Women bear the brunt as Zim hits hard times again

HARARE - It feels almost like 2008 all over again in Zimbabwe.

In 2008, the country was embroiled in one of the worst economic hardships in history, which forced millions of people to flee to neighbouring states, including South Africa, to escape an economic meltdown which led to widespread shortages, 80 percent unemployment and inflation economists estimated to be at least 2 million percent.

The 2008 crunch may be over, but the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) warned last week that as commodity and food prices continue to increase, women are finding it increasingly difficult to put food on the table.

WCoZ said the new tax on electronic payments has also overburdened already suffering women, who are overrepresented among the poor and among those that hold low paying jobs.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube on October 1 announced the 2 percent tax, saying the money raised would be used in the roads, health and education sectors.

The tax has been applied to mobile, card payments and bank transfers above $10 with exceptions for foreign payments and transfer of government funds.

“Loss of women’s income will inflict untold suffering upon children and cause families to remain in the poverty trap,” the non-profit organisation warned, adding women are feeling the pain and bearing the worst brunt.

Nationally, the number of jobless women has reached an all-time high.

While the country’s financial markets were being rocked by fears of a new recession, Cleo has been locked in the more mundane struggle of putting food on the table by selling her body.

The hooker, who resides in the Avenues, like hundreds of women across the country, has found herself forced to join the swelling ranks of commercial sex workers. She is one of the younger girls being dragged into prostitution because of the worsening economic crisis.

Cuts in funding to women’s projects had reduced the options open to women and girls other than prostitution. And rising poverty and a State-led crackdown on vending is being blamed for driving more women into the sex industry against their will.

Cleo, who fends for her child through this unpopular job, said she and her colleagues were being abused by clients who refused to pay for services rendered or merely paid “sick money.”

“Business is very low these days, one cannot tell whether it’s month-end or not. Clients who approach us for services sometimes have as little as $2 to offer. One has no choice but to accept the payment since times are tough,” she said ruefully.

“During the week it’s worse. There is no business. One waits in the cold until they just decide to return to the apartment and sleep. In some incidences, clients have given the impression that they will pay afterwards, but when the service has been rendered, they bolt out of the room and one is left helpless with nowhere to report to.”

Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, an opposition legislator, said women have become more prone to different forms of abuse in these tough economic times.

“Gender-based violence is on the increase. With the reversal of gender roles whereby she is active in the informal economy while the man remains at home, she can’t treat him as a ‘god’ anymore. He has become a liability for her and most men are not happy with this arrangement,” she said.

“Women are prone to abuse as long as the economy is the way it is, with exchanged gender roles. Women are being accused of being involved in extra-marital affairs. The African man can’t accept the shift of roles in the home, changing diapers, cooking while the woman is away at work and that is a problem that we are facing at the moment.”

She said there has been a reversal of gender roles in the past few years and women have become key players, especially in the informal sector.

“There is an increased burden for women. Everything that is in the national budget affects women.

“She has become the breadwinner; the woman is holding both the national and the home economy,” she said.

Rights groups say mothers suffer the most from the combined effect of a patchwork of government policies, and the State seems to be failing to assess the full impact of the public sector spending cuts and should now target specific policies for women.

There is a clarion call for some mitigating action.

Former deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khuphe and leader of a breakaway MDC faction, said during such harsh economic times women are hit the hardest.

“Women bear the burden at the end of the day when things are like this; that’s why we are saying people must put their heads together and come up with solutions to address the economy,” she told the Daily News on Sunday.

“There are issues of maternal health; women are suffering in the maternity wards.

“The Abuja declaration should be implemented, 15 percent of the national budget should be allocated to the health sector.

“There is also a need for educational funding; we need to empower the girl child; girls should have access to education, the Dakar Declaration should also be implemented,” she said referring to a statement unanimously adopted by some 200 delegates — that included scholars, government officials and education experts — to accelerate girls’ education and gender equality

“In the agricultural sector, women also need to be assisted, women are using primitive equipment.”

Comments (4)

There is help for women doing land based projects or that wish to do small projects for the rural economy...in certain areas of course , kwete kumazipurazi. Some that will do the 4week rural business course , which is free of charge , ill get up to USD3000 , low apr loan.

Earl of Gokwe - 18 November 2018

Evils of ZANU PF government which is focused on ruling than economic empancipation of citizens

Eddy - 18 November 2018

Women chief activists cry fowl from the comfort of their lounges the zanupf lead government has developed immunity to those cries. Women must organise sustained women-only non-violent persuasive demonstrations the security services will not shoot at women demonstrators.

Sinyo - 19 November 2018

Women are their own worst enemies.They ululate and dance for the very same party that is always giving them problems for the past 38 years.They are used to campaign for a party that completely forget about them as soon as elections are over save for the zanu pf regalia that they are given during campaigning period.I used to sympathise with them all along until i realised that when it is elections period their brains take leave and replaced by zanu pf hogwash especially those that are given ma Zambia ane face ya Zanu pf president.Ko ngavaendezve ne mazambia iwayo kuna president vachmuudza kuti tioneiwo president nekuti tisu tino nyanyotamba kongonya pamunenge muchi campaigner.These smart on face but careless in thinking human species will never learn.Kwadzinorohwa matumbu ndokwadzinomhanyira.I have noticed that it starts when they are still girls.No matter how unfaithful a guy is,they can line up on the same guy and at times fight for a someone who they know is promiscous.Mybe it is in their DNA to love what hurts them most.

Janana wa Bikaz Bikela Bikaldo - 19 November 2018

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