THE discrimination and sidelining of women in economic activities is contributing to poverty and gender based violence, while derailing Government’s efforts to achieve inclusive economic growth.
This came up during the Manicaland Gender Forum dialogue meeting held at Chief Tandi’s Court in Makoni District last week.
Women bemoaned their limited participation in income generating projects due to gender stereotypes, as well as cultural and religious beliefs.
The dialogue which was convened by the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) was attended by political and religious leaders, villagers and development partners, among others.
The purpose of the dialogue was to identify challenges and opportunities for women’s empowerment, as well as to interrogate the underlying causes of limited participation of women in key economic sectors, among other things.
Addressing the gathering, Commissioner Noame Mauye applauded Government for putting in place various measures to promote economic empowerment.
This includes the adoption of a Financial Inclusion Strategy, establishment of the Women’s Micro-Finance Bank, Women’s Development Fund, the Community Development Fund and the establishment of Women’s Desks in several financial institutions.
“Women’s economic empowerment is key to the achievement of gender equality, it facilitates women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets, as well as their access to productive resources, property and other assets,” said Commissioner Mauye.
“Economic empowerment is about access to and control of resources. This means women having access to income, control of income at household level, ownership of productive resources such as land, having their own savings, access to credit and specialised skills.
“Due to the centrality of women’s economic empowerment in achieving gender equality and other women’s rights, the Commission, through dialogues, will interrogate the barriers to women’s economic empowerment and come up with concrete recommendations,” she said.
Mrs Winnet Chinamasa, the chairlady of the Chiundu Savings Group, said they pooled resources to venture into bread and petroleum jelly making, as well as goat rearing.
“We started our savings group after failing to secure bank loans. From the savings, we are now baking bread and supplying the village.
‘‘We are also producing petroleum jelly, which is on high demand here. We are expanding into animal husbandry and now we have 20 goats. The animals will act as our bank collateral,” said Mrs Chinamasa.
Chief Tandi said rural women are very enterprising and hard working but are being let down by various factors such as lack of funding, demand of collateral and poor road networks linking them to markets.
“I constructed a hall for people in my area to conduct their carpentry and dressmaking projects. I provided machinery, timber and cloth to kick-start the projects, but it failed. The women lacked skills and had no access to markets,” said Chief Tandi.