The Herald (Harare)

10 April 2006

Zimbabwe: Promote Women for Development: Ambassador

Mutoko — THERE is need to promote gender equality to enable women to fully contribute to national development, Canada's ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Roxanne Dubé has said.

She was speaking during the commissioning of the $8,7 billion Women's Hides and Skin Collection Marketing project in Mutoko, Mashonaland East Province, last Friday. The project was funded through the Zimbabwe Progress Fund (ZPF), a non-profit organisation that seeks to economically empower women in rural areas and disadvantaged communities.

The women are expected to produce handbags, belts, sandals and various other leather products, which can even be exported to earn the country foreign currency. "This project can serve as a model for other initiatives which are seeking to promote gender equality in the private sector. "We need to do more to recognise the critical contribution women make in developing the country," Ambassador Dubé said. The project is expected to benefit over 16 000 people in Mutoko and Gokwe, where it started.

"This project will also assist women to participate in the leather industry, with the aim of empowering them to contribute and benefit from a strateg ic but non-traditional sector," she said. Ambassador Dubé said she hoped that through the project, Mutoko and Gokwe communities would increase their sensitivity to issues of gender equality such as the need to promote women's participation in non-traditional economic empowerment.

She noted that the project, which is expected to generate a substantial amount of money, would improve the incomes of women and enhance their capacity to promote their rights by changing attitudes regarding gender equality. Speaking at the same occasion, Mutoko North House of Assembly Member Cde David Chapfika said the project complemented Government efforts to empower historically marginalised women and expressed hope that it would be extended to other communities.

Cde Chapfika also officially handed over 10 computers and two printers donated by President Mugabe to Makosa Secondary School. He also donated 50 bags of cement to the school. ZPF director Mrs Rose Mazula said apart from the hides and sk in project, ZPF had also facilitated for the women to embark on a soya bean project in view of the HIV and Aids pandemic. Funding for the hides and skin project was provided under the Canadian International Development Agency's Gender Equality Support Project. The project seeks to reduce poverty by promoting gender equality through an integrated approach at community level.

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