By Tariro Guwira
Mutare-COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse the progress made in the previous years in attaining gender parity by further widening gender gaps in women’s access to economic opportunities.
As Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 2021, women have called for well-designed policies to foster recovery on the negative effects of Covid-19 crisis towards women and prevent further setbacks for gender equality by addressing income inequality, economic growth, and shaping a more equal participation in political, civil, social and cultural life at national, regional and international levels eradicating all forms of discrimination.
This year’s local celebrations will be held under the theme ‘Women’s rights to decision-making vital in the face against Covid-19 Pandemic’.
Women Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) Manicaland Chapter chairperson Selina Marewangepo told Post On Sunday that while progress has been made on removing discriminatory laws ,closing gender gaps ,broadening women’s access to finance and stepping up efforts to prevent gender based violence much needs to be done.
“We need to harness this energy and capability now to shape a more equal future. Gender equality is a fundamental human right.
There is need to continue raising awareness and make our communities a more balanced place where power is shared equally between women and men,” she added.
She however cited that issues affecting women should not only be talked of on international women’s day but on a daily basis till the target is reached.
“Now is the time to push for the change that women have been waiting for since time immemorial.
A concerted action and dedicated resources to prevent and respond to gender based violence and to eliminate discrimination in law and practice,” said Marewangepo.
Women Rights Activist, Pellagia Mamvuto said there is need to re-shape discussions around reinforcing the power that women already have.
“The feasible way to go by is improve women rights in participating in economic activities through creating and amplifying links as women.
Women take most of the responsibilities caring for their families while they earn less, save less and hold much less secure jobs.
Well-designed policies to foster recovery can mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on women and prevent further setbacks for gender equality,” said Mamvuto.
Peace Building and Capacity Development Foundation (PACDEF), Programs Co-ordinator Agatha Chipunza said organisations and companies have put in place policies to enable flexible working for women and men but were hampered by lockdowns extension.
“There is need to actively consider how to factor the pandemic’s impact into performance reviews, prevent employee burnout, and ensure that traditional diversity practices, such as sponsorship programs or employee resource groups, are reinvented for a virtual world.
Gender equality is good for the economy and society. If we act to remove barriers, female labour force participation and bigger role in society, then we can reap the economic and social benefits. If we delay, the benefits will be lost while allowing status quo to continue resulting in a backwards-slide economically,” said Chipunza.
Women Centred Development Trust (WCDT) Rumbidzai Nzarayebani highlighted that the Covid 19 pandemic threatened and set to reverse gains of women’s empowerment mostly in less developed communities.
“The economic gender disparities and its effects need to be tackled at a national level. Hence, we are calling out for the government’s intervention through policy reforms to include and consider an enabling environment for the informal sector.
The local governments have been rigid on enforcing the Urban Council’s Act, without considering its ineffectiveness in a crippled economy. This has resulted in poor working conditions and violence towards vendors mostly women as they end up losing their goods to council officials, “said Nzarayebani.
She further highlighted that it’s vital for female entrepreneurs to organise themselves and form companies that can enable themselves to access financial assistance and projects guides.
“Most women more than men are employed in the informal sector which is often compensated in cash with no official oversight leaving women with lower pay ,no protection of labour laws and no benefits such as pensions or health insurance,”
Speaking at a Community Covid-19 Accountability dialogue meeting convened by Women Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises development (MoWASMED), Provincial Development Officer (PDO) Munyaradzi Rubaya said pre-existing gender disparities and harmful norms, combined with an increased exposure to abusers at home and economic shocks have created a platform for violence to increase.
“Cases of verbal and physical abuse are on the increase making it almost impossible to tackle the issue at hand.At the start of the pandemic, many families were stuck at home and it has not been easy for women because most of them have become dependent on their husbands thereby making it easy for the perpetrator to abuse them and vice versa.
Economic pressures mount every day and in such situations violence is sometimes used as a copying strategy,” said Rubaya.
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