By on Mar 1, 2017 in News, Sustainable Development Goals |

By Byron Mutingwende


The need to prioritise the issues of poverty alleviation, democratic governance and peace building, climate change and disaster risk, and economic inequality as espoused under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) led Zimbabwean civil society organisations to converge in Harare to critique the popularisation of this development agenda.


In her welcome remarks, Judith Kaulem, the Executive Director of the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (the workshop organisers), said that the ambition of the SDGs was to integrate the action to eliminate poverty, with efforts to better manage the natural environment while leaving no one behind.


“The Poverty Reduction Forum Trust seeks to ensure that the broader civil society sector in Zimbabwe demands greater accountability for the implementation of all the 17 SDGs for poverty reduction and sustainable development to be achieved, and that as CSOs, we are able to provide cutting-edge policy advice to the government for the realisation of the SDGs. It is against this background that in a bid to popularise and localise the SDGs, PRFT brought together CSOs from across all sectors to deliberate on their aspirations and contributions towards the realisation of the SDGs,” Kaulem said.


Simba Mukanganise, a Development Officer of the National Council of Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe said that there was a cycle of disability and poverty, with persons with disabilities being among the poorest and people in poverty being at greatest risk of acquiring a disability.


He said that women and girls with disabilities were among the poorest and most marginalised. He cited Article 32 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which recognises the responsibility of countries that have ratified the convention to include persons with disabilities in their international development efforts.


“In Developing countries, including Zimbabwe, there is inadequate information on disability, translating to limited information on which to base advocacy, policy development and effective resource mobilisation and utilisation,” Mukanganise said.


The available global statistics on disability is worrisome. Currently, 15% of the world’s population have disabilities and 80% of persons with disabilities live in developing countries. There are 93–150 million children under 15 years of age with some form of disability worldwide. Children with disabilities are much less likely to attend school than children without a disabilities. In developing countries, only 5%–15% of people who require assistive devices/technologies receive them. The cost of health services exacerbates the poverty level for persons with disabilities.


Over and above that, 20 million women a year acquire a disability as a consequence of pregnancy and childbirth, mainly due to poor birth practices and lack of access to appropriate health care services. While equally at risk of HIV and AIDS, for a variety of reasons persons with disabilities do not have equal access to HIV and AIDS information, education and prevention services. Over 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water, which is a fundamental right for all people and is especially important for persons with disabilities.


Mukanganisa said that the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Section 23) protects the rights and dignity of Persons with Disabilities and promotes and supports the full equalisation of opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, and their integration in society, within a social model and human rights framework.


Despite efforts by government in developing enabling legislation, transforming the state machinery and putting structures in place to be representative and responsive to the developmental needs of the Persons with Disabilities, the majority of Persons with Disabilities are still exposed to restrictive environments and barriers that continue to marginalise and exclude them from main stream society and its social and economic activities.


“The core developmental social services categories of prevention, education, training, placement, rehabilitation, protection, continuing care and mental health, and the levels of intervention, such as prevention, early intervention, and statutory interventions and after care remain negligible.The result thereof has been lack of effective protection programmes that are based on and responsive to the needs of Persons with Disabilities, a lack of focus on children and women and inadequate support to NGOs providing services to Persons with Disabilities.”


The National Coordinator of the Women’s Coalition, Sally Dura, said that there are developmental challenges confronting the women’s rights sector.


Dura bemoaned the absence of data on the status quo of development trends on women and girls. One thorny issue was the margination of women and girls in development processes and decision making (the deliberate systematic exclusion and invisibilisation of women and girls as key actors in development).


“I am appalled by the violence against women and girls in private and public spaces as well as the limited capacity of state and non state duty bearers to be responsive to the women’s rights agenda. A plethora of social and cultural norms is hindering the realisation of rights of women and girls,” Dura said.


The women’s rights proponent hailed the SDGs for recognising the disparities of opportunity including wealth and power and gender inequality; realising that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets.


Goal 5 seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; while gender is mainstreamed in all the other goals. The SDGs support gender-sensitive development strategies; seek to eliminate gender disparities in education, encourage states to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by gender amongst others.


“The implementation of SDGs is a collective responsibility in which the government, civil society, private sector and citizens should work together in a collective and holistic manner for sustainability. Leaving No Woman or Girl behind means taking on board men and boys and all stakeholders beyond the women’s rights sector. With a clear strategy, conducive environment and sustained momentum it is possible for progress to be practical, realistic and reach every Zimbabwean where SDGs grows beyond lip service to being a life style of accountability, action and sustainable development ,” Dura added.


The National Coordinator of Caritas Zimbabwe, Christopher Mweembe said that development initiatives were hampered by the unstable economic environment. In addition, he said that the social delivery had collapsed resulting in the suffering of people who cannot afford accessing primary health services, education, affordable housing, a clean environment, road network maintenance and a clean water delivery.


“There is an opportunity to use the global goals as a tool to shape our work based on our values of solidarity, stewardship and options for the poor so we can improve our planet through transformative action and prayer at local and national level,” Mweembe said.


Nhlanhla Ngwenya, the Director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said that the media should be included (and participate) in national, regional and international platforms and initiatives on poverty eradication.


There is a need to advocate for policy reforms that would ensure the media plays its watchdog role and becomes an effective platform for citizens’ dialogue and debate as well as a means through which they can make demands on office holders for transparent and accountable governance of resources,” Ngwenya said.

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