UNESCO supports Coalition building between Organisations of Persons with Disabilities and the Women’s Movement in Zimbabwe

UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa hosted a Workshop on Coalition building between Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) and the Women’s Movement in addressing intersectional discrimination on 10 March 2022 in Harare. The workshop saw an attendance of about 50 stakeholders from OPDs, Feminist Organisations and umbrella organisations for both OPDs and women’s rights organisations.

Giving the opening remarks at the workshop, Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe National Coordinator, Sally Ncube highlighted the importance of such a coalition in building and strengthening the fight for social justice and fighting for the rights of all women in Zimbabwe, she indicated that the two movements are both giant movements and once two giants join forces great results are bound to be achieved. She added “it is high time our civil society strengthens our common work for the inclusion of all individuals in Zimbabwe and ensure that no one is left behind.” In the same solidarity mood during the opening panel, Acting Director of the National Association of Societies for the Handicapped, Henry Masaya emphasised the need to join forces between the two movements given the intersectional discrimination that women and girls with disabilities face. Mr Masaya also highlighted that “this coalition is historic for both the OPDs and the Women’s Movement as both have been given an opportunity to take up their common struggle on fighting all forms of intersectional discrimination in Zimbabwe. To shed light and give an informed basis for the discussions of the day, Agness Chindimba from Deaf Women Included and Samantha Sibanda from Disabled Women Support Organisation took the participants through an enlightening presentation on the challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities in Zimbabwe. The duo indicated how the work that is being strengthened through the support of the Spotlight Initiative builds on the desires of the great women such as the late Senator Rejoice Timire, who always wished to see a unified movement that advocates for ending all forms of violence against women and girls including those with disabilities.

Within the framework of this Spotlight Initiative activity, UNESCO undertook a survey prior to the workshop to assess the needs and capacities of OPDs and the Women’s Movement so as to map out the foundations of the coalition. 16 organisations participated in the survey. Key findings indicated the need for exchange of practices and creating a platform for learning opportunities from the experiences of both the OPDs and the Women’s Movement. The participants also indicated the need to coordinate joint advocacy initiatives and policy dialogues.

The workshop also gave the participants an opportunity to work on critical areas that will shape and guide the MOU to be adopted and validated by the two movements. The outcomes of the interactions indicated the following;

The two movements have existing shared values which will be the foundation of the coalition. These shared values include respect for diversity, transparency, inclusion and non-discrimination
The priorities that the coalition will take which include, advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, addressing intersectional discrimination and stigma, ensuring disability inclusion both at institutional level and in programming, monitoring of existing policies and contributing towards their implementation as well as engagement of grassroots organisations.
The risks associated with such a coalition such as building a project based coalition that will not be existing beyond the support of the Spotlight Initiative, power struggles and the marginalisation of smaller organisations especially within key decision forums. To address the risks, there was a proposal to have a binding constitution that ensures equality of all organisations and equal representation of both OPDs and Women’s Organisations at all levels of decision making.
The last outcome was on sustainability and resource mobilisation for the coalition to ensure that it grows beyond the support of the different programmes by the UN that are supporting it. Some of the sustainability measures include developing joint proposals for funding, engaging the cooperate world, continuous capacity strengthening for the member organisations.
The coalition building initiative has also been integrated into other UN programmes such as the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) project and the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF). Expressing the UN’s commitment towards such an intervention, Patricia Mujajati indicated UNFPAs intention to support this coalition within their UNPRPD activities as a way of strengthening the foundations laid by the Spotlight Initiative.

This intervention builds on the realisation that Women and girls with disabilities are usually “Left Behind” in gender-based violence interventions and yet they face intersecting forms of discrimination at a higher level in comparison with women without disabilities. Inclusion of women with disabilities in initiatives that seek to end all forms of violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe is essential. However, there has been little interaction between the women’s movement and OPDs in the fight against intersectional discrimination. To ensure that the interaction between these two is enhanced, UNESCO will continue to foster the Coalition building between the Organisations of Persons with Disabilities and the women’s movement in Zimbabwe to ensure joint advocacy for disability rights and gender equality during the implementation of the Spotlight Initiative Phase 2.


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