Show us the money

Zimbabwe’s new constitution specifically seeks to outlaw gender inequality and discrimination, while the economic blueprint ZimAsset supports the empowerment of women. But government has been accused of only paying lip service to these vital principles.

Virginia Muwanigwa, Chairperson of the Women’s Coalition in Zimbabwe.
Virginia Muwanigwa, Chairperson of the Women’s Coalition in Zimbabwe.

Women have called on government to implement constitutional provisions that guarantee adequate financing mechanisms, such as the establishment of a Women’s Bank.

Virginia Muwanigwa, Chairperson of the Women’s Coalition in Zimbabwe (WCoZ), hailed finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s 2014 mid-term policy review statement, but expressed concern at the failure by government to avail funding for the implementation of policies aimed at empowering women.

Reality

“We are concerned at the trend where lip service is paid to women’s economic empowerment but this always falls short of providing the necessary funds to bring the policies to reality,” she said in an exclusive interview with The Zimbabwean.

“One of our campaigns is Show Us the Money – this generally states that unless we see the money that will make the change implied in a policy, we are not convinced of success.”

Muwanigwa said while women’s organisations noted that the statement acknowledged and made reference to the Women’s Economic Empowerment Framework adopted in 2012, expectations were high that government would be making strides towards the establishment of a Women’s Bank.

“The statement puts a lot of expectation on the formation of a Women’s Bank which will be a deposit-taking micro-finance institution,” she said. “One would expect that vote allocations in the budget would show the commitment alluded to in the statement. But this is not the case. We need government commitment towards the provision of capital for women’s economic empowerment.”

Poverty reduction

She said WCoZ was optimistic that the government of Zimbabwe would take into cognisance the recent study funded by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) on poverty reduction.

“This study made a strong case for the need to empower women economically if the country hopes to eradicate poverty,” said Muwanigwa.

Described by many Zimbabweans and economic analysts as anti-poor, finance minister Patrick Chinamasa‘s 2014 mid-term fiscal policy review statement proposed a $950 million supplementary budget which saw the introduction of a raft of new taxes.

Cash-less

The tax measures, which included duty on mobile phones and airtime and upped excise duty on fuel by 5 percent, was criticised as a move which rendered the majority ‘cash-less’.

Former finance minister Tendai Biti said Chinamasa’s budget should have cushioned citizens so that people could have more disposable income to spend as the country slides into deflation.

Muwanigwa said the women’s movement welcomed financing strategies to agriculture, power and medical sectors that prioritised the needs of the marginalised and vulnerable, the majority of whom are women and girls.

“Research has shown that in doing business reform, the policymakers agree that while there are difficulties for emerging entrepreneurs, women face particular hurdles – just because they are women – in meeting requirements for licencing, accessing permits, company registration, property registration,” she said.

Deferred

Women’s organisations are also concerned at the state’s failure to address the needs of vulnerable and marginalised groups.

“As WCoZ, our interest in the fiscal policy statement transcends the whole document as we believe that all other areas are relevant. For example, the need to urgently address compensation for Tokwe Mukosi populations,” said Muwanigwa, adding that failure by government to take into consideration the plight of the poor resulted in the ‘disinvestment in social sectors such as education’.

“Such a scenario has adverse implications, mainly for girls, and it means that addressing the needs of vulnerable populations is deferred, yet again, to the next budget,” said Muwanigwa.

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