The ZCTU has called for resolute efforts towards reducing vulnerabilities against women and girls to curb Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the World of Work.

The call was made at a belated International Women’s Day (IWD) Commemorations where women lamented the growing inequalities fuelling GBV in workspaces and communities. The commemorations were held under the theme “Women, Step Up, Rise Up, to the Power Struggles: Achieve an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World”. The theme seeks to encourage and support women as they fight for gender equality in the middle of challenges brought about by the pandemic, COVID-19.

In a statement delivered by the ZCTU Women’s Committee Vice Chairperson Rumbidzai Choto to mark the day, ZCTU implored on the Zimbabwe government and the rest of the world to accelerate their initiatives on achieving gender parity by ratifying and domesticating the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work. The convention is fundamental in closing the loopholes that perpetuate violence and harassment against individuals in workspaces.

“The ZCTU women’s Committee, calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to ratify ILO Convention 190 on violence and harassment in the world of work. Ratification and implementation of this

Convention and its Recommendation number 206, will allow us as a country to take positive action to protect our people from GBV. This would ensure that all citizens have full enjoyment of the fundamental right to a workplace free from violence and harassment as accorded by the C190” read the statement.

The ZCTU said working women in Zimbabwe, besides facing the challenge of fighting for human and trade union rights, economic, social and constitutional freedoms for workers which are violated every day, continue to be exposed to inequalities and vulnerabilities that perpetuate violence and gender discrimination adding that the situation had been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Workers lives have been negatively impacted by the pandemic and employers have taken advantage of the situation to abuse workers’ rights. Women have not been spared as they struggled in between care work and the lockdowns which destroyed sources of livelihood for everyone. The care work burden has also increased during lockdowns while conflicts in the home also increased resulting in domestic violence. COVID-19 increased the prevalence of sexual harassment and gender based violence in the workplace, and in communities while women, children and people with disabilities being the majority of victims,” said ZCTU.

Speaking during the commemorations, ZCTU 1ST Vice President Florence Taruvinga said the challenges that Zimbabwean women were facing are universal and would require unity of purpose in resolving them.

“The challenges that we are facing need a sober approach. The challenges are not only about women, we need to involve men in dealing with the problems. We are fortunate in that we are not faced with concrete but glass ceilings that we can break,” she said.

The ZCTU Women and Gender Coordinator, Fiona Magaya said consultation of women was key in resolving challenges faced by women and girls.

“Women are not fully involved in decision making. Their consultation on all issues is key in aspects since they are vulnerable on many facets including at the workplace and communities. Women still need support mechanisms, protection and the enactment of punitive measures to safeguard them from GBV. Governnments also need to honour their obligations and create safe spaces for women participation,” she said.

ILO National Focal Point in HIV and AIDS coordinator Idah Chimedza gave a summary of the ILO Spotlight Initiatives and its work towards eradication of GBV.

She said the ILO was engaged in international efforts to push legislative and policy frameworks that would strengthen workplace interventions and institutions in responding to GBV. 

Solidarity messages were delivered by which echoed the need for serious interventions in combating GBV.

Emthonjeni Women’s forum highlighted the importance of engaging tertiary students and institutions in combating GBV as Women in Capacity Building and Empowerment said it was time to face the truth focus on sustainable development strategies of empowering women and girls.

Charity Mandishona the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economies Association gender coordinator highlighted the challenges faced by women in the informal economy.

She said Covid-19 had worsened the plight of women and girls in the informal economy as they were subjected to lockdowns without safety nets.

“Harassment of women and girls in the informal economy escalated during the Covid-19 induced lockdowns. Women were exposed to harassment on the roads and had their working spaces closed which led to serious loss of income and capital. In their homes the burden of care work and domestic violence increased owing to hardships. Some women are yet to recover from the effects of the lockdown and it is our prayer that the government quickly ratifies and domesticates Convention 190 to ease some of these challenges,” she said.   

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