Women want more

Forty-five-year-old Gertrude Murefu was born into poverty in the rural area of Chiendambuya in Rusape. Today, she is just one example of a highly regarded pioneer of women’s rights.

Zanu (PF)’s Women’s League is encouraging its members to build business relationships with the Chinese.
Zanu (PF)’s Women’s League is encouraging its members to build business relationships with the Chinese.

At the helm of the Zimbabwe Women’s Rights Association, Murefu believes that women should be wholeheartedly committed to the process of political and economic change.

“Women should persevere in bringing about changes in our country’s political and economic platform,” she said, adding that the economic empowerment of women could not happen unless there were radical changes to the country’s profile.

“Women will stagnate if they are not drawn into a new economic environment, or if there are no changes to the way they eke out a living,” she said. Murefu encouraged women to push the government to create the necessary environment for investment and business to take place.

“Economies must not be allowed to remain in isolation and must be made to progressively integrate into the global economic process,” she said.

Govt charter

Rosemary Mukonowatsauka from Zimbabwe Women’s Development Centre, an organization committed to women’s developmental projects, said the government should come up with a charter for good national governance that guarantees justice and equal rights for women.“A good government should highlight the prerequisites of good governance in any country, such as avoidance of wasteful spending and corruption. A good government should also give women positions they deserve and, in the context of justice, transparency, equity and fairness. Give women their due rights.”

She added that resolutions for the advancement of women agreed upon by the government through the ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development were not a living reality. The resolutions include programmes for the advancement of women, such as the setting up of an international research and training institute.

“The same issues are still being debated, while a host of new issues, problems and concerns have arisen. These need to be addressed urgently,” she added.

Zanu (PF) to blame

Other women’s organisations have blasted Zanu (PF) for violating their rights.

In a recent interview, Susan Chipatiso from Women’s Resource Centre said forces aligned to President Robert Mugabe had stepped up a campaign to intimidate women perceived to be MDC-T supporters.

“With Zanu (PF) pushing for elections this year, the members of the Zimbabwe National Army and Zimbabwe Republic Police have been spearheading terror campaigns in various parts of the country.

Opposition supporters, especially women, are being beaten and harassed. They are targeting women because they constitute a bigger number on the voters’ roll,” said Chipatiso.

“They are doing this to make sure that Mugabe remains in power. We have reports that in some areas in the country, thousands of women supporters loyal to Tsvangirai have been injured in violence perpetrated by Zanu (PF) thugs aided by the police and the army.”

She added that the police were arresting female human rights activists for treason.

“It is unfortunate that every woman who talks of human rights abuses is arrested on allegations of plotting to overthrow Mugabe,” she said.

The continued arrest of women human rights activists is, according to Chipatiso, part of a renewed campaign by the uniformed forces to intimidate Mugabe opponents.

Women look east

The Zanu (PF) women’s league has, however, dispelled the allegations and said the party respected the rights of women. In Manicaland, the Zanu (PF) women’s league is empowering indigenous business women through the Zimbabwe-China Friendship Association project that will give women an opportunity to do business with their Chinese counterparts. The project was launched in Nyanga recently.

Women have been targeted by thugs during election periods.
Women have been targeted by thugs during election periods.

The Manicaland Coordinator for ZCFA, Mandy Chimene, a Zanu (PF) central committee member and aspiring candidate for the Nyanga – Mutasa senatorial seat, said they were empowering women and upholding their rights by giving them business opportunities.

“We want women to create business synergies and share ideas and experiences as well as exploiting other business avenues.

We want to facilitate interaction between local indigenous woman business people and Chinese business people. The women stand to benefit from the interaction,” said Chimene.

Another Zanu (PF) central committee member, Monica Mutsvangwa, who is the Chimanimani Senator, is spearheading the advancement of women by initiating projects that empower women in her constituency.

Mutsvangwa has mobilized the women’s league to start income-generating projects including poultry farming and breeding pigs. She has been holding workshops to equip women with leadership skills.

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