By Faith Chimutsa
Gender disparities ownership and access to control of livelihood resources such as land, water, energy, knowledge and labour has negatively affected rural women’s food production.
Speaking at the press conference, this Wednesday in the capital, The Minister of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni said rural women often face constraints to market their produce due to number of factors such as lack of mobility and knowledge about markets, capacity, and technical skills.
Minister Nyoni added that due to failure to access land often means that women obtain lower yields than would otherwise be possible if household resources were allocated more equitably.
Dr Nyoni was speaking at the launch of International Day of Rural Women.
“Insecurity of tenure for women thus compromises their production potential and increases food insecurity. Greater food security would be achieved if women had access to needed assets and resources and had a voice in the decisions that have an impact on the lives of their households and communities.
“Female agro- based entrepreneurs can play important economic roles that have positive effects beyond the micro level, for example, supplying food, contributing to value adding activities and creation of employment opportunities.
” Women are often hindered by discriminatory and harmful traditional practices and gender stereotypes from accessing opportunities to expand their economic activities”, Nyoni explained.
She highlighted that agricultural and rural non-farm employment plays a critical role in rural development.
Dr Nyoni added that food security, poverty reduction, women’s economic empowerment and agricultural wage labour is often the only employment option available to poor rural women.
“My Ministry has put in place some programmes to ensure that rural women effectively participate in the following sectors: agriculture, mining, tourism, trade and manufacturing.
“These are being implemented under the Broad Based Women Economic Empowerment Framework which calls for the participation of women in key economic sectors”,she said.
She said the significant hindrance to women’s potential to participate in the mainstream economy has been financial exclusion and this led to the establishment of the Zimbabwe Women Microfinance Bank by my Ministry in 2018.
Dr Nyoni added that the Bank provided financial literacy and affordable financing to enable women carry out income generating activities. These rural women have been traditionally side-lined in accessing funding from the conventional banking system.
“The Ministry has also established the Women’s Development Fund and the Zimbabwe Community Development Fund to enable women access affordable funding.
“These funds are revolving loans aimed at promoting economic empowerment of women through the provision of collateral free and low interest loans.
” Women also generate revenue from programs supported by my Ministry such as Internal Savings and Lending Schemes and the Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOS).
“The Ministry supports women to participate at local shows and exhibitions in order for them to expose their products and acquire markets.
Efforts are underway to engage local authorities to ensure that women are allocated safe trading sites. My Ministry has also played a critical role in empowering women through skills development, technology transfer and value addition of local resource endowments”, she explained .
Meanwhile the ministry has great concern over reports of young girls dying whilst giving birth, which is evidently more prevalent in rural communities.
The Ministry calls upon all actors and responsible authorities to take action against such criminal acts that are happening in most communities. The law must be implemented in its totality to ensure that girls are protected from abuse.