Mkhululi Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC) has bemoaned challenges faced by women which hinder their participation in the national economy despite steps taken by Government for their emancipation.
The commission is conducting its annual gender fora throughout the country to gather views on some pertinent issues in line with its mandate.
The fora are being held under the theme: “Gender and Economic Empowerment for Inclusive Economic Growth.”
Some of the issues to be tackled during this year’s fora include identifying challenges and opportunities for women’s economic empowerment, interrogating the underlying causes for limited participation of women in the key economic sectors and to analyse the relationship between gender-based violence and economic empowerment.
Others include the cost of GBV to the economy and sharing best practices/models for women’s economic empowerment.
Addressing delegates at the Bulawayo provincial gender forum at the Bulawayo Polytechnic, the ZGC’s acting chairperson Mr Obert Matshalaga said there are many challenges which women are still facing.
“The Commission acknowledges various measures put in place by Government to promote economic empowerment and these include the adoption of a financial inclusion strategy, establishment of the Women’s Micro-Finance Bank, establishment of the women’s development fund, establishment of the community development fund and establishment of women’s desks in some financial institutions,” he said.
“The Commission notes with concern that women continue to face hurdles in respect of opportunities to participate meaningfully in the national economy, including limited access to credit lines and markets, financial services, infrastructure as well as access to land and limited opportunities to influence policy.”
Mr Matshalaga said women are still the most affected by poverty in both urban and rural areas with gender biases and patriarchal cultural norms detrimental to women as they prevent them from realising their full economic potential.
He said GBV perpetuates gender disparities and limits women participation in economic sectors.
“Violence against women and girls creates economic costs, which include reduced productivity due to absenteeism, reduced women’s participation in the labour market and losses related to higher demand for health and judicial services,” he said.
According to a 2016 report by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, the cost of violence against women amounts to US$1,5 trillion at the global level.
“In Zimbabwe a study conducted by SIDA in 2009 estimated that the Macro-Economic Cost of GBV amounts to US$2 billion,” he said.
Mr Matshalaga said women’s economic empowerment is key to the achievement of gender equality as it facilitates women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets and control over productive resources including property and other productive assets.
He said it also increases women’s voices and choices.
“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 and other assets, have own savings and access to credit and have specialised skills,” said Mr Matshalaga .
“Because of the centrality of women’s economic empowerment in achieving gender equality and other women’s rights, the Commission is looking forward that the Dialogue today will interrogate the barriers to women’s economic empowerment and come up with concrete recommendations.”
Mr Matshalaga said the deliberations and recommendations gathered from all the provincial gender fora will be presented at the national gender forum on November 30 in Masvingo.
The national gender forum will come up with a position paper to be presented to Parliament.
Speaking during the same event, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube, who was represented by the principal administrative officer in her office, Ms Miria Masvanise, said there is need for women to take up the various opportunities.
“Women economic empowerment and financial inclusion has been recognised as key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Women have a critical role to play in our economy and are therefore encouraged to be visible by starting enterprises that are profitable and viable,” she said.
“They have decision making opportunities and power to challenge the structural barriers that cause inequalities.”
Minister Ncube commended the ZGC for coming up with the forum, saying the platform will help raise critical issues affecting women in economic participation. – @themkhust