With the girl child at heart


THE colonial government had oppressive laws and African women in particular, suffered the most.
For example, the colonial education system in Rhodesia did not have a specific policy for the education of women and girls and the labour laws did not recognise women.
In an interview with The Patriot, the ZANU PF director in theDepartment of Business Development and Liaison, Betty Mutero, said policies in Rhodesia were premised on race and were not gender neutral.
“There were two systems of education, the European Division and the African Division,” said Mutero.
“The European Division of education was non-fee paying, compulsory and of higher quality.
“It was meant for white, coloured and Asian children, while the African Division of education which was neither free nor compulsory and had inadequate education provisions, catered for black children.
The colonial government, said Mutero, introduced customary law which gave women little power, if any, in both civic and social circles. Under customary law, she said, property was owned by husbands.
“Women were reduced to dependents that had to submit to the will and wishes of their spouses or male relations in order to survive,” said Mutero.
“In fact, women were reduced to minors.
The few women who went to school and got employed in Rhodesia earned less than their male counterparts despite performing the same duties.
“I started working in the early 60’s and no matter how professional we were, we were treated as nannies, getting low pay and there was no maternity leave.
“The white people did not drink tea with us and treated us like animals.
“It is independence that brought new systems and a number of changes that have benefitted women.”
Before April 18 1980, women never got to leave their dreams as the system in existence did not support female aspirations and ambitions.
Becoming a pilot like Air Zimbabwe’s only female Captain, Emilia Njovana was a huge dream that could never be realised in Rhodesia
Mutero said girls were directed into feminine areas such as needlework and cookery.
“When the new Zimbabwean Government took over the reins of political power in 1980, it immediately addressed the imbalances that existed in the education sector among other areas.
“The new government introduced policies that created equal opportunities for all Zimbabweans regardless of gender.”
In 1982, the Zimbabwean government introduced the ‘Equal Pay Regulation’ which meant that both men and women with the same qualifications and doing the same job earned the same salary.
In the same year the government introduced the ‘Legal Age of Majority Act’ which meant that men and women were for the first time legally equal.
At the age of 18, both men and women were considered to be equal.
In an effort to raise the number of female students at the University of Zimbabwe, the government introduced the ‘Affirmative Action Policy’ in 1993.
Due to the increased demand for university education and the need for an increase in science and commercial programmes as well as open and distance learning among the Zimbabwean population, more universities sprouted throughout the country after independence.
These include the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Catholic University (CU), Africa University (AU), Midlands State University (MSU), Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU), Bindura University of Science Education (BUSE), Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) and Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) among others. Numerous higher learning institutions were also built around the country.
These ensured that the girl child got an opportunity to receive university education.
Mutero said although strides have been made towards promoting gender equity in Zimbabwe, particularly in the education and political spheres where there has been an increase in the number of female legislators, more still needs to be done at cabinet level and in the business world.
“An increase in the number of women chief executive officers and directors will be greatly appreciated,” she said.
“Women were influential during and after the war so they must also realise the gains of independence.”


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