Economic justice tops women’s hopes for 2014

Harmonising laws with the new constitution could improve the political and social status of women in Zimbabwe in 2014, says the director of the Women’s Trust, Memory Kachambwa.

Memory Kachambwa.
Memory Kachambwa.

In an interview with The Zimbabwean, Kachambwa said women’s greatest fear was that government would fail to translate into reality all the laws and policies that addressed gender issues.

“Lack of political will has the potential to reverse all the gains made so far in championing the gender agenda,” she said. “Our greatest fear is that government will fail to actualise the gender provisions in the constitution come 2014. Everything boils down to funding.”

Magdalene Chavunduka, from the Anti Domestic Violence Council, an organisation working under the auspices of the women’s affairs ministry and which advocates for the complete eradication of all forms of gender-based violence, agreed with Kachambwa. She said the country’s economic status had a huge bearing on the status of women.

“Empowered, women have a choice and voice,” said Chavunduka. Women failed to champion gender-based violence and demand their fundamental basic human rights because of poverty.

“The ADVC is riding on the budget allocation of the women’s affairs ministry and this is making it very difficult to implement sustainable interventions for women’s empowerment,” said Chavunduka.

A cross-section of women in Harare concurred with Chavunduka and said they expected the government to make resources and credit facilities available to women as a support mechanism.

In separate interviews with The Zimbabwean, the women said they felt government was reneging on its mandate to ensure the provision of adequate resources for women’s empowerment.

The Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development receives an average 0.02 per cent of the national budget.

In Seke, Chitungwiza, several women were of the view that unless government allocated enough resources for economic empowerment programmes targeting women, 2014 would be a very difficult year.

Tinashe Mwayera of Unit J in Seke suggested that because poverty had a female face, government, through the finance ministry, should allocate a large chunk of financial capital specifically targeting women’s income-generating initiatives.

“The provision of capital is critical for the country to reach the targeted millennium development goals especially eradicating extreme hunger and poverty,” she said.

Another Unit J resident agreed that women’s organisations should do more advocacy work towards raising awareness of women’s rights as a means of ensuring that they had the information needed to hold their leaders accountable.

“A gender-sensitive constitution that women are not aware of is like banking on a toothless bulldog for protection,” said Tamari Chingwaru. “Economically, we are disempowered. Social care for the elderly is compromised and my worst fear is that 2014 will be worse, if the economy does not improve for the better.”

The chair of the USA-initiated African Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme’s Zambian chapter, Sylvia Banda, said when given resources to kick-start income-generating initiatives, women did better in repaying their loans and capital than men.

“Governments and related financial institutions should give first preference to women entrepreneurs. Currently, women fail to access loans and capital because they do not have any collateral,” she said.

AWEP Zimbabwe chair Barbara Rwodzi said government should create a platform that promoted women’s participation in global trade agreements.

Empowerment of women, she said, should not be restricted to a limited range of sectors, but it “should be inclusive of the fast-moving global economic processes.”

Said Agnes Gwaze from Mufakose: “Widows should be empowered. The forthcoming year should be a year where the future generation will look back and appreciate,” she said. “Citizens’ health should be government priority.”

Rejoice Timire called for the inclusion of disability issues in all aspects of the country’s economic, social and political processes. “I hope for adequate and equal representation and consideration of disability issues in all spheres of Zimbabwean society,” she said.

Ndanatsei Chigwada called for accessible and free education, especially in rural communities.

“The objective is not to renegotiate our dreams, but to emphasise the accountability of all actors, especially government. We should no longer seek promises, but we should demand action,” said Chigwada.

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