‘Women empowerment key to economic development’

BY FARAI MATIASHE/VANESSA GONYE

ZIMBABWE can only succeed in turning around its waning economic fortunes if women are afforded the opportunity to actively participate in creating sustainable solutions, a Ministry of Women Affairs official has said.

Statistics from the Women Affairs ministry indicate that 51,9% of Zimbabwe’s population were women constituting 53% of the 5,7 million people working in the micro, small-to-medium enterprises sector which contributes much to the nation’s gross domestic product growth.

Addressing a national rural women’s convention in Harare yesterday, acting director in the Community Department in the Women Affairs ministry, Christina Chideme said women could guide and contribute to future policies.

“We cannot be successful unless women are empowered to actively participate in the solutions: female-driven solutions,” Chideme said.

“Not only can they inspire, innovate and create solutions, but they can guide and contribute to future policies, research and programming.”

Chideme said if Zimbabwe failed to address women’s differentiated needs and aspirations, the nation would be lost, with its hope, prosperity, peace and security.

“Access to education has a greater impact on women’s potential access to productive, income-generating opportunities and more decent work, because of the resultant increased confidence and skills to negotiate for better conditions,” she said.

Improving access to credit was an effective strategy to women empowerment, while access to new technologies was also essential in strengthening women’s agro-productivity and economic enterprises through accessing information on credits, inputs markets as well as health services, she noted.

In a related development, Old Mutual has relaunched its Old Mutual Women’s Network (OWN) after years of inaction as it celebrates International Women’s Day.

The network, which, according to OWN Zimbabwe chapter champion Nqobile Munzara, is motivated by Celewe Ross’ words, “When women gather in numbers, change erupts”, is a forum for working class women to meet and share ideas.

“In 2013, Old Mutual PLC launched a women’s network. It’s primary purpose was to establish a forum where women in the workplace can connect, network, share knowledge, advocate and create opportunities for mentorship,” she said.

Munzara further pointed out that they have regrouped, and were agitating for action on women’s issues.

“This year we have aligned ourselves with the theme of International Women’s Day #BalanceForBetter, a call for action for women and men across the globe to seek better balance in their lives,” she said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the relaunch, guest speaker Thembe Khumalo commended the move.

“This is very progressive to see companies like Old Mutual take time to do things for women, with 56% women in senior management positions, they are most likely to do well because companies with women in top positions are certainly poised for greatness,” she said.

“It is also refreshing to see younger women coming up, aiming higher and also to see women in charge. This makes it a real and possible aspiration.”

The Old Mutual Women’s network relaunch was concurrently done in six locations around the country where the Zimbabwean Chapter of the network joined the rest of the Old Mutual member countries in reviving the
initiative.

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