By Joyce Mukucha
Women in Zimbabwe have joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day stressing the need to remain determined, focused, and optimistic as well as supporting and empowering each other during these unprecedented times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.
Speaking to Spiked Online Media, Passion Poultry Founder and Executive Director Evangelista Chekera challenged educated women to impart knowledge and support those who are still lagging behind to ensure that every woman is included in decision-making processes and leadership.
“I would like to challenge the more experienced women to mentor less experienced women in order to create equal opportunities.
“There is a need for women to keep encouraging the spirit of mentorship in a holistic manner. We need more female mentors,” Chekera said.
She added that women’s full and effective participation and leadership in all areas of life drives progress for everyone.
In an interview, another entrepreneur and a ‘Do it Yourself’ lady, Joyline Mukanganwi encouraged women to make sure that as they strive to make efforts to rise in life, they ought to have tangible dreams as well and never drag back no matter the stumbling blocks that might come their way.
“I know as women we work very hard but sometimes we don’t have dreams. So on this International Women’s Day, I’m urging women out there to write their dreams down, be patient, remain positive, and do whatever it takes to make those dreams a reality,” she said.
Olga Nhari, the Women in Agriculture Union Chairperson pointed out that the spirit of oneness and togetherness was crucial in as much as empowering each other amongst women is concerned.
“As we celebrate International Women’s Day in this Covid-19 pandemic era, I would like to urge women to unite and empower each other. The upliftment of a fellow woman is your upliftment too,” she said.
Nhari testified that though she managed to drive economic empowerment for other women, her successful journey in initiating the Women in Agriculture Union was motivated by the need for herself to become empowered too.
“I founded Women in Agriculture Union for the economic empowernment of women when I was emotionally broken and needed to be empowered myself. In my ten years journey of lobbying and advocating for the empowernment of women, I have been empowered myself as well. Let’s work together hand in hand towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Happy Women’s day to every woman!” said Nhari.
She emphasised that if women manage to join hands and work as one, gender-based violence (GBV) and poverty can be eradicated.
In terms of crisis and disasters, the Founder and Director of Signs of Hope Trust Samantha Sibanda said men and women can be affected differently indicating that in this Covid-19 pandemic, women and girls have been negatively impacted in various ways.
“We have seen an increase in early child marriages. Many girls are getting married at a tender age. We are also seeing an increase in unpaid care work and school dropouts for young girls. It has been a tough time during Covid-19,” said Sibanda.
She also highlighted that increase in GBV, stresses, and mental health challenges are being witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic and stressed the need for mechanisms that support and protect women and young girls as they spend more time at home.
“All I can say is that there should be increased support for women not only in terms of social security but even when they are putting in place our statutory instruments, leaders should make sure that they should cover women in terms of psychosocial support and even protection for them as they are staying in homes. We need to see increased social security going to women.
“There are women with disabilities, widows, and other single mothers. Losing income in these grave times is difficult for those women who have been marginalised already and their challenges are being exacerbated by the pandemic.”
Other women who spoke to this publication emphasised the need for government to ensure that women are given an opportunity to contribute to national development forums and spaces.
“When women lead, positive results can be witnessed as well. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are being led by us as women so we should be included in socio-economic development aspects,” they said.
According to UNDP, COVID-19 task teams from 87 countries found that women are also at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19, as front-line and health sector workers, as scientists, doctors, and caregivers yet gender parity was still not prevailing while only 3.5 percent of them had gender parity.
The UNDP highlighted that women of the world want and deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes, and violence; a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all.
This year’s International Women’s Day, UNDP underscored, is a rallying cry for Generation Equality, to act for an equal future for all.
“The Generation Equality Forum, the most important convening for gender equality investment and actions, kicks off in Mexico City from 29- 31 March and culminates in Paris in June 2021.
“It will draw leaders, visionaries, and activists from around the world, safely on a virtual platform, to push for transformative and lasting change for generations to come,” said UNDP.
On the other hand, after noticing that women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making, UN Women is working to provide support to all women on the front lines of the fight against this pandemic; promoting flexible working arrangements; and prioritizing services to prevent gender-based domestic violence.