Women’s economic development, participation and positioning are key anchors of the targets set by numerous global and regional protocols and agreements that have emerged over the past 20 years. Many of these instruments and frameworks place an emphasis on women’s economic advancement towards the eradication of feminization of poverty which covers the poverty of choices and opportunities such as the ability to lead a long, healthy, and creative life, and enjoying basic rights like freedom, respect, and dignity. At the pinnacle of these protocols and agreements are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and though progress is being made in many places, action to meet the Goals is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required. In this vein, in September 2019, the UN Secretary-General called on all sectors of society to mobilize for a decade of action for accelerating sustainable solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges — ranging from poverty and gender to climate change, inequality and closing the finance gap.
2020 supposedly ushered in a decade of ambitious action to deliver the Goals by 2030, with an increased focus on youth and the need to manipulate the youth bulge to scale up the implementation of SDGs and inspire breakthroughs. In the spirit of the SDGs leaving no one behind, this then calls for the need to address several systemic factors that combine to drive young women’s poverty and gender inequality which include restrictions on young women’s property rights, lack of opportunities and social exclusion. In order to locate young women in the decade of action it is therefore paramount to locate them locally. In this vein, it is then key to note that women’s advancement is not facilitated primarily by various protocols and agreements but by the state’s capacity to weave them into measurable, national development priorities that shift structural inhibitors to women’s participation in the economy. Locating young women in Zimbabwe in the decade of action, therefore, requires a focus on land as one of the major sources of income in the country, taking an audit of where young women stand, addressing the gaps and constrains of effective participation.
Historically, Zimbabwe’s colonial era was punctuated with land grabs and seizure of livestock that augmented inequalities that lead to the liberation struggle. Moving from the colonial era, land redistribution was high on the list of priorities for the Zimbabwean Government in 1980 with the aim of improving the standard of living of the largest and poorest sector of the population. Zimbabwe has since employed several measures in line with its constitution to reduce inequality in the way people access of land for whichever purposes through the Intensive Resettlement Program, the National Land Policy of 1990, the 1992 Land Acquisition Act, and the Land Reform program of the year 2000. However, these efforts did not pay special attention to the inequalities within the poor majority, thus, young people’s access to land has always been overlooked. The situation then gets worse for young women whose contribution to the productiveness of the country remains minimal. Land reform is a political process, which is influenced by many stakeholders, both at the national and international level and, hence, to position young women for productiveness there is need to strike a balance between the market-based land acquisition and Government led approaches to land acquisition.
Post the introduction of SDGs, which Zimbabwe is a signatory of, the government then introduced the Land Commission Act (Chapter 20:29) to provide for the Zimbabwe Land Commission established by section 296 of the Constitution; to provide for the acquisition of State land and the disposal of State land; to provide for the settlement of persons on, and the alienation of, agricultural land; to provide for the control of the subdivision and lease of land for farming or other purposes; and to provide for limiting of the number of pieces of land that may be owned by any person and the sizes of such land. Surprisingly, though written after 2 years into the introduction of SDGs, the Land Commission Act is silent on the emancipation of women, thus paying a blind eye to the international targets that clearly state that achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 goals. The country has, however, had a bit of progress towards addressing inequalities land lately through the National Land Audit. Though the full report is yet to be released, none of the snippets in the mainstream media are addressing land and gender.
Considering this history and current legislature, it is still necessary to position young women for the decade of action which will accelerate action in three levels that are global action, local action and people action. At a global scale, the frameworks already exist through the SDG indicators under SDG 1, 2, 5, 11, & 15. Land is a significant resource, both cross-cutting and critical to achieving the SDGs and many land organizations and stakeholders are committed to fully implementing the SDGs and to monitoring the land-related indicators in order to promote responsible land governance. However, the tire status for indicators on SDGs show that methodologies have been established but there is no regular data being produced. This provides a gap for young women to be part of the data collection process and for the process to target them in order to gather data.
Evidently from the above narrative, local action has to embed a gendered transition into policies, budgets, institutions and regulatory frameworks. In Zimbabwe tis should be led by people action, thus, youth collectives, civil society, media, the private sector and other stakeholders to prioritise young women in advocacy for land and access to opportunities. Since the Decade of Action will mobilize everyone, everywhere to create an unstoppable force linked to the Global Goals, all stakeholders should ensure that they leave no one behind. There is a demand for urgency and ambition towards ending extreme poverty, winning the race against climate change and conquering injustice and gender inequality. This will ultimately be driven by sustainable innovation, financial investments and technology—while making space in our communities and cities for young people to lead.
Article by – Thando Gwinji
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