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FEATURE STORYApril 29, 2024

Persistent Gender Disparities Hinder Women's Safety and Productivity in Zimbabwe


Gender-based violence is a significant concern in Zimbabwe, with a substantial number of women experiencing physical and sexual violence. Photo: Adobe Stock

The Zimbabwe Gender-Based Violence Assessment and the Gender Assessment show that the country has made progress but there are further actions that can be taken to address gender disparities.

In Zimbabwe, gender-based violence (GBV) is a significant concern, with a substantial number of women experiencing physical and sexual violence. Approximately 39.4% of women have been subjected to physical violence, and an estimated 11.6% have faced sexual violence. Although there has been a decline in child marriage rates, 16.2% of women were married before the age of 18 as of 2022.

While Zimbabwe has taken several legislative steps against GBV by adopting various international and domestic laws, the Zimbabwe Gender-Based Violence Assessment  underscores the necessity for more effective enforcement of GBV legislation and the establishment of legal frameworks that categorically criminalize GBV acts. Zimbabwe is a party to several global and regional legal instruments that promote gender equality and combat GBV. Additionally, the 2013 National Constitution of Zimbabwe is forward-thinking, prohibiting gender discrimination and all forms of GBV.

The GBV Assessment commends the policymakers' commitment to eliminating violence against women and children in Zimbabwe, as espoused in the recently launched Zimbabwe National Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-based Violence 2023–2030. However, the assessment notes that more work must be done on the legislative front. "The 2007 Domestic Violence Act needs to be amended to tackle harmful cultural practices and extend coverage to GBV incidents outside the domestic sphere," said Eneida Fernandes, World Bank Country Manager for Zimbabwe.

The assessment urges prompt law harmonization and recommends strengthening coordination platforms to avoid duplication of efforts and overlapping mandates. All sub-platforms should report to the National Gender Forum. It also calls for strengthening the Anti-Domestic Violence Council, which has been inefficient recently.

Recommendations from the report, to prevent GBV, suggest designing, implementing, and evaluating targeted, systematic, evidence-based awareness campaigns to alter social and gender norms towards non-violence and respectful relationships, particularly in GBV hotspots. For GBV response, it is recommended that the justice delivery system be improved by addressing the bottlenecks that lead to delays in GBV case resolutions and establishing “Fast Track” GBV courts.

Accompanying the GBV assessment is the Zimbabwe Gender Assessment, which notes that despite advancements in gender equality, such as securing women's reproductive rights, achieving gender parity in primary education, and increasing female enrollment in higher education, significant gender inequalities remain. These include the underrepresentation of women in wage employment, their overconcentration in the informal labor market, high youth unemployment among women, and high rates of teenage pregnancies and child marriages.

An intersectoral strategy would be essential to address the remaining dimensions of gender inequality. To meet women's empowerment goals and targets in the country, it will be important to address the drivers of inequality in human endowments (health), economic opportunities, ownership and control of assets, as well as voice and agency.
Helene Rex
World Bank Practice Manager, Social Sustainability and Inclusion

The Gender Assessment reveals that women are less likely to be employed in wage work and more likely to earn less than men. The labor force participation rate for me is 53% compared to 34% for women, and men outnumber women in most sectors. In the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors, men account for 58% of the industry labor market, while women make up 42%. Only 22% of working women are employed in wage or salaried positions, compared to 41% for men. Waged women employees earn, on average, about two-thirds of their male counterparts. This is driven by women’s concentration in less renumerated fields, limited work experience and skills, and unequal family and household care responsibilities.

To address gender disparities, recommendations from the report include, among other things, supporting socio-economic skills training for women, which has been shown to increase business outcomes among women microentrepreneurs. It also recommends supporting childcare services, such as offering preferential tax regimes to childcare centers and ensuring that women can engage across all areas of the economy. Addressing the gender divide in land ownership and assets and ring-fencing low-cost finance for women to purchase and own titled land and agricultural implements would also contribute to closing the gender gap.


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