WOMEN'S Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Dr Sithembiso Nyoni has praised First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa for swiftly handling delicate issues like infertility and domestic violence as she fulfils her role of bringing communities together.
Speaking at an interactive interface in Harare on Monday where the First Lady met women with infertility, Minister Nyoni said domestic violence remained an enormous social problem, increasing at an alarming rate and women were the most vulnerable group.
She said infertility was a major contributor to violence against women.
"Violence against women is associated with a number of causes and factors, including daily conflicts, family-related problems, decision disagreements, choice preferences, low economic status of women, lack of awareness about rights, false beliefs, imbalanced empowerment issues, male dominating social structure and infertility," said Minister Nyoni.
"Women bear violence and discrimination of infertility on a daily basis. Most women do not like to terminate violent and unhappy relationships with their husbands because of the stigma attached to divorce."
Minister Nyoni praised the First Lady for her novel initiative that focus on educating people about infertility.
"We want to thank Amai for this novel initiative that focuses on educating people about that 'not to be discussed taboo' subject of infertile women," she said.
"This interface will motivate us through the life stories of other women and enrich us with information from experts and get proper advice.
"There is so much stigma attached to being infertile in our society, making the issue important to address. We thank the First Lady for her relentless efforts and in supporting initiatives targeting the needy in society and in this case mothers with infertility."
Minister Nyoni said her ministry established one-stop centres in provinces to tackle issues affecting communities.
"Currently, we have one that is running in Sanyati, Chegutu," she said.
"These centres offer comprehensive services for domestic violence victims such as counselling, health services and legal services.
"My Ministry also links domestic violence survivors to economic empowerment programmes such as the Women's Development Fund and other financial inclusion facilities."
Zimbabwe's culture, Minister Nyoni said, demanded that for a woman to be socially acceptable, she should have at least a biological child.
"Emphasis is put on women having children, marriage without children is considered a failure of the woman," she said. "In many cases, women suffer discrimination and ostracism. Relatives, when getting together, talk a lot about their children or being pregnant and having children and talk about childlessness as being cursed."
Minister Nyoni said the platform created by Amai Mnangagwa will help a lot in overcoming the situation and condition women are going through.
"This platform you have created Amai will facilitate right guidance so that couples can take good decisions and stay away from misleading advertisements and fraud clinics, answer their queries by connecting them to experts, reinforcing their strength and hope, help them stand up and fight society's stereotypes and prejudices," she said.
During the meeting, the women told the First Lady they considered that, without children, their lives were without hope, but all hope is not lost as Amai Mnangagwa, through her Angel of Hope Foundation joined hands with an international philanthropic organisation, Merck Foundation, in fighting stigma and empowering them economically.
Amai Mnangagwa is the Merck "More than a Mother" ambassador in Zimbabwe and the country's health ambassador.
The "Merck More than a Mother" initiative aims to empower infertile women through access to information, education, empowerment projects, health and by changing mindsets.