Women say no to feminisation of poverty

"indigenisation" means a deliberate involvement of indigenous Zimbabweans in the economic activities of the country, to which hitherto they had no access, so as to ensure the equitable ownership of the nation's resources; "indigenous Zimbabwean" means any person who, before the 18th April, 1980, was disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the grounds of his or her race, and any descendant of such person, and includes any company, association, syndicate or partnership of which indigenous Zimbabweans form the majority of the members or hold the controlling interest;


That government is in a quandary over how to implement its controversial indigenisation and empowerment policy. After years of talk, one would have expected government to now have clear-cut signs on how the empowerment policy is benefitting the majority of ordinary Zimbabweans.   But, alas, government appears to be operating selfishly. The indigenisation and democratisation of the Zimbabwean economy is not meant to be merely a moral initiative designed to overthrow the legacy of a past discriminatory colonial economic system but should be a pragmatic development strategy to unleash the nation's full economic potential. However, neither the past's wrongs nor future's promise can be addressed without prioritising women's economic empowerment.

In Zimbabwe, industry and commerce is predominantly the domain of men, who own most businesses in all sectors (feminisation of poverty). Women make up 52 percent of our country's population but surprisingly most of them are poor and their levels of participation in industry and commerce and business entrepreneurship continue to be unacceptably low. This was raised at a Civil Society feedback briefing, "Engendering Tourism in Zimbabwe € hosted by the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) today the 20th of June 2012 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

As it stands, women who suffer discrimination on gender basis have not been sufficiently prioritised in the Indigenisation Act. The indigenisation process therefore runs the risk of appearing to have been designed for the exclusive benefit of men with power and in turn loosing the very credibility and broad based support that it requires to be a success.

According to ZWLA the impending indigenisation guidelines should incentivise businesses to hire and promote black women to important sectors of the economy like mining and tourism in specific ways. Engendering sectors like the tourism industry is a key approach to ensure sustainable tourism development. Participants at the briefing highlighted that some barriers women face include the non-implementation of gender sensitive laws, lack of financing and lack of knowledge. Entry points should be identified to entrench gender sensitivity in the tourism sector to increase the number of women doing formal business in the tourism sector.

Zimbabwe is party to various international human rights and multilateral environmental agreements and is therefore bound to draw from the tenets of such instruments in coming up with its legal framework on Gender Equality, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment. These include the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People's Rights of Women in Africa and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act (Chapter 14:33) and the supporting statutory instruments, regulations and related notices clearly spell out how the programme is primarily meant to benefit ordinary Zimbabweans who were previously disadvantaged by the colonial regime. The regulations state that the primary groups meant to benefit from the programme are ordinary communities (encompassing ordinary men and women, youth representatives, the disabled, orphans, the elderly etc), employees (comprising ordinary workers and members of management). Yet the indigenisation project is being used for indiscipline, for economic banditry and for the cake to go to the same people, the ruling elite

The following issues were also raised:

·                 Empowerment opportunities must be availed to everyone regardless of gender.

·                 Women must take advantage of their large number to fight for their place on the indigenisation platform.

·                 The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act should not be used to benefit the country's poor and not just the rich elite.

·                 There is need to review all policies so that they are gender sensitive since they are gender blind and include specific targets for women's empowerment.

·                 The Indigenisation Act does not differentiate opportunities for men and women and this is an opportunity to lobby the responsible authorities to guarantee women equal empowerment opportunities especially in tourism.

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