The time has now come for women across the globe to stop licking the proverbial spoon, which in any case, does not belong to them, and claim their space in matters of economic emancipation in which resources are distributed equitably.
This was said by Dr Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda in an interview following a closed-door meeting with President Mnangagwa at State House in Harare yesterday, ahead of her assumption of duty as deputy executive director for normative support, United Nations system coordination and programme results at the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), in New York, United States.
Responsible for 198 countries, she will be advising the UN Secretary-General António Guterres on women’s issues.
Dr Gumbonzvanda highlighted that among the issues that she will tackle in her role, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter, which she said she would “hold true to”, peace, equality and development were fundamental.
“I will be serving with the premise of an institution that in 1946 agreed on what are the priorities, and those include peace, equality and development. So, that’s the first basic foundation. And, indeed, in 1946 already was the committee on the status of women,” she said.
Conscious of the UN-Women set priorities, and her lived realities as a Zimbabwean, she underscored her mandate in advancing matters relating to the empowerment of women, saying her focus will be on preventable human traits.
“I am an African woman, who understands where it pinches. I mean, the issues of poverty, economic security for women, the issues of girls, abuse, violence against women; it’s unacceptable.
“I will also focus on the issues that are structural, because our governments have to make the necessary policies to change the structural inequalities, but I will also focus on issues of resources.
“Women cannot continue to lick the spoon, a spoon they do not even own. So, I will really have a strong focus around economic empowerment, and around economic resources for women, including for our ministries. They are the most under-resourced the world over; the ministries of women’s affairs.”
Reflecting on her rural upbringing in Murehwa, Mashonaland East Province, Dr Gumbonzvanda said her recognition by the UN Secretary-General was a collective plus for the girl child, Zimbabwean families and communities, and Africa at large.
“I am Zimbabwean. I will always be Zimbabwean. He (the President) whispered to me that I am Zimbabwean, I will always be Zimbabwean. I will give it my best as a Zimbabwean. In our culture it is not just about me as an individual. I am raised by my people. I am nurtured by my people; and will deliver together with my people,” she said.
This is all the more significant as it comes in the wake of Statutory Instrument 2 of 2024, the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Criminal Laws (Protection of Children and Young Persons)) Regulations, 2024, which raised the age of consent for sexual relations from 16 to 18 years.
Dr Gumbonzvanda said she stands “tall as a Zimbabwean woman”, aware of the country’s constitutional commitments on gender equality, prohibition of child marriages, and closure of the legal lacuna on age of consent.
Concerning her appointment and what it means for Zimbabwe, she emphasised that her service at the African Union as the UN goodwill ambassador on early child marriages, and her experiences in Latin America, Asia and Africa, heightened the country’s understanding of inter-governmental mechanisms.
Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Dr Gumbonzvanda, whom she had known and worked with for “a very long time”, has made Zimbabwe proud, particularly the womenfolk.
“I am walking tall. This is a source of pride for Zimbabwe. I worked with Dr Gumbonzvanda when we were doing the Model Law on Ending Child Marriages when I was the vice president of the SADC Parliamentary Forum. I saw her passion to make sure that we deal with this issue and try to prevent it,” she said.
She emphasised that Dr Gumbonzvanda testified to Zimbabwe’s commitment to educate the girl child through enabling policies since independence in 1980, saying she has the requisite qualifications to hold her own on the global stage.
Minister Mutsvangwa said she was glad of the support given to her ministry by the President, as Zimbabwe’s experiences have been deepened and beamed on the universal landscape through collaborations.
“We are proud that we are sending one of our own to this very top post at the United Nations. She will be advising the Secretary-General of the UN on women issues.
“I know that we are lucky as a ministry. We will obviously be tapping into information even before it goes worldwide. I know she won’t leave her women in Zimbabwe behind, because the women whom she will lead are her sisters, her daughters, her aunts and mothers.
“When we speak about our issues as a country, we will be happy that there is someone who knows those issues better; somebody who understands those issues better. And, they can be put across better at the UN level, so we are quite excited,” she said.