Community trusts marginalise women: experts

Scores of women and youths living around mining communities in Zimbabwe will not benefit from government-driven empowerment deals because the schemes are dominated by men, says a legal expert.

“Women and youths living around mining areas in the country are suffering and need to be empowered both socially and economically in all natural resources exploitation without being marginalized,” said Veronica Zano, a Legal Officer with the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers’ Association, in a recent interview.

Community ownership trusts are mainly dominated by men and it was feared that women and youths would not get their equal and fair share when proceeds from these schemes are distributed, she said.

The establishment of community trusts is a popular concept by companies trying to address the Indigenization Act. The trusts are vehicles for broad-based participation in the shareholding of businesses by communities living around areas where mining and tourism companies are exploiting natural resources.

One such scheme was the recently launched Chegutu-Mhondoro-Ngezi-Zvimba Community Share Ownership Trust involving local chiefs and platinum giant, Zimplats. Zimplats donated $10 million to the trust, which is meant to upgrade living conditions in the neighbouring villages where it is mining.

According to the Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre and Network, the fact that inequalities between men and women exist due to a long history of male dominance, women might not benefit as much as men when it came to sharing earnings from the trusts.

“In effect, the majority of women and female youths, who constitute 52% of the population, are largely disempowered by the Indigenization Act,” said the executive director, Naomi Chimbetete.

“There remains a yawning gap between Zimbabwean men and women in terms of their access to and control over resources, opportunities and decision-making,” added Simbiso Marimbe, the Gender and Information Programme Officer.

She said ZWRCN would continue to monitor community share ownership trusts to change the entrenched patriarchal systems embedded within them.

ZWRCN says although women were one of the specialist groups meant to benefit under the current wave of indigenization – which stipulates that all foreign-owned companies operating in Zimbabwe should cede 51% shareholding to locals – there were no specific provisions in the Act to guarantee their active participation.

However, Dr Crispen Sukume, an economist, argued that women and youths were actively involved in mining and in the distribution of these community shares.

“If one visits the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development today, there is clear documentation of beneficiaries – both women and men – who have received permits and licenses,” he said. For example, many women were enjoying the benefits of mining in Zvishavane.

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