BY BYRON MUTINGWENDE
The Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) convened a meeting comprising leaders from all the provinces at Harare Gardens last week where the women talked about what they want to see in the 2016 budget.
“This is our time to voice our concerns about how the national cake should be shared. After all we are 52% of the population, and our voice matters. When times were very tough in our country, we sustained the economy through our cross border trade, we make ends meet for our families and we want to be recognised and supported through the budget.
“Let me start by saying that our government recognises that gender equality and women empowerment are critical for the development of our country. We have a policy, we have our Constitution. We have economic blue prints such as Zim Asset that tell us so. What we want to see is a budget that shows that government is prioritising our concerns,” said WCoZ Chairperson Virginia Muwanigwa.
Muwanigwa said Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa’s Budget Statements for both 2014 and 2015 showed that there was a commitment to put money towards promoting gender mainstreaming in government.
Pamela Mhlanga, the director of Zimbabwe Women’s Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) said that government must prioritise projects that promote women empowerment and gender equality in all sectors of the economy.
The women hailed positive developments by the government which included the setting up of the Women Development Fund; the allocation of $5 million towards the establishment of the Women’s Bank; the introduction of the Maternal and Child Care budget line in 2012 in the Ministry of Health Budget and the introduction of the of the Cancer Advocacy Budget line in 2014.
They said despite such positive developments, there were many issues that the national budget was not addressing adequately.
“The budget of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development has been less than 1% for the past few years (it was 0.4% of the overall budget in 2014. This is the Ministry which is supposed to drive gender mainstreaming in the whole of government. How can it achieve its objectives?
“Gender based violence, one of the most critical problems in our country – remains underfunded. In 2014 only $170, 000 from Treasury went towards implementing the National GBV Strategy, and in 2015 the allocation is $50, 000. This is an impossible situation. We need women shelters, we need rape testing kits in police stations, we need women to be counselled when they experience violence,” Muwanigwa said.
There was an outcry that women are still dying during child birth, and government made a commitment through the Millennium Development Goals, to halve the number by 2015.
“At the moment maternal mortality rate stands at 614 deaths per 100 000 live births. Government has to put more resources to stop more
women from dying during child birth, and for more hospitals in rural areas and resettlement areas. We need more doctors, qualified nurses and basic medicines in our hospitals. Money must come from Treasury to pay village health services, for example.
“Our girls are dropping out of school especially at secondary level, and few are going to universities. We want to see more money going
towards the National Education and Training Fund which caters for scholarships, grants, loans, to students, at colleges and universities. Only $1 million was allocated in 2015. Who will get this funding? There must be a quota for our girls to get scholarships.”
Apolonia Munzverengi, the President of Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation said women in mining are mostly in artisanal or small scale mining.
“We want government to provide incentives for women to go into big scale mining. We know that the there is a $100 million facility secured from China for this sector, as stated in the 2015 budget. How many women have benefitted? We want women to be involved in value addition and beneficiation interventions in this sector,” Munzverengi said.
The women urged the government to do more to provide adequate funding for women empowerment where it matters most in all sectors.
“We want to see women supported in the 2016 budget so that they are full participants in our development. An investment in women will yield big dividends,” said newly appointed minister of women affairs, gender and community development, Nyasha Chikwinya while delivering her solidarity message with the women at the meeting.