Harare, Zimbabwe – A workshop was held to strengthen the ability of the staff of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) to assist Zimbabwean parliamentarians and other civil society organisations. The objectives of the workshop were for SAPST staff to have increased ability to provide quality support to parliamentarians and their staff on different topics relating to legislative analysis, drafting of legislation, (monitoring of) human rights law and gender aspects related to legislation. Through it, SAPST employees have strengthened skills, knowledge and motivation to deliver practical tailor-made training to parliamentarians and their staff. They are able to use their training manuals more effectively and to integrate experiences, lessons learned and good practices from parliamentarians and their staff in their work.
During the workshop the legislative case study used was the proposed Gender Equity bill of South Africa. The bill contains passages which advocates the recognition of women’s unpaid labor and also frames homosexual rights as part of the gender discourse, in this way reframing the norms of what ‘gender’ means. The bill elicited a fruitful discussion about gender and power, especially in the light of the announcement of the Zimbabwean parliamentary cabinet, which did not adhere to the proposed percentages advocated in the new constitution. Women represent only 11.5 percent of the new cabinet, down from 16 percent in 2008. Although the gender aggregates were more balanced in the other organs of the parliament, where 124 (35%) of 350 total MP’s are women, there are 86 women in the national assembly (60 reserved seats and 26 directly elected seats) and 38 (47.5%) of senators are women. The new Constitution directs that the “State must take all measures, including legislative measures, needed to ensure that (i) both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level; and (ii)women constitute at least half the membership of all Commissions and other elective and appointed governmental bodies established by or under this Constitution or any Act of Parliament.” The present government has stipulated that it will work hard in order to enact the new Constitution. AWEPA welcomes the opportunity to assist all Zimbabweans in strengthening parliamentary democracy.