BY BYRON MUTINGWENDE
Rural women play a key role in enhancing the economy through agricultural production and promoting development of rural areas by working hard to improve food security and eradicate poverty within communities, it has emerged.
In her speech delivered at Muriel Mine in Mutorashanga under Zvimba district at the belated commemoration of the Rural Women’s Day that is held every year on October the 15th last Friday, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officer commanding Mashonaland West Province, Senior Assistant Commissioner Rangarirai Mushaurwa said this year’s theme showed the significant role that women play in economic development.
“The national theme for this year’s commemorations which is ‘Empowering Rural women for Sustainable Economic Growth’ comes at a time when as government we have delivered to the people of Zimbabwe one of the most progressive constitutions in terms of women’s rights.
“The rural woman enhances agricultural and rural development, improving food production, food security and eradication of rural poverty and this is rightly indicated in our blueprint of ZIMASSET. The blueprint goes on to recognize our rural women as the backbone of our agricultural sector which underpins economic growth, food security and poverty eradication,” Mushaurwa said.
She urged the government to continue to support the development of rural women despite the economic challenges the country is facing so as to ensure food and nutrition security.
“With regards to economic empowerment, government is fully cognisant of the fact that the economic empowerment of women is a yardstick for gender equality. As a result, various measures have been put in place to ensure that women effectively participate in key sectors of the economy such as agriculture, mining, tourism and manufacturing.”
This is in sync with Section 65 of the Constitution which gives women equal opportunities to participate on the labour market with on equal basis with men. The new Constitution under Section 17 (B) (i) of the Constitution also compels equal representation of both gender in all institutions and agencies of government at every level.
Mushaurwa called on the government to make sure that board members of parastatals reflected a gender balance, tender procedures are guided by the new constitution and that measures are put in place to ensure that women owned companies also benefit from investment opportunities.
Currently, the Ministry of Women Affairs, gender and Community Development, has already started engendering the realignment process to ensure that the Constitutional guarantees on rural women are translated into law.
The Women’s Development Fund is a revolving fund meant to promote economic empowerment of women at grassroots level. As a way of strengthening access to finance by women in business, the government is in the process of establishing a women’s bank which will have flexible lending conditions and accessible to grassroots women.
Provincial Administrator for Mashonaland West Province, Mike Mazai hailed the effort by government of raising 60 seats for women in the Lower House and the provision for election into the Upper House of Parliament through proportional representation.
He bemoaned the fact that at local government level there were no legislative provisions for proportional representation.
“Zvimba district has four Members of Parliament who are all male and 35 councillors of whom only 11 are women. Zvimba Rural District Council has six heads of departments of which only one is a woman. Only six women out of 18 government departments are heads at district level.
“We are therefore calling for legislative quota to increase effective participation of women in government,” Mazai said.
Head of Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations in Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance ( ZCSOSUNA), Christopher Mweembe applauded the Government of Zimbabwe for crafting the necessary policies that address the nutritional security challenges in the country particularly among rural women who contribute a bulk of the country’s food needs.
“We commend the Government of Zimbabwe for joining the Global SUN Movement in 2011, and subsequently making the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) commitments. We reaffirm that everyone has a right to adequate, safe, sufficient, and nutritious food as articulated in the constitution of Zimbabwe and the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy.
“However, we are worried that nearly one in three children under the age of 5 years is stunted. Recent evidence reveals that stunting stood at 27.6%; underweight at 11.2% (Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey Report 2014); and of the children between 6-59 months, 21% suffer from vitamin A deficiency, 72 % suffer iron deficiency and 32% suffer from anaemia. We are also deeply concerned that 54% of the pregnant mothers suffer from iron deficiency and 26% from anaemia (Zimbabwe National Micronutrient Survey Report 2015). We stress that malnutrition in all its forms is a problem in Zimbabwe and needs urgent action to eliminate within our lifetime,” Mweembe said.
He added that he was worried about the decline of the money allocated to the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in the past three years with 9.7% in 2013; 8.2% in 2014 and 6.3% in 2015 of the total national budget being allocated to the ministry.
“These budget allocations for the past three years on health are far less than 15% (at least) of the total budget recommended by the Abuja Declaration to which Zimbabwe is a signatory. We therefore advocate for at least 15% of the total national budget to be allocated to Ministry of Health and Child Care. We further remind the responsible authority to expediently disburse the budgeted funds in time for effective and efficient spending to realise sustainable impact.”