Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Senior Features Reporter
ON average, sanctions are said to reduce the gross domestic product of target countries by a staggering three percent, with women and other vulnerable groups bearing the brunt of the economic sanctions.
When a country’s economy shrinks due to sanctions, women are more likely than men to experience discrimination when it comes to employment opportunities.
This is worsened by the fact that household management and reproductive work are considered the primary responsibility of women, their jobs are therefore seen as superfluous compared to men.
Women are overrepresented in sectors that sanctions disrupt the most such as textiles, which further increases their vulnerability. Economic desolation has pushed women into the informal labour market and contributed to higher rates of female prostitution and human trafficking.
Due to sanctions and funding shortfalls, women continue to lack access to emergency reproductive kits to assist with life-threatening complications during pregnancy.
When the American government passed the Zidera Act 20 years ago, they claimed that the Act was not intended to punish the people of Zimbabwe, but to target individuals and organisations that, in the view of the US government, were responsible for human rights and other violations of basic governance principles.
But, sanctions have, over the past two decades, adversely impacted women and dented efforts towards gender equality.
They have had an impact on women’s health and reversed gains made in women’s social and political rights.
Economic suffering can push people to engage in violence thus increasing cases of gender-based violence. The Covid-19 pandemic has compromised incomes, further giving rise to spousal abuse and leaving many women at the mercy of their partners.
Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Sithembiso Nyoni said sanctions have affected Zimbabweans alike, particularly those in trade with women comprising the bulk of traders.
“Women are involved in cross-border trade and they can’t market their goods where they want because some countries have put Zimbabwe under sanctions. Also, they can’t order goods from other countries because of sanctions. Most cross-border traders are women, which means most women have been done by sanctions. If we can’t get medicines for children and those for reproductive processes, women are affected the most. Education material that could have come into the country but hasn’t because of sanctions, has disadvantaged many children and their mothers who are primary caregivers,” said Minister Nyoni.
Research shows that women bear a disproportionate share of the burden of sanctions, yet they lack the ability to influence international relations.
The minority of diplomatic postings are occupied by women, and these positions tend to be low-level. Women compose less than 20 percent of the UN Security Council, which has helped determine 30 sanctioned states.
Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Senator Monica Mavhunga said because house management is considered a woman’s role, the unavailability of certain goods affects them the most.
“The failure to establish more companies to increase competition among businesses and contribute towards price equity affects women the most. The unavailability of water for domestic use in rural areas is burdensome for women.
Hospitals don’t have essential drugs and this affects women as primary caregivers in the home,” she said.
Sen Mavhunga said although the country is making frantic efforts to produce its own products, it is not enough.
“We need sanctions lifted to ease the burden for women,” she said.
The United States has imposed sanctions on numerous countries under the guise of democracy and national security, but the economic repercussions on target countries have been devastating, which shows the innate insincerity of sanctions.
They have caused devastating economic damage on the most vulnerable citizens and for women, the sanctions have aggravated social inequalities.
Economist Mr Eddie Cross said what is not recognised or widely understood is that the impact of sanctions has been much more widespread than was intended. – @Yolisswa