The Herald (Harare)

25 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Empowerment for Women Now

Traditionally Zimbabwean women's endurance to oppression is more than that of men. This is because they are inferior to the latter in terms of the African custom, so they suffer more from a similar affliction with males. Women suffered prejudice with their male counterparts during the colonial era.

This forced women to bear the face of poverty as they suffered double oppression. It is this social injustice that the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development seeks to redress through increasing women's participation in the mainstream economy.

They are currently targeting the mining, tourism and agricultural sectors.

In the quest for women to make meaningful participation and contribution to the economy, Government recently launched the Broad Based Women's Economic Empowerment Framework (BBWEEF).

"The framework seeks to address inequalities and inequities by democratising the economic space. We seek to democratise the economic space in order to grow the economy, in order to grow the national cake," Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Olivia Muchena said.

Minister Muchena said the five-year framework seeks to eliminate gender discrimination, promote equality between men and women, ensure a comprehensive approach to women economic empowerment and ensure harmonisation of affirmative action programming.

She said gender discrimination is a serious impediment to development and needs to be eliminated through appropriate distribution of resources and opportunities. Zimbabwe, Minister Muchena said, should provide an environment that is free from traditional and other barriers hindering women from active participation in economic development.

She said the framework is broad as it will ensure collaborative action across all sectors with special attention to vulnerable and marginalised women.

The minister said through the framework, Government seeks to increase the level of women's participation in the mainstream economy to 50 percent in all sectors by 2015.

This, she said, ensured that women control an equal share of the economy and equally benefit from all economic opportunities presented to them.

Participation of women in decision-making positions stands at 27 percent. "The BBWEEF is broad in scope of targeted sectors, broad in the multiplicity of means for economic empowerment and broad based in the wide spectrum of the targeted beneficiaries, that is, women from all socio-economic strata."

She said to achieve the goal of increasing women's participating to 50 percent by 2015, each sector is expected to prioritise ownership and control of businesses by women, their participation in key economic decision-making positions, employment equity and viable formal and informal livelihood activities.

Key recommendations from the framework in achieving equity in ownership and control of businesses are setting aside of a quota of investment opportunities, including business premises, specialised women's economic development funds and setting up a commercial bank for women.

To increase the representation of women in key economic decision-making positions the framework recommends lobbying for adoption of a 50:50 appointment to leadership positions in parastatals and state-owned enterprises, promoting the formation of rural women groups and facilitating the training of women in leadership skills, among other recommendations.

On employment equity, the BBWEEF will facilitate review of the Labour Act to eliminate barriers hindering women from full participation in economic development and develop an employment equity framework and promote its adoption by employers.

To transform traditional livelihood activities into viable economic activities and broadening economic opportunities for women in disadvantaged rural and urban areas, BBWEEF is expected to facilitate provision of technical and financial support to women in agriculture.

It is also expected to facilitate development of a programme for women in displaced communities and establish a young women entrepreneurs fund, among other recommendations.

Sectors challenged to implement these programmes include Ministries of Mines and Mining Development, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry and Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development and Finance.

Financial institutions, development agencies, NGOs, civil society, women groupings, local authorities and employers, among others, are also expected to play their part within the framework.

"We believe that these pillars anchor the BBWEEF and if we apply the value chain approach and we have a business and policy environment, if we have institutions, partnerships and coalitions we have women's competencies we will have made good progress towards achieving women's economic empowerment," Minister Muchena said.

She said in line with women empowerment her ministry, in conjunction with the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, has already started working on a programme for young girls code named: Catch Them Young.

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