“WE had political ideas that recognise that women are equal partners in transformation. We do not have to struggle against tradition because the political atmosphere recognises the equality of women. What is left for us is to take up the challenge,” said Ropa Rinopfuka, better known as Dr Irene Mahamba, in the book ‘Independence is not only for One Sex’.
Dr Mahamba’s sentiments reflect the possibility and progress of women empowerment if supported by the Government.
Women, according to Dr Mahamba, should have the courage to confront and take up opportunities that come their way without focusing on the gender inequalities that existed before.
Now that the world is preaching and encouraging gender equality and economic growth of communities through women empowerment, it remains a challenge for women to embrace opportunities coming their way.
It is against this background that the world is now witnessing strides that Zimbabwe is making in the narrative of women empowerment.
Besides acknowledging that women play fundamental roles in the development of communities, the Government of Zimbabwe is acknowledging that women should be supported in their quest for national development.
The Government of Zimbabwe, through the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises is, therefore, continuing with various empowerment initiatives that see women achieving great things for themselves and for the nation at large.
At this year’s Open Market Day and Exhibition held at Ecobank in Borrowdale, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Senator Mutsvangwa, acknowledged the impact of women in the country.
“Our population is made up of 52 percent who play multiple roles in the economy of Zimbabwe as traders, workers, producers, caregivers and taxpayers,” she said.
“There are 3,4 million Micro-Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES) in Zimbabwe and 56 percent of them are women.”
Various MSMES in both rural and urban areas are the engine of growth in the country and, according to Senator Mutsvangwa, they contribute over 60 percent to GDP.
This implies women are contributing significantly to national development; therefore, there is need for women to continue pushing themselves to explore better and new ideas with the support of Government.
Women,s efforts in economic growth of the nation are seen through various projects that include farming, mining, weaving, vending and cross-border trading, among others.
Empowered women are key to transforming societies and they play a pivotal role in poverty reduction.
The Government is also making efforts to assist women by ensuring the participation and visibility of women, not only in the country but around the region.
Senator Mutsvangwa also noted that women-owned MSMES in the country are largely informal and the Ministry is accelerating its efforts to formalise them and make them competitive in light of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
It is important to note that the AfCFTA has the potential to increase employment opportunities and incomes, helping to expand opportunities for all Africans.
It is also there to lift millions of people out of poverty and make African countries more competitive.
Participating at the AfCFTA will not only market Zimbabwean women entrepreneurs but also promote the ‘Buy Zimbabwe Campaign’ that seeks to unlock the country’s full potential and inspire economic growth through selling competitive local brands.
The Ministry of Women Affairs also works as an agent of ensuring women’s involvement in internal and external business opportunities.
Senator Mutsvangwa also said the Ministry is promoting women’s access to markets, and provision of training on technical and business skills.
Senator Mutsvangwa said one of the most effective initiatives to empower women is the establishment of Women Development Fund and the Zimbabwe Community Development Fund.
Both are loan schemes that provide affordable loans to groups of women in the case of Women Development Fund, and to women and men in the case of the Zimbabwe Community Development Fund, without collateral security.
Such efforts by the Government also boost women’s confidence and allow them to gladly pass their knowledge and expertise to next generations.
The Ministry established the Women Microfinance Bank in 2017 to provide tailormade and affordable financial resources to women for purposes of income-generating projects or business start-ups.
Through the bank, both rural and urban women continue to initiate projects with confidence of obtaining financial assistance through the banks.
The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Cooperation (SMEDCO) was also established to administer the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Revolving Fund aimed at providing loans to SMES.
The Ministry of Women Affairs is also promoting value-addition of local resource endowments and is establishing a fruit and vegetable processing plant for women in Hauna.
A Madora Processing Plant for women in Beitbridge and a Gold Processing Plant in Guruve have also being established.
Such various projects financed and supported by the Government promote employment, livelihoods, rural industrialisation and reduce gender-based violence and poverty, particularly among women.