Over a thousand women gathered at Harare Gardens yesterday for an indaba on women’s issues for the 2016 budget. The indaba, which aimed to give women a platform to make contributions towards next year’s budget, was organised by Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) together with Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN).
Minister of Women’s Affairs Gender and Community Development, Nyasha Chikwinya was guest of honour; also present was the chairperson of the Gender Commission, Mrs Margaret Sangarwe-Mukahanana, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Dr Perpetua Gumbo, Vice Chairperson in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), Mrs Joyce Laetitia Kazembe and Ambassador Chipo Zindoga who was representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The interaction between women from around the country and government officials was intended to promote a discussion where women would agree on issues to be forwarded to the Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa. As a result, women from agriculture, mining, tourism, trade, health, education and energy sectors made presentations on important issues they had agreed had to be incorporated into the 2016 budget.
President of Zimbabwe Indigenous Women Farmers, Depinah Nkomo, emphasised the need for women to be included in government’s mechanisation programme.
“We are hearing of climate change and all we know is that it is affecting our yields because the rainfall pattern has changed,” she explained.
In her presentation on behalf of women in farming, she highlighted that adequate irrigation equipment would make a difference in the operations of women in farming as they would not be limited by erratic rainfall patterns.
Aplonia Munzverengwi, President of Zimbabwe Miners Federation, lamented the high fees required for one to register a mining claim and asked if government could reduce that to allow more women to operate legally.
“US$1500 is too high for most women in mining, that is why most of us have resorted to artisanal mining,” complained Munzverengwi.
Representatives of the tourism and trade sectors shared the same sentiments stating that the registration fees for businesses was too high when compared with the minimal profits they were making. The main request forwarded by the education asector was the return of an effective cadetship scheme, a facility which assisted underprivileged university with the payment of fees. Currently it is unclear whether or not the scheme is still functional.
A presentation made on behalf of women living with disability centred on government investment in public facilities and services (transport, ablution facilities for example) that cater for women with different disabilities.
Virginia Muwanigwa, Chairperson of WcoZ, urged the government to ensure that whatever money was going to be allocated to women be accounted for. She advised women to show that they are responsible people who can make good use of limited resources.
“Last year, only 0.4% of the total budget was allocated to women who constitute 52% of the total population,” said Muwanigwa. “This year, we hope to see an improvement with gender sensitive budgeting being practised even in local governance departments.”
After the presentations, Chikwinya – who is also Member of Parliament for Mutare South – responded to some of the contributions that had been made, stating that she was not going to make empty promises but was going to deliver on things she had control over.
“I met with the consultants who are working on the proposed Women’s Development Bank and I told them I could not wait for their research and reporting to be done in nine months,” she said.”We negotiated and I am now expecting the final report in three months.”
She advised all women that if they wanted the bank to be a success, they had to learn to pay back what they would have borrowed.
Chikwinya also spoke in response to the call to stop the installation of prepaid water metres.
“As a result of climate change there is a shortage of water the world over and governments are being forced to implement the prepaid water metre system,” she said.
Her further justification was that women need to be trained to run successful businesses in order to become financially stable and pay their bills on time.
The responses given by Chikwinya also guided the women present on what to include in the written contributions that they had to write down. After the oral presentations, women were divided into groups according to economic and social sectors. In these groups, they came up with documents that combined all their views.
One main document is expected to be produced and handed over to the Ministry of Finance for consideration in the formulation of the 2016 national budget.