Uncertainty over distribution of women’s fund

Failure by government to allocate enough funds from the national budget to the women’s affairs ministry spells doom for the many women who depend on government help for their income-generating activities.

The permanent secretary in the ministry, Perpetua Gumbo, revealed that the ministry had been allocated $2.5m out of the requested $15m for the Women’s Development Fund and this meant that the ministry would be able to fund only six projects per district instead of the targeted 37.

In interviews with The Zimbabwean, several female parliamentarians and women from all walks of life said they were not aware of how the fund was distributed under the government of national unity and the criteria that was used in its allocation. Said the sitting member of parliament for Chivi Central, Memory Munochinzwa: “The distribution pattern of the fund is not clear and from my constituency, I am not even aware of any women who have benefited from this fund.”

Apolonia Chonyera from Chinamhora in Goromonzi agreed with Munochinzwa and said women from her community had heard about the fund, but no-one had been allocated anything.

“We heard about the fund from the then minister of women affairs, Olivia Muchena, but they did not disclose the amount of money that we were going to get under the initiative,” said Chonyera, adding that no-one from her community had been allocated anything despite constant follow-ups to the women’s ministry.

In its latest report The gender ministry underfunded – will Parliament approve?, the Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network reported that the women’s ministry was allocated less than one per cent of the national budget, a trend that has been repeated over the past few years.

According to the report, it is the responsibility of government, through the women’s affairs ministry to ensure that the country meets its commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment across all sectors.

Read the statement: “Such a mandate means that the expectation was that generous allocations would be made for programmes to implement these strategic commitments.

“The ministry continues to achieve milestones, but limited gender financing from the fiscus has resulted in the ministry relying on external support from donors; a development which is not sustainable in the long term.”

The ZWRCN urged government to match policy commitment to gender equality through the provision of adequate resources.

The report further stated that since the launch of the Women Development Fund in 2010, the initiative had supported and benefited the economic empowerment efforts of close to 1,147 women’s groups.

Women’s affairs, gender and community development ministry policy director Stephen Nyaruwata is on record saying that the women’s fund was no longer viable because most women were not paying back the money.

“Our challenge is that the fund is no longer revolving and the ministry is operating on a shoestring budget because it has no money,” he said.

Zanu (PF)’s Lupane East MP Sithembile Gumbo said that, before being allocated the funds, the women should be taught about the importance of repaying the money to the ministry.

She urged the women’s affairs ministry to work with the local leadership and monitor the projects after identifying the beneficiaries and giving them the money.

However, others believe that the allocation of the fund was done on a partisan basis and women who were in Zanu (PF) structures were the beneficiaries of the fund.

Said the Sunningdale MP Margaret Matienga: “As far as I know, no-one from my constituency benefited from the fund. Unless, of course, the selection was done on a partisan basis and we were sidelined because we are from the opposition.”

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