zimbabwe this requires a strong commitment and strategy in relation to parity in access to means of production and access to the economy, access to services and participation in decision-making. At the 25th session of the AU summit, themed "Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063 held in South Africa: June 2015 Zimbabwe along with other member States discussed and committed to women’s access to health; pushing forward women’s economic empowerment; enhancing the Agenda on Women Peace and Security; enhancing women’s participation in governance; enhancing women and girls’ access to education, health, science and technology. This commitment including a promise for mutual accountability to actions and results through the launch of a tool called the ‘Gender Score Card.

The advancements in the elimination of gender based violence at national level requires concerted efforts in legislative reforms, policy development and public awareness and action in relation to behavioural change within in the private sector, religious and traditional institutions . The high prevalence of violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe is a major challenge to the advancement of women’s and girls’ human rights. 47% of women have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their life[1]; 1 in 3 girls experience sexual violence before they turn 18 and a majority of these girls are adolescents aged between 14 and 17 years; and less than 3% of these girls received professional help[2]. Zimbabwe’s legal framework to prevent all forms of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in the public and the private sphere includes the Domestic Violence Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Criminal Evidence and Procedure Act and the Children’s Act. In addition to these legal instruments, the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) has developed programmes and strategies such as the 4Ps (Prevention, Protection, Participation and Programme) campaign on zero tolerance to GBV and the National GBV Strategy (2012 – 2015) which calls for a multi-sectoral, effective and coordinated response.

Slow implementation of the laws and policies; the absence of well-resourced legal aid programmes; low legal literacy among women and communities; a weak referral system between the police, legal aid providers and justice delivery structures; and entrenched patriarchal values are among the key challenges to ending violence against women in the country.

Zimbabwean women and girls experience high levels of domestic violence at the interpersonal level and deprivation of protection from social discriminatory practices that impact negatively on them. Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world with up to 50% of young girls under the age of consent in rural areas with the lowest being 10% in Bulawayo (an urban area)[i] This is a criminal office as Zimbabwe’s age of legislated standards are clear on the matter, however the practice within traditional/customary settings and due to economically poor homes and communities make this a huge gendered social challenge.

Child marriages, in relation to gender based violence is one of UN Women’s priority areas. This social scourge intersects with issues of high HIV prevalence, limited access to and affordability of sexual and reproductive health rights and essential health services. High rates of maternal mortality is a critical area of concern for Zimbabwe and one of the areas the country was unable to mitigate within the MDGs deadline. The country, however, managed to reduce it from one of the highest MMR at 960/100 000 in 2010/11 to 614/100 000 according to the MICS. This issue remains further compounded by the fact concerning practice of child marriages. Access to comprehensive reproductive health services for adult women and girls thus require continued developmental support. Outside the geographical challenges faced as health facilities are found within rural areas, human capacity and resources to maintain and sustain such services are not readily available, in part due to the depressed economy.

UN Women Zimbabwe continues to work closely with the government of Zimbabwe and civil society to ensure commitments made by government are supported and advanced through policy reforms, identification of resource shortfalls that impede women’s development and inclusion; such as supporting civil society in empowering women politicians and government officials ( e.g. Parliamentarians) to identify and respond to the needs of women especially marginalised women in enabling access to education, the labour market and the economy thus ensuring women’s development alongside their male counterparts but ensuring women are included in the development of Zimbabwe as a whole. A critical component of our engagement in the protection of women and girl’s rights and the holistic development agenda for Zimbabwe is taking the coordinating role on two UN agency joint programs namely: The Joint Program on Gender Equality (JPGE) and the Joint Program on Gender Based Violence (JPGBV)

Our programmes

Women’s Political Participation:

The leadership programme aims to promote the alignment of laws and policies to the new Constitution and create legal infrastructure to secure, monitor and enforce the gender equality and women’s rights provisions in the new Constitution. UN Women Zimbabwe will strengthen the capacity of both rights holders and duty bearers.

The capacity of rights holders, who include women leaders and gender equality advocates, will be strengthened so that they are able to advocate and lobby for law and policy reform in line with the new Constitution. The duty bearers, who include parliamentary portfolio committees, political parties and relevant ministries, will be provided with knowledge on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Constitution. The capacity building will be done through national, regional and international initiatives including the training academies at Jomo Kenyatta University.

Women’s Economic Empowerment:

Women, especially the poorest and most excluded, are economically empowered and benefit from development

Our model for women’s economic empowerment is built on the three inter-linked components of knowledge, capital and markets. UN Women supports women’s economic empowerment in line with these, and with the growing body of evidence that shows that gender equality significantly contributes to advancing economies and sustainable development.

UN Women Zimbabwe will strengthen the capacity of rural women, providing them with skills in entrepreneurship and business management and giving them greater opportunity to access financial resources and markets. We aim for women to have access and control over means of production and resources. This programme will align laws, policies, programmes and processes with the new Constitution to enhance women’s access and control over means of production and resources.

Ending Violence Against Women

This programme aims to strengthen laws, policies and strategies that address violence against women and girls, as well as encouraging women and girls to use quality violence against women and gender-based violence services. We will strengthen the capacity of the National Gender Machinery, Anti-Domestic Violence Council and the relevant ministries to implement the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women concluding observations. We will also strengthen the capacity of legal aid and psychological service providers to provide gender-responsive services. UN Women Zimbabwe will also raise awareness of availability of these services and other health services.

Under EVAW, Zimbabwe is also implementing the joint H4+ initiative whose specific objective is to contribute to increased equitable access to quality and comprehensive services along the ‘continuum of care’ including improved integrated management of Maternal Newborn and Child Health, Sexual and Reproductive health, Nutrition and comprehensive PMTCT package of services at all levels. In the joint initiative, UNW Zimbabwe’s strategy is to address root causes/structural barriers that affect women’s and girls’ maternal, sexual and reproductive health and hence increase and generate demand for reproductive and maternal health services. In line with this; activities being implemented include training female community health facilitators to spread awareness on MNCH, SRH, HIV and GBV; supporting and incentivizing these community health facilitators. The CO has also established women’s, adolescent girls and men’s forums to discuss and share on the importance of MNCH, SRHR, GBV and HIV services including preventive and promotive health aspects

Women Peace and Security

We aim to gender mainstream conflict resolution, conflict management and peacebuilding planning processes. UN Women Zimbabwe does this by promoting training for the security sector and academic institutions, improving knowledge of peace and security laws and policies among key stakeholders including the Gender Commission, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Zimbabwe Republic Police and strengthening the capacity of women leaders on conflict resolution, management and peace building.

This programme aims to support key Government and non-government partners on strengthening capacities to respond to gender, peace and security concerns in Zimbabwe. Focusing on women’s participation at all levels of peace and security policy making, strengthening capacities of security sector actors to respond to gender insecurities, supporting mechanisms of peace at the community level and supporting gender sensitive policy reforms, the programme supports the effective implementation of national, regional and international gender and security norms and standards and the appropriate response to gender insecurities. Furthermore, it aims to contribute to the prevention of gender-based violence, gender insecurities and violence against women. UN Women Zimbabwe does this by promoting training for the security sector and academic institutions, improving knowledge of peace and security laws and policies among key stakeholders including the Gender Commission, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Zimbabwe Republic Police and strengthening the capacity of women leaders on conflict resolution, management and peace building.

Joint Programme for Gender Equality (JPGE)

The Joint Programme for Gender Equality (JPGE) supports the Government of Zimbabwe in its efforts to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, through four programme pillars:

Pillar 1: Combatting all forms of gender based violence

Pillar 2: Women’s political participation and influence

Pillar 3: Women’s economic empowerment and working conditions

Pillar 4: National accountability on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The aim of the joint programme is to take on a comprehensive approach to gender equality and women’s empowerment through its four pillars, and by emphasising the interlinkages between them. Through strategic interventions at policy level, and capacity strengthening of both duty-bearers and rights holders, it aims to create an enabling environment for tackling gender inequalities in Zimbabwe.

The programme is joining three UN agencies together: UN Women, UNDP, and ILO. These agencies bring their areas of expertise and experiences into the implementation of the programme, in collaboration and partnership with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development and twelve other Ministries and Government bodies. A number of NGOs/CSOs are also contributing to the implementation of the JPGE.

UN Women is the coordinating agency and administrative agent for the JPGE.

The JPGE is funded by a generous contribution of 5.3 million USD from the Government of Sweden.

[1] Zimstat (2012) Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) 2010/2011

[2] Zimstat (2012), National Baseline Survey on the Life Experiences of Adolescents.

[i] State of the World’s Report (UNICEF 2015),