Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world today in commemorating the International Day for Women, reflecting on challenges being faced by women and progress made in the advancement of women in pursuit of gender equality.
The day is being celebrated under the international theme, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.
The national theme is, “Gender mainstreaming and women empowerment in climate change and disaster risk management”.
Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister, Dr Sithembiso Nyoni, yesterday said women represented a high percentage of poor communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihoods, particularly in rural areas.
With limited access to and control of environmental goods and services, the Minister said women had negligible participation in decision-making, benefits and were consequently less able to confront climate change.
“During extreme weather such as droughts, cyclones and floods, women tend to work more to restore and secure household livelihoods.
“This will leave less time for women to women to access training and education, develop skills or participate in the economic mainstay, thus gender equality remains low,” she said.
In mitigation, she said Government had supported solar powered community gardens in eight rural provinces through the Zimbabwe Community Development Fund and these gardens were thriving under the harsh effects of climate change as they were using sustainable smart technology.
Minister Nyoni also said gender-based violence had significantly increased, not only in Zimbabwe but across the world, and this had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said GBV and exploitation were increasing while resources and incomes dwindled, arable land was becoming increasingly scarce, and effects of climate change progressively being felt more and impacting negatively on the achievement of gender equality.
“Gender-based violence against women is often employed as a way to reinforce gender imbalances and maintain control of limited resources in these situations. When girls and women are displaced, they are often unable to continue their education and pursue economic opportunities. Women and girls also face higher rates of child marriage, domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking due to climate change,” said Minister Nyoni.
“It is imperative that we economically empower women and girls as a sustainable way to achieve gender equality and this can be achieved through various empowerment programmes that my Ministry and partners provide, such as access to finance and markets, capacity building, provision of technology and workspace, amongst others.”
The month of March is women’s month and commemorations are expected to continue at national, provincial and district levels after the launch today.
In line with this year’s theme, commemorations will focus on how to achieve sustainable gender equality in the context of climate change, its impact on women and ways to mitigate this.
Climate change expert, Ms Veronica Gundu Jakarasi, said the effects of climate change were not gender neutral but women were affected more as they depended on natural resources which climate change threatens the most.
“Women representation in different structures is still limited due to various socio economic and cultural issues and limited access to information, resources and decision making power,” she said.
However, she said there was need to acknowledge that not all women were victims as some were actively participating in climate action by implementing innovative and sustainable mechanisms to adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects.
She said women led SMEs were leading in taking climate solutions to the vulnerable and marginalised communities
“Therefore, there is need to support women to play an active part in decision making processes, promote access to information on agroforestry and support access to climate finance to scale up and replicate climate smart solutions,” said Ms Jakarasi.
She said Zimbabwe had robust policies in place which needed to be translated into action while also improving coordination on climate related actions and resource allocation.