The Caucus represents women, particularly those in Parliament, and women’s interests at the national level, and networks within the SADC region. Its objectives are to advocate for legislation on gender mainstreaming, facilitate the effective implementation of the National Gender Policy, provide a forum for discussion of matters affecting women in the country (across party lines), promote the effective participation of women parliamentarians and the principles of gender equality, and network with other organisations.
The Caucus has members from the both Senate and the House of Assembly. Women are invited to be members soon after their election or appointment. They pay an annual subscription and joining fee. The Caucus has a Management Committee whose members are elected for a three-year term. Each political party is represented on the Management Committee. There are no men in the Caucus.
The Management Committee agrees on issues such as the agenda and the annual work plan. These are taken to the full Caucus meeting for approval. The Caucus is more of an advocacy body, and works closely with non-governmental organizations and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
Parliament provides administrative support services. Development partners largely fund the activities of the Caucus, with some contributions from Parliament. The major challenges of the caucus are:
Poor attendance by members at meetings of the Caucus
Dependence on development partners.
Gender issues are sensitive as they impinge on some cultural values, making free discussion with the electorate difficult.
The stance of political parties on some issues may hinder progress on women’s issues.
The Caucus sometimes holds joint meetings with relevant portfolio committees to share information and assess issues in order to avoid working at cross-purposes.
The Caucus liaises with a substantial number of stakeholders, including those mentioned above. At the beginning of every session, a list of stakeholders is drawn up and the Caucus holds a meeting with all of them at which it presents its work plan. Stakeholders identify their areas of interest and assist the Caucus with capacity-building programmes or offer financial assistance, technical support or other forms of assistance.
The Caucus has effectively dealt with the matter of increasing the number of women in politics, as evidenced by the number of female senators. In 2006, the Caucus intends to engage a consultant to identify gender gaps in legislation and to make recommendations. Section 23 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (on discrimination) was amended in 2005 to prohibit “sex and gender” from being grounds for discrimination. Women parliamentarians have also attended several workshops on gender equality and personal empowerment as well as media-related workshops.