On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to participate in a high level advocacy meeting focusing on Gender Mainstreaming in human capital development. The meeting, organised by the Gender sector committee of the National Manpower Advisory Committee (NAMACO) was convened in conjunction with various stakeholders such as the UNDP, ILO and World Vision among others.
Established by an Act of Parliament under Section 19 of the Manpower Planning and Development Act (Chapter 28:02) NAMACO is a Public-Private Partnership charged with the responsibility of making investigations and recommendations to the responsible minister on any matter affecting national manpower development and training.
The NAMACO Gender Mainstreaming and Advocacy workshop came at a time when Zimbabwe is observing the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign as well as the World Aids Day. A number of papers focusing on gender mainstreaming in human capital development were presented and discussed at the workshop.
In her opening remarks to delegates, NAMACO chairperson commissioner, Tendai Bare set the tone for accelerated gender mainstreaming across all sectors of Zimbabwe's economy suggesting that this is in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and universal human rights.
"NAMACO has adopted the millennium development goal number 3 as well as the pursuit of universal human rights which are enshrined in the following UN Women principles: elimination (and not just reduction) of discrimination against women and girls; empowerment of women, and achievement of equality between men and women as partners and beneficiaries of development. The fairest and most effective way of underwriting women's rights is by settling the issues of gender parity. Once we get it right in that area, we will get it right in every area", declared Bare.
Millennium development goal number 3 relates to promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. It has three indicators of assessment namely: eliminating gender disparities in education; increasing women's economic independence and access to economic resources; and increasing women's participation in and influence on political decision-making
In most developing countries including Zimbabwe, gender inequality is a major obstacle to meeting the MDG targets. In reality, achieving the goals will be not be feasible without closing the gaps between women and men in terms of capacities, access to resources and opportunities, and vulnerability to violence and conflict.
Studies by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization note that women and girls constitute three-fifths of the world's poor and that their poverty level is worse than that of men as gender disparities in education, employment opportunities and decision making power exist. Consequently, almost two thirds of women in the developing world work in vulnerable jobs, either as self-employed or unpaid family workers. In sub-Saharan Africa, this type of work accounts for more than 80 per cent of all jobs for women.
These studies further note that gender wage gaps persist in all sectors throughout the world and contend that such gender inequalities an impediment to growth and poverty reduction. Most women are employed in low-skilled, poorly paid jobs, where they are often exposed to health hazards. However, an increasing number of highly educated women are now advancing into senior decision-making positions. On its part, NAMACO is an ardent supporter of gender equality as reflected in the NAMACO representation were the Council Chairperson is a woman, 40 percent of the Councillors are women and a woman is at the helm of the Secretariat.
The creativity and talents of all women are invaluable resources, which can and should be developed both for their own self-realization and for the benefit of society as a whole. Women's work not only sustains their families, but also makes a major contribution to socio-economic progress.
The key to enhancing women's opportunities, and hence their position in the productive sector and the economy, is to provide them with access to know-how, technologies and credit. Training to upgrade women's technological capabilities and to enhance their entrepreneurial and business skills, whether in simple artisanal production or in high-technology industries, is at the heart of enabling women to advance in more rewarding positions. Indeed NAMACO notes that there is no surer trajectory that guarantees the achievement of gender equality more than education and skills training, hence the focus of this workshop. There is empirical evidence to the effect that currently in Zimbabwe, careers in technical areas such as engineering, the military, aviation and mining and are still male dominated. Accelerated gender-sensitive skills training therefore can break the curfew imposed on girls and women who want to enter these occupations.
There is also evidence of a dual relationship between women's empowerment and the private sector. On the one hand, women's participation in the private sector, particularly within micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), is critical to its development. On the other hand, MSMEs not only play a key role in sustaining economic growth and reducing poverty by creating employment, generating incomes, reducing vulnerability for small producers and poor workers but also in addressing gender imbalances. MSMEs provide women with income, and promote their empowerment and independence both within the household and the community.
Zimbabwe therefore needs a holistic gender-mainstreaming strategy that cuts across all key aspects of gender development. Going forward, gender mainstreaming in human capital development represents an effective route towards this worthy goal and NAMACO deserves special commendation for laying the groundwork for this through the Gender Mainstreaming and Advocacy Workshop
-Anthony Jongwe is a researcher on entrepreneurship and can be contacted via cell +263 773061174 or e-mail