Vaidah Mashangwa Gender
THE conference for women and women’s organisations held on 17 and 18 December 2015 at Cresta Churchill Hotel in Bulawayo centred on women, money and politics.
This is a clear indication that 35 years after independence, women are still clamouring for ownership of resources, that they are still in poverty and that women can still organise themselves to discuss issues that affect them.
From the discussions, it was clear that these three issues are intertwined and cannot be separated.
According to research, globally, women still live in abject poverty 20 years after the Beijing Conference where issues pertaining to gender equity and equality were discussed and resolutions tabled to address the anomalies to ensure that both men and women take part in socio-political and economic issues.
The participants who were drawn from the ten provinces highlighted cultural and patriarchal tendencies, lack of access to education, low representation of women in politics and lack of financial literacy as some of the major barriers to women’s access to financial resources.
Money, according to women, represents power.
Money ensures the emancipation of women from poverty and oppression by even their spouses and partners and money creates an independent mind. Apart from that, money guarantees women’s freedom in the way they manage homes and family matters.
The Zimbabwean society is about 72 percent patriarchal in nature. Since time immemorial, the woman’s place was in the home.
Women were supposed to be mothers and wives and their reproductive and productive roles were well defined.
The women had very little to contribute pertaining to the welfare of the family. This scenario has continued and it has deprived women of various opportunities including access to education.
Due to the overwhelming household chores, women fail even today to further their education, to fully participate in the labour market and consequently make meaningful contributions to socio-political and economic activities.
Who pays women for the work they do at home? Women’s work in the home is never valued, there is no monetary value attached to it though women who stay home work longer hours than their male counterparts who go to work.
In the rural areas for example, women and girls are the main water carriers in 70 percent of the households in sub- Saharan Africa and at times women walk for over two hours to the nearest water source. Research has revealed that in sub- Saharan Africa, only 55 percent of the households are within 15 minutes from a water source. Where urban water is rationed, women queue for hours.
All this indicates that water-related time poverty translates into lost income for women and lost schooling for girls. Carrying water also causes wear and tear to women’s bodies and high levels of mental stress may result when water rights are insecure. These issues also relate to the collection of firewood and sourcing food for the family.
If women are not part of the labour force, it means that they cannot accumulate assets like their male counterparts.
As such, very few women have individual houses, cars and businesses especially the widowed, divorced or those on separation. Recent research on individual-level asset ownership found that women fare much better in marital systems with joint ownership of property than where there is separation of property.
Zimbabwe, like any other Sadc country still lags behind in terms of women representation in both the Upper House and the Lower House of Assembly.
The 50/50 representation set target by 2015 is far from being achieved considering that Zimbabwe has only four female cabinet ministers namely Cdes Oppah Muchinguri, Prisca Mupfumira, Sithembiso Nyoni and Nyasha Chikwinya.
Low representation of women in decision making at all levels be it in government or the private sector also equates to low representation of women’s issues and needs. Men cannot pursue women’s agendas on their behalf and therefore there is need for a paradigm shift in terms of dealing with the drafting and implementation of the laws that enhance the status of men and women.
The main challenge faced by aspiring female candidates for any election is lack of resources to carry out the campaigns.
Consequently, women also lack the financial resources to start their projects or businesses. This leaves them trapped in poverty.
Where the women are into tourism and agriculture for example, the availability of markets locally, regionally and internationally also affects their full potential in the economy. This is coupled with lack of capacity to produce sufficient volumes and quality products due to inadequate capacity building mechanisms.
Women face restrictions in mobility and lack of time due to the unpaid work burden.
Where women engage directly into markets, they are often confined to specific products, market segments or locations. In the global value chain, contract farming arrangements are rarely made directly with women and women families.
In order for women to realise income, there is need to know about the opportunities that are available to them in the key economic sectors,that is agriculture, mining and tourism bearing in mind the existing economic situation.
Women also need financial literacy and management so that they are well versed on how to handle business transactions.
There is also need to continually reflect and implement the policies that ensure women’s full participation in the economy and to fully recognise particular needs of women.
The government can also involve women’s organisations in policy design and implementation to ensure that gender concerns are adequately addressed.
There is need to support women’s collective action in rural areas so that women can access production resources such as finance, training and processing technologies including irrigation systems.
Vaidah Mashangwa is the Provincial Development Officer in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development. She can be contacted on 0772 111 592 or email [email protected]