A balanced media? Not when it comes to gender

Lazarus Sauti

In 2013, Zimbabwe endorsed a new supreme law, but the country is still struggling to comply with Constitutional requirements that provide for equal representation between men and women in public affairs.

Women, who constitute 52 percent of the population as per the 2012 national population census, are less than one third of the country’s parliament and still under-represented and misrepresented in media.

Speaking during a Landscaping Gender Conference at Cresta Jameson Hotel recently, Agnes Nhengo of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development said inequality is still rife in newsrooms as women are not evenly represented both in leadership roles and in media coverage.

“On the very powerful and important platform that is media, women are still not sufficiently represented and are prevented from enjoying their rights and freedoms simply because they are women,” she said.

“While lack of access to good education is usually blamed, some women have the necessary qualifications, skills and potential, but they are silently overlooked for promotions.”

According to the 2015 Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) conducted by Gender Links in partnership with media training institutions across the Southern African
Development Community (SADC), women predominate in media studies (64 percent) yet constitute only 40 percent of media employees and 34 percent of media managers.

The report also noted that women’s views and voices account for a mere 20 percent of news sources in the southern African media, a fact supported by media lecturer, Terrence Antonio, who added that since women constitute only 34 percent of media managers, girls and other women lack role models in the media sector.

He also said patriarchy is another reason why girls and women are still under-represented either in leadership roles or in media coverage.

“We live in a society that silences women all too often and some times, women decline to be interviewed when solicited by journalists, thanks to cultural practices that belittle girls and women.

Fiona Magaya of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) concurred: “Women continue to be affected by stereotypes, myth and a lot of imbalances and where issues of gender violence or sexist language are concerned, women who raise these issues are often not taken seriously; in actual fact, male bosses sympathise with perpetrators of gender violence and at times try to underplay the charge at hand.”

As for Media Monitors Programme Officer, Sharon Mawomi, women in Zimbabwean media houses are under-represented in most areas of work, but are found in higher proportions in soft beats like entertainment as well as support roles such as Public Relations (PR), advertising, sales and marketing as well as human resources.

She added that under-representation in either leadership or in media coverage is badly affecting political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental and gender development.

“Media are key sources of information to cover priorities of girls and women as well as boys and men and the centrality of equal participation to Zimbabwe’s human and national development cannot be disputed.

“Nevertheless, under-representation and misrepresentation of girls and women in the media mean they are being left out of developmental issues and this halts sustainable economic growth in Zimbabwe,” she said.

Concurring, gender activist Daphne Jena argued that due to under-representation or underrepresentation in the media, women are still portrayed in a narrow range of characters in mass media.

“Media in the country whether print, electronic and online continue to have discriminatory attitudes towards girls and women as they rely on male worldview when portraying girls and women,” she said.

“Granted that the media is one of the most strategic spaces for shaping views on humanitarian issues, women’s potential to influence their societies is injured and harshly compromised.”

Jena also believed women and girls in the country are substantially misrepresented both in leadership roles and in media coverage because they are still under-represented at the top of fields such as politics and business.

“Gender parity in politics and corporate governance is ‘a pie in the sky’ as leadership positions in both private as well as public sectors are still male dominated.

“Statistics show that women are still under-represented in decision making positions in all sectors and this clearly violates the spirit of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, especially Section 17(1) (a) which provides that the State must promote the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men.

“Chapter 4 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe also obligates that the State and every person, including juristic persons, and every institution and agency of the government at every level must respect, protect, promote and fulfil fundamental human rights and freedoms.”

A 2015 study titled ‘Measuring Gender Differences on Board of Directors of Companies Listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange’, conducted by Tavonga Njaya and Zvinaiye Chimbadzwa also revealed that out of the 406 directors, 40 (10 percent) were women and 366 (90 percent) were men.

The study also showed that 27 (45 percent of the listed companies had one or more women on their boards and 37 (58 percent) of the listed companies did not have a single female board member.

The image of girls and women as well as the voicing of women’s concern underwent a radical change due to the emergence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), but the Chief Executive Officer of AB Communications, Susan Makore, said this digital shift has led to additional discrimination against women.

“With the digital swing, the challenge of gender inequalities multiply,” she said, adding that under-representation of girls and women in both media and digital sectors converges online.

While women’s issues continue to be ignored and their contributions to national development downplayed in the media, their access to the media in order to inform its reports is also poor as revealed by the Zimbabwe Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2014, final report on Media, Information and Communication Technology, which stated that the proportion of women age between 15 and 49 years who read newspapers or magazines, listened to radio or watched television at least once week was 8 percent and 15 percent for men age 15-54 years.

Conversely, Makore urged female journalists to be bold and claim their professional place at all times if they are to be respected as well as recognised in the country.

Guided by the Constitution of Zimbabwe, she avowed, media houses in Zimbabwe, training institutions such as universities and colleges, journalism unions like the Zimbabwe Union of Journalism (ZUJ) as well as gender and media activists need to promote gender equality with the media sector.

Journalist, Best Masinire, emphasised that gender equality in and through the media is fundamental to freedom of expression, accountability, democracy, good governance and transparency and encouraged media houses to take an industry leadership position in creating change, as well as aim for equal representation in all positions in order to reflect the population of Zimbabwe.

“Women should not only be represented in strategic management, but they should also have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres as enshrined in Section 56(2) of the Constitution of our country,” he said.

Antonio subscribed to Masinire’s notion and added that the media should network with tertiary institutions to advocate gender sensitive policies.

He also said ethical codes and editorial guidelines promoting gender equality ideals should be developed and widely disseminated to soak the media industry with enlightenment about the value of women in their diversity.

Presenting at a two-day workshop organised by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) to train media practitioners on Gender and Safety held at the Cresta Oasis Hotel in Harare recently, Media practitioner, Victoria Mtomba, urged the government, at every level, to support women’s education, training and employment so as to effectively promote and ensure women’s equal access to all areas and levels of the media.

She also said the government, together with other stakeholders, should promote women’s full and equal participation in the media, including management, programming, education, training and research as well as at gender balance in the appointment of women and men to all advisory, management, regulatory or monitoring bodies, including those connected to the private or public media.

Gender equity is not a women’s issue, affirmed journalist Pamela Shumba. It is everybody’s issue.

“As such, men and women should make gender equity a priority and for this to be successful, women should also be equally represented in decision making roles as well as in unions,” she said, urging media organisations also to create flexible work conditions and facilities, understand the needs of women in addition to establishing sexual harassment committees.

Shumba also said media houses and unions should come up with gender-effective code of ethics and gender and media reporting toolkits.

Building an egalitarian society, established Zimbabwe Union of Journalist Secretary General, Foster Dongozi, is what media organisation should thrive to do.

“Accordingly, we are encouraging media houses to come up with gender policies that address the tenets of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action, the African Union Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the African Union Gender Policy as well as relevant provisions of Zimbabwe’s new Constitution,” he summed up.

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Women still sidelined in land ownership

Lazarus Sauti

In Zimbabwe, land is power and in most parts of the country, particularly rural areas, this powerful property is owned and controlled by patriarchal lineages.

Men are the primary landholders, and women negotiate access to land through their male relations relying on fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles or male-dominated traditional authorities, a fact supported by the Human Rights Watch, in its recent report titled “You Will Get Nothing: Violations of Property and Inheritance of Widows in Zimbabwe”.

According to the report, women, especially widows are still vulnerable to age-old patriarchal practices which deny them the right of inheritance to their late spouses’ wealth and property.

Another study undertaken by the Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) reinforces that the ownership of land in Zimbabwe is still a male privilege despite a progressive Constitution that provides for equal treatment between boys and girls as well as men and women.

The study, with a focus on Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa, also exposes how corruption influences and affects women’s relationship to land in the country.

“Land corruption – defined as the use of political and economic power to subvert laid down rules for individual gain – intersects and entrenches already existing gendered land inequalities and creates new equalities.

“Due to the mucky land deal between the government and an investor in Chisumbanje, women are increasingly subjected to violence in the form of sextortion, which describes how women are extorted using sex as the currency of exchange,” adds the study.

“Sextortion involves the demand for sexual favours by those in power in return for accessing a good or service.”

In the study, male leaders are traditionally using their power in allocating land to demand sex in lieu of cash or customary land tenure provisions, and access to land by vulnerable women, mainly divorced, single and widowed, is therefore extremely difficult.

Political activist, Johannes Chikowore, says land corruption in Zimbabwe is so rife to the extent that some people have multiple farm ownership thanks to partisan land distribution.

He adds that women in the country are still being side-lined in land ownership and control due to factors such as lack of information on how they can acquire land, lack of access to finances, failure to get credit due to lack of collateral in addition to customary impositions.

Chikowore also blames land disputes, saying where conflicts occur, women are ten times more likely to be targeted.

“Reviews show that 40 percent of female landholders in resettlement areas continue to experience conflicts which are related to ownership of land and farm boundaries, plus eviction threats from their land in comparison to 4.1 percent for men,” he adds.

In a paper titled ‘Women and Land in Zimbabwe’, University of Zimbabwe sociology professor, Rudo Barbra Gaidzanwa, women in communal areas have weaker property rights and tensure security and as such are under immense pressure to migrate to towns and cities in search of land.

She, therefore, urges members of parliament (MPs) to sensitise their constituents about the value of land as well as need for collateral.

Most women, avows Gaidzanwa, especially widows and divorced women are losing up land; accordingly, there is need for information on acquisition of bankable land and collateral as well as control of the land since women in communal areas are mostly the ones tilling the land.

A policy brief by the Southern African Parliamentary Support (SAPST) titled ‘Gender and Food Security in Zimbabwe’, also notes that women are the backbone of the smallholder agricultural sector as they feed the nation by being the main producers and processors of food.

“In Zimbabwe, 70 percent of agricultural production is provided by women as they make up 70 percent of the rural population, but in spite of women doing most of the agricultural work, they still face challenges in owning and controlling the land,” notes SAPST.

Despite women making up 70 percent of the rural population, only 18 percent of beneficiaries of A1 land reform and 12 percent under A2 are women – which the government considers falls short of the gender parity ideal, notes the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Gender Policy (MWAGCD Gender Policy).

Since women play a crucial role in economic development, declares journalist and gender activist, Garikai Mangongera, they should be empowered with land.

“Women should be empowered with land. Without doubt, when women are secure on their land, they have the incentive as well as the ability to invest in that land, that is turning farming into a viable business,” he says.

Mangongera adds: “Women with land have the capacity to mobilise seed, fertiliser and credit and they can also join small-scale producer groups through which they can mobilise further resources, undertake collective marketing for better bargaining power, or procure inputs as a group.”

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) adds that when women have equal access, ownership and control over land and other reproductive resources, their crop yields increase by 20 to 30 percent.

To build more resilient communities, Transparency International Zimbabwe recommends the need for key actors to be bold for change and claim transparency in land deals in line with Sustainable Development Goal 16 which calls for the need of any form of development to be inclusive and be accountable.

Private land investors and the government, adds the TIZ, should also invest in social impact assessment to ascertain the impact of their investment on community livelihoods as well as social relations.

Chikowore, just like the Transparent International Zimbabwe, also urges all investments in land to be in line with the principles of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which guarantee that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect the land they customarily own, occupy or otherwise use.

Human rights activist, Simbarashe Namusi, encourages the government to close the gap between law and practice simply by implementing plans, strategies and policies that promote women’s access to and control of productive resources such as land.

“The government, at every level, should be guided by Section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides for “equality and non-discrimination”, and rectify gender discrimination and imbalances resulting from past policies and practices by considering a target for women’s land ownership.

“It should also harmonise policies and laws governing land, mining, the environment and local government in a way that protects women,” he says.

Since lack of proper documentation on land ownership stimulates conflicts over land ownership and use, says Chikowore, the government and other key stakeholders should provide women with proper documentation for their land over and above empowered on how to register land in their names.

Sharing the same views, gender activist Anoziva Marindire, adds that girls and women should be capacitated with technical skills so that they can at least read and interpret legal documents that support proof of land ownership.

“Institutions such as the Gender Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Rural Settlement, as well as other critical stakeholders should be involved in conscientising girls and women on land ownership rights and other policies critical in ending any form of conflict,” she adds.

Development practitioner, Cynthia Chanengeta, says in sync with the provisions of the country’s supreme law, especially Section 17 which articulates the question of gender balance and Section 80 which delineates the rights of women, there is a serious need for a clear legal framework that not only establishes, but protects and propagates inheritance rights of girls and women.

“Policy makers should come up with plans and strategies that support Sections 17 and 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and clearly spelt out local, regional and international legal frameworks that enable girls and women to have an equal say as well as footing with boys and men when it comes to land control and ownership as well as land tenure.

As for traditional leader, Zefa Mutauto, men, especially traditional leaders like him, as opinion leaders, need to be seriously involved in awareness campaigns to effectively fight cultural practices that are halting women to own and control land.

“Honestly, women in this country are still battling for equal rights, but patriarchy is reigning supreme at institutions that are supposed to end this disparity.

“As traditional leaders, we should therefore be involved in awareness programmes that empower women and end land and other civil conflicts that are halting development in our communities,” he says.

Chanengeta adds that since most leaders in the country are men, education is an effective tool that can be used to promote a just society where resources are accessed, owned and controlled by every member of the society not on the basis of gender.

“Policy makers should also use the Maputo Protocol to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on Women, the revised Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development as well as the country’s Constitution to promote women’s access to and control over productive resources such as land and guarantee their right to property,” she sums up.

Lazarus Sauti is a journalist and blogger based in Harare.

Women still sidelined in land ownership

Lazarus Sauti

In Zimbabwe, land is power and in most parts of the country, particularly rural areas, this powerful property is owned and controlled by patriarchal lineages.

Men are the primary landholders, and women negotiate access to land through their male relations relying on fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles or male-dominated traditional authorities, a fact supported by the Human Rights Watch, in its recent report titled “You Will Get Nothing: Violations of Property and Inheritance of Widows in Zimbabwe”.

According to the report, women, especially widows are still vulnerable to age-old patriarchal practices which deny them the right of inheritance to their late spouses’ wealth and property.

Another study undertaken by the Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) reinforces that the ownership of land in Zimbabwe is still a male privilege despite a progressive Constitution that provides for equal treatment between boys and girls as well as men and women.

The study, with a focus on Chisumbanje and Chinyamukwakwa, also exposes how corruption influences and affects women’s relationship to land in the country.

“Land corruption – defined as the use of political and economic power to subvert laid down rules for individual gain – intersects and entrenches already existing gendered land inequalities and creates new equalities.

“Due to the mucky land deal between the government and an investor in Chisumbanje, women are increasingly subjected to violence in the form of sextortion, which describes how women are extorted using sex as the currency of exchange,” adds the study.

“Sextortion involves the demand for sexual favours by those in power in return for accessing a good or service.”

In the study, male leaders are traditionally using their power in allocating land to demand sex in lieu of cash or customary land tenure provisions, and access to land by vulnerable women, mainly divorced, single and widowed, is therefore extremely difficult.

Political activist, Johannes Chikowore, says land corruption in Zimbabwe is so rife to the extent that some people have multiple farm ownership thanks to partisan land distribution.

He adds that women in the country are still being side-lined in land ownership and control due to factors such as lack of information on how they can acquire land, lack of access to finances, failure to get credit due to lack of collateral in addition to customary impositions.

Chikowore also blames land disputes, saying where conflicts occur, women are ten times more likely to be targeted.

“Reviews show that 40 percent of female landholders in resettlement areas continue to experience conflicts which are related to ownership of land and farm boundaries, plus eviction threats from their land in comparison to 4.1 percent for men,” he adds.

In a paper titled ‘Women and Land in Zimbabwe’, University of Zimbabwe sociology professor, Rudo Barbra Gaidzanwa, women in communal areas have weaker property rights and tensure security and as such are under immense pressure to migrate to towns and cities in search of land.

She, therefore, urges members of parliament (MPs) to sensitise their constituents about the value of land as well as need for collateral.

Most women, avows Gaidzanwa, especially widows and divorced women are losing up land; accordingly, there is need for information on acquisition of bankable land and collateral as well as control of the land since women in communal areas are mostly the ones tilling the land.

A policy brief by the Southern African Parliamentary Support (SAPST) titled ‘Gender and Food Security in Zimbabwe’, also notes that women are the backbone of the smallholder agricultural sector as they feed the nation by being the main producers and processors of food.

“In Zimbabwe, 70 percent of agricultural production is provided by women as they make up 70 percent of the rural population, but in spite of women doing most of the agricultural work, they still face challenges in owning and controlling the land,” notes SAPST.

Despite women making up 70 percent of the rural population, only 18 percent of beneficiaries of A1 land reform and 12 percent under A2 are women – which the government considers falls short of the gender parity ideal, notes the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Gender Policy (MWAGCD Gender Policy).

Since women play a crucial role in economic development, declares journalist and gender activist, Garikai Mangongera, they should be empowered with land.

“Women should be empowered with land. Without doubt, when women are secure on their land, they have the incentive as well as the ability to invest in that land, that is turning farming into a viable business,” he says.

Mangongera adds: “Women with land have the capacity to mobilise seed, fertiliser and credit and they can also join small-scale producer groups through which they can mobilise further resources, undertake collective marketing for better bargaining power, or procure inputs as a group.”

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) adds that when women have equal access, ownership and control over land and other reproductive resources, their crop yields increase by 20 to 30 percent.

To build more resilient communities, Transparency International Zimbabwe recommends the need for key actors to be bold for change and claim transparency in land deals in line with Sustainable Development Goal 16 which calls for the need of any form of development to be inclusive and be accountable.

Private land investors and the government, adds the TIZ, should also invest in social impact assessment to ascertain the impact of their investment on community livelihoods as well as social relations.

Chikowore, just like the Transparent International Zimbabwe, also urges all investments in land to be in line with the principles of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which guarantee that a community has the right to give or withhold its consent to proposed projects that may affect the land they customarily own, occupy or otherwise use.

Human rights activist, Simbarashe Namusi, encourages the government to close the gap between law and practice simply by implementing plans, strategies and policies that promote women’s access to and control of productive resources such as land.

“The government, at every level, should be guided by Section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides for “equality and non-discrimination”, and rectify gender discrimination and imbalances resulting from past policies and practices by considering a target for women’s land ownership.

“It should also harmonise policies and laws governing land, mining, the environment and local government in a way that protects women,” he says.

Since lack of proper documentation on land ownership stimulates conflicts over land ownership and use, says Chikowore, the government and other key stakeholders should provide women with proper documentation for their land over and above empowered on how to register land in their names.

Sharing the same views, gender activist Anoziva Marindire, adds that girls and women should be capacitated with technical skills so that they can at least read and interpret legal documents that support proof of land ownership.

“Institutions such as the Gender Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Rural Settlement, as well as other critical stakeholders should be involved in conscientising girls and women on land ownership rights and other policies critical in ending any form of conflict,” she adds.

Development practitioner, Cynthia Chanengeta, says in sync with the provisions of the country’s supreme law, especially Section 17 which articulates the question of gender balance and Section 80 which delineates the rights of women, there is a serious need for a clear legal framework that not only establishes, but protects and propagates inheritance rights of girls and women.

“Policy makers should come up with plans and strategies that support Sections 17 and 80 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and clearly spelt out local, regional and international legal frameworks that enable girls and women to have an equal say as well as footing with boys and men when it comes to land control and ownership as well as land tenure.

As for traditional leader, Zefa Mutauto, men, especially traditional leaders like him, as opinion leaders, need to be seriously involved in awareness campaigns to effectively fight cultural practices that are halting women to own and control land.

“Honestly, women in this country are still battling for equal rights, but patriarchy is reigning supreme at institutions that are supposed to end this disparity.

“As traditional leaders, we should therefore be involved in awareness programmes that empower women and end land and other civil conflicts that are halting development in our communities,” he says.

Chanengeta adds that since most leaders in the country are men, education is an effective tool that can be used to promote a just society where resources are accessed, owned and controlled by every member of the society not on the basis of gender.

“Policy makers should also use the Maputo Protocol to the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights on Women, the revised Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development as well as the country’s Constitution to promote women’s access to and control over productive resources such as land and guarantee their right to property,” she sums up.

Lazarus Sauti is a journalist and blogger based in Harare.

Repositioning libraries for sustainable development

Lazarus Sauti

“Knowledge and information are crucial factors in human development,” said seasoned social scientist and celebrated scholar, Professor Ngonidzashe Victor Muzvidziwa of Midlands State University. “Without information, there is no development.”

Speaking as the guest of honour at the Zimbabwe Library Association (ZimLA) 51st Conference under the theme “Libraries in the National Development Agenda: Repositioning Libraries for Sustainable Development”, at Fairmile Regency Hotel in Gweru recently, Professor Muzvidziwa added that in Zimbabwe, libraries play a crucial role in enhancing the free flow of information and ideas, as well as advancing freedom of expression – essential human rights supported by the United Nations.

“Libraries, nerve centres in giving access to full and objective information, are tools of empowering many people, especially school children and they support important development tools such as the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset), Southern African Development Community’s Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap as well as African Union’s Agenda 2063,” he affixed.

Velenasi Mwale Munsanje, President of the Library and Information Association of Zambia, also said libraries and information centres are powerful knowledge partners in delivering services such as literacy, digital inclusion, education, local knowledge, social services, as well as help in the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights.

Sadly, Professor Muzvidziwa said resources are still a challenge in Zimbabwe, and as a result, most schools in the country do not have functioning libraries – important institutions of human rights and social justice, and this is hindering free flow of information, skills transfer, as well as children to children interaction.

“Children in rural areas are mostly affected as they are denied access to information, a fundamental human right and a basic tool for sustainable development,” added public librarian, Antonetta Sipho Madziwa.

She believes every school, whether in rural or urban areas, must, therefore, have a well stocked library manned by a professional librarian so as to champion children’s rights and lifts thousands of children from the jaws of poverty, a fact supported by Peter Muzawazi, an acting principal director in the Ministry of Primary Education, who added that the revival of school libraries – key enablers to curriculum implementation and development, and the use of electronic books (e-books) and virtual libraries should be encouraged not only to reposition libraries for sustainable development, but also to facilitate cultural and scientific exchange as well as promote a reading culture.

“To efficiently relocate libraries for sustainable development,” affixed Muzawazi, “it is better to have community and school libraries that are not well stocked, but with relevant reading materials.”

ZimLA President, Lantern Fusire, said as the country is currently updating its educational curriculum which incorporates information literacy skills, librarians should be creative as well as innovative to make libraries the bedrocks of Unhu/Ubuntu as well as to successfully impart library users, particularly school children with much-needed literacy skills.

Adding his voice, Library and Information Association of South Africa (Liasa) President, Mandla Ntombela, noted that libraries and information centres support children’s rights and contribute immensely to socio-economic transformation by guaranteeing access to information which is a cross-cutting target that supports all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Libraries sit in the first five SDGs: end poverty in all its forms everywhere (SDG1); end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture (SDG2); ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages (SDG3); ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG4); and achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and these goals are critical in promoting child development,” he said.

“Without delay, librarians should be at the forefront in seeking to create a more inclusive society, which addresses challenges such as lack of good educational opportunities, poverty, poor health, poverty and poor standards of living.”

Ntombela also called for governments in southern Africa to craft plans, strategies and policies that promote library services, over and above drive strategic national agendas.

“Governments and library associations, in line with the Cape Town Declaration on the status of libraries and implementation of access to information agenda, should craft National Libraries and Information Services policies as part of a universal human rights approach, as well as rights of people to knowledge.

“Only Namibia has crafted one. South Africa is working on its own policy. I, therefore, urge other southern African governments to craft theirs,” he said.

City of Gweru Mayor, Councillor Charles Chikozho, urged school librarians to embrace modern technologies to ensure their libraries serve as the heart of the research and academic community.

Subscribing to Chikozho’s views, senior librarian at Okavango Research Institute, Botswana, Benjamin Thupe, added: “In this internet era, school librarians should use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to bridge the digital divide and ensure information reaches all users, especially individuals who face barriers to information access created by literacy, technology and language.”

For Tonderayi Chanakira, Chief Librarian, Namibia Library and Archives Service, a well-run library impacts positively on pupil’s literacy, health and wellbeing and as such, library associations in Zimbabwe and other southern African countries should join hands with the International Federation of Library Association (Ifla) in demanding one school, one library, one librarian as an avenue to promote and protect children’s rights.

“This will also help a lot in attaining equality as well as stimulating mutual respect between children of different backgrounds, reducing poverty, propagating human rights and safeguarding the environment,” he said.

Makhosazana Ndiweni, researcher in the field of library and information science, asserted that libraries provide platforms for children and other key players in the society to be equipped with necessary social information which is valuable for decision making.

She, therefore, encouraged the government to build more community and school libraries in all parts of Zimbabwe to enhance the sharing of skills, collection, as well as preservation of stories from local communities.

“There is also serious need for the improvement of library and information services for children with disabilities so as to eliminate barriers to the free flow of information, especially those that promote discrimination, poverty and dejection,” she summed up.

Abstain from all forms of substance abuse

Lazarus Sauti

Substance abuse, the harmful use of psychoactive substances like alcohol and illicit drugs, continues to be on the increase among youths in Zimbabwe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) – a specialised agency of the United Nations (UN) that is concerned with international public health – estimates that millions of people, especially the youth in Zimbabwe and other countries are abusing alcohol and illicit drugs.

“Substance abuse, especially alcohol consumption,” adds the international public health agency, “is one of the top three major health problems worldwide.”

Furthermore, the World Health Organisation asserts that costs of substance abuse take in the direct cost of healthcare delivery treating the consequences of use, the wide-ranging damage to families of users, as well as the impact on socio-economic transformation.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church concedes that alcohol and substance abuse are not only rampant in today’s world, but also major health issues, particularly in areas of health and wellbeing.

Although the media is promoting the so-called health benefits of alcohol, for instance, the Adventist Church maintains a determined position on abstinence as it urges individuals to lend a hand in stamping out the worldwide drug scourge that weakens social structure of nations.

Seventh-day Adventists, importantly, believe the Bible teaches that each human body is a “temple of the living God,” which should be cared for intelligently (2 Cor. 6:15-17).

More so, the Church’s Bible-based Fundamental Belief No. 2 declares: “Along with adequate exercise and rest, we are to adopt the most healthful diet possible.

“…Since alcoholic beverages, tobacco and the irresponsible use of drugs as well as narcotics are harmful to our bodies, we are to abstain from them.

“…Instead, we are to engage in whatever brings our thoughts and bodies into the discipline of Christ, who desires our wholesomeness, joy and goodness.”

To flee from alcohol and drug abuse, everyone should simply follow a lifestyle that avoids tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, over and above the misuse of drugs. Period!

Repositioning libraries for sustainable development

Lazarus Sauti

“Knowledge and information are crucial factors in human development,” said seasoned social scientist and celebrated scholar, Professor Ngonidzashe Victor Muzvidziwa of Midlands State University. “Without information, there is no development.”

Speaking as the guest of honour at the Zimbabwe Library Association (ZimLA) 51st Conference under the theme “Libraries in the National Development Agenda: Repositioning Libraries for Sustainable Development”, at Fairmile Regency Hotel in Gweru recently, Professor Muzvidziwa added that in Zimbabwe, libraries play a crucial role in enhancing the free flow of information and ideas, as well as advancing freedom of expression – essential human rights supported by the United Nations.

“Libraries, nerve centres in giving access to full and objective information, are tools of empowering many people, especially school children and they support important development tools such as the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset), Southern African Development Community’s Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap as well as African Union’s Agenda 2063,” he affixed.

Velenasi Mwale Munsanje, President of the Library and Information Association of Zambia, also said libraries and information centres are powerful knowledge partners in delivering services such as literacy, digital inclusion, education, local knowledge, social services, as well as help in the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights.

Sadly, Professor Muzvidziwa said resources are still a challenge in Zimbabwe, and as a result, most schools in the country do not have functioning libraries – important institutions of human rights and social justice, and this is hindering free flow of information, skills transfer, as well as children to children interaction.

“Children in rural areas are mostly affected as they are denied access to information, a fundamental human right and a basic tool for sustainable development,” added public librarian, Antonetta Sipho Madziwa.

She believes every school, whether in rural or urban areas, must, therefore, have a well stocked library manned by a professional librarian so as to champion children’s rights and lifts thousands of children from the jaws of poverty, a fact supported by Peter Muzawazi, an acting principal director in the Ministry of Primary Education, who added that the revival of school libraries – key enablers to curriculum implementation and development, and the use of electronic books (e-books) and virtual libraries should be encouraged not only to reposition libraries for sustainable development, but also to facilitate cultural and scientific exchange as well as promote a reading culture.

“To efficiently relocate libraries for sustainable development,” affixed Muzawazi, “it is better to have community and school libraries that are not well stocked, but with relevant reading materials.”

ZimLA President, Lantern Fusire, said as the country is currently updating its educational curriculum which incorporates information literacy skills, librarians should be creative as well as innovative to make libraries the bedrocks of Unhu/Ubuntu as well as to successfully impart library users, particularly school children with much-needed literacy skills.

Adding his voice, Library and Information Association of South Africa (Liasa) President, Mandla Ntombela, noted that libraries and information centres support children’s rights and contribute immensely to socio-economic transformation by guaranteeing access to information which is a cross-cutting target that supports all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“Libraries sit in the first five SDGs: end poverty in all its forms everywhere (SDG1); end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture (SDG2); ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages (SDG3); ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (SDG4); and achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and these goals are critical in promoting child development,” he said.

“Without delay, librarians should be at the forefront in seeking to create a more inclusive society, which addresses challenges such as lack of good educational opportunities, poverty, poor health, poverty and poor standards of living.”

Ntombela also called for governments in southern Africa to craft plans, strategies and policies that promote library services, over and above drive strategic national agendas.

“Governments and library associations, in line with the Cape Town Declaration on the status of libraries and implementation of access to information agenda, should craft National Libraries and Information Services policies as part of a universal human rights approach, as well as rights of people to knowledge.

“Only Namibia has crafted one. South Africa is working on its own policy. I, therefore, urge other southern African governments to craft theirs,” he said.

City of Gweru Mayor, Councillor Charles Chikozho, urged school librarians to embrace modern technologies to ensure their libraries serve as the heart of the research and academic community.

Subscribing to Chikozho’s views, senior librarian at Okavango Research Institute, Botswana, Benjamin Thupe, added: “In this internet era, school librarians should use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to bridge the digital divide and ensure information reaches all users, especially individuals who face barriers to information access created by literacy, technology and language.”

For Tonderayi Chanakira, Chief Librarian, Namibia Library and Archives Service, a well-run library impacts positively on pupil’s literacy, health and wellbeing and as such, library associations in Zimbabwe and other southern African countries should join hands with the International Federation of Library Association (Ifla) in demanding one school, one library, one librarian as an avenue to promote and protect children’s rights.

“This will also help a lot in attaining equality as well as stimulating mutual respect between children of different backgrounds, reducing poverty, propagating human rights and safeguarding the environment,” he said.

Makhosazana Ndiweni, researcher in the field of library and information science, asserted that libraries provide platforms for children and other key players in the society to be equipped with necessary social information which is valuable for decision making.

She, therefore, encouraged the government to build more community and school libraries in all parts of Zimbabwe to enhance the sharing of skills, collection, as well as preservation of stories from local communities.

“There is also serious need for the improvement of library and information services for children with disabilities so as to eliminate barriers to the free flow of information, especially those that promote discrimination, poverty and dejection,” she summed up.

Harnessing computer skills to promote children’s rights

Lazarus Sauti

Around 15 percent of the world’s population – about one billion people – live with disabilities, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Of this group”, adds the World Report on Disability, “at least one in 10 are children and 80 percent of them live in developing countries.”

In Zimbabwe, these children continue to be the poorest of the poor as they face a drab future due to problems such as discrimination and stigmatisation.

More so, the education of children with disabilities takes little priority, yet they are the most marginalised, excluded, invisible and vulnerable group in the country.

To worsen their situation, disability in children is still a hidden than talked about issue in Zimbabwe and other southern African countries, a fact corroborated by disability rights scholar, Esau Mandipa.

According to a 2014 survey by the government of Zimbabwe through the Ministries of Health and Child Care; Primary and Secondary Education; Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, and the United Nations Children’s Fund titled “Living Conditions Among Persons with Disability”, 19 percent of children with disabilities do not proceed beyond Grade 7 compared to 14.6 percent of children without disabilities.

The survey, which brings attention to the urgent needs of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe, notes that 34.8 percent of children with disabilities in the country do not complete primary education.

With little opportunities to access quality education customised to their needs, these children, who are as many as 600 000 of an estimated 2.3 million people with disabilities, are therefore not fully integrated into the society.

Colleen Chifamba, blogger who writes about the inclusion of children with disabilities into the country’s education system, believes educating children with disabilities not only empower them, but ensures that they are accorded the same opportunities as their peers without disabilities.

“Not educating children with disabilities,” she adds, “creates adults with disabilities who are forever dependent on other people.”

The United Nations Children’s Fund concurs, “No education equates to no employment.”

In a bid to integrate children with disabilities, especially visually impaired children into the mainstream education system, disability rights specialist, Ticha Muzavazi, is running a programme code-named “Computer Skills for Every Blind Child”.

The programme, which started three years ago with the support of Universal Services Fund and the Davis Sunrise Rotary Club, targets all blind children in the country.

Its purpose-in-life is to empower these children with inclusive and equitable quality education as well as lifelong learning opportunities in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.

“I started this programme after realising that most, if not all, visually impaired students lack basic computer skills and these skills were not even prioritised at primary and secondary schools,” he says, adding that most of them get to university before their first computer experience.

Through the programme, Muzavazi is working with 44 resource teachers from schools such as St Giles Special School (Harare), Margreth Hugo Capota School for the Blind (Masvingo), St Faith High (Rusape), Murehwa Central Primary and Murehwa High, Ndongwe Primary (Buhera), as well as Fatima Primary and John Tallac High (both in Matabeleland North Province) to equip visually impaired students with computer literacy.

Muzavazi and these teachers are also working on acquiring computers with speech software for blind readers.

“The whole idea is to encourage all schools to have computers and harness computer skills to effectively promote these children’s right to education, which is a fundamental to everyone,” he adds.

“Our aim is also to enable blind children to work at their own pace and without constant supervision from parents or teachers, as well as to improve participation of blind people not only in education, but in industry.”

Beneficiary of the programme, Tanyaradzwa Gondo, wizardry in his work with the computer, cannot spend a day without it, and believes the computer skills he picked from the programme “freed him from being solely reliant on Braille texts for his school work.”

“I strongly feel my computer skills are better than some people who can see,” he says.

Another beneficiary, Florence Makuyana, approves the programme saying it helped her receive quality education as guaranteed in the country’s Constitution, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Her initial touch typing practice is superb, and she also internalised the use of only three fingers on each hand.

“I will never miss a key and my knowledge in computing has opened new horizons for me,” Makuyana brags, adding that the programme not only enhanced her communication, sharing of ideas as well as research, but instilled confidence in her and other beneficiaries.

“Thanks to my android smartphone, which is equipped with TalkBack, I can now read newspapers or text messages without bothering family and friends,” she adds.

Information and Communications Coordinator for the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped, Lovemore Rambiyawo, believes for most people, computer skills make things easier, but for Gondo, Makuyana and other children with disabilities, they make things possible.

He adds that technology is an all-purpose enabler for these children as it allows them to access relevant and up-to-date materials online.

“For physically impaired individuals, technology, particularly the Internet is the legs that take them to all parts of the world,” Rambiyawo asserts.

“Computers,” he adds, “enable blind students to access online sources for their studies and assignments like any other student using speech recognition software.”

Technology specialist, Dr. Jaroslaw Wiazowski, adds that for children with visual impairments, technology is the eyes that enable them to see what is happening around the world, a fact supported by Trissure Garapo-Chizanga, a specialist in the area of hearing impairment, who adds that mobile devices as well as services have an impact on independent living for children with disabilities.

“For the hearing impaired,” she affixes, “Computers are the ears that enable them to hear; they also enable blind students to fit in any educational setting, a fact solidified by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) 2016 ICT Accessibility Progress Report.”

Garapo-Chizanga, importantly, believes disability advocacy and awareness campaigns – exercises that thrive on engaging the generality of the society in constructive conservation on disability inclusion, are critical ingredients in bridging the gap between children with disabilities and their peers without disabilities, as well as promoting creativity, literacy and skills dissemination of cultural links.

“On top of disability advocacy and awareness campaigns, computers and other ICT gadgets should be available to every child with disability,” she says.

Garapo-Chizanga also urges the government and its development partners to also invest in resource centres as well as qualified personnel who can effectively impart computer skills to every blind child.

“For this to be effective,” adds Garapo-Chizanga, “teachers need to be equipped from the onset with computer skills and other expertise to identify learners with disabilities and help them attain their life goals.”

Sharing the same views, librarian Diana Chirara, believes library and information centres in the country should be more disability inclusive so as to enhance access to information, especially for the visually impaired.

“Without doubt, access to information is a sacrosanct human right and facilitating this right for the visually impaired widens their socio-economic opportunities,” she says, adding that libraries should, thus, acquire computers with speech software or screen readers for blind students to benefit from technology.

Legal practitioner, Kuda Hove, says human beings are naturally social beings, and children like Gondo and Makuyana, thus, have the right to study and play with others without discrimination.

“Diversity and inclusion,” he adds, “must be the norm and as such education policies and other strategies aimed at helping children with disabilities must reflect this.”

Muzavazi says although the government is supporting children with disabilities by encouraging inclusivity through the new curriculum, it must put into effect strategies and policies to ensure that all children with disabilities not only attend schools, but learn and complete their schooling.

Furthermore, he says all stakeholders in the country should come up with effective data collection instruments that take stock of the number of children with disabilities and elaborate relevant educational programmes to include them in schools.

“This is necessary for planning and design of inclusion plans, strategies, programmes, interventions and policies,” Muzavazi says.

Conversely, as technology dives and helping the blind see, it is without blemish as it can also be a barrier if it is inaccessible.