Roselyne Sachiti Features, Health and Society Editor
For decades, women have been indirectly making huge inputs to economies.
They have been active in businesses, worked on farms, family gardens and fields, sold everything and anything from tomatoes to clothes, blankets, household furniture, owned huge businesses among others ensuring household food security and that their children are educated and healthy.
Back in the day, women, too, crossed the country’s borders to sell crotched wares in South Africa and Botswana, bringing home the much needed income. Some build homes in urban areas using the money attained from the trade.
Investments made by the Zimbabwean Government since independence have seen more women take up their space in the country’s economic activities though some still do unpaid care work.
These investments have edged the country closer to realising women’s economic empowerment, which sets a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth.
In Zimbabwe, the Young Women for Economic Development (YW4ED) has been propagating for inclusion of young women in economic development issues and trajectory.
Speaking to The Herald, YW4ED chairperson and Zanu PF Mashonaland East legislator (proportional representation) Tatenda Mavetera, said their organisation was launched on August 13 this year by the First Lady, Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa.
“The motivation was on the issue of numbers that young women constitute and also considering that as young women, we are there in the economy, but we are not visible.”
Mavetera said their organisation looks at a sector based approach in line with programmes that have been initiated by Government and also in line with what is happening in Zimbabwe.
She revealed that they also aim at complementing efforts that Government is doing and find out how this can impact on young women specifically.
“We are on an economic development trajectory, which is being spearheaded by his Excellency Dr ED Mnangagwa. We feel that as young people and as young women, when we talk of the demographics in Zimbabwe, 52 percent of the population is comprised of women,” she pointed out.
“We believe that of that 52 percent, when we are talking of National Development Strategy (NDS1), which is a blueprint by the Government, we believe that as young women, we are the major stakeholder of that blueprint.”
Mavetera added that sitting at the periphery and watching things happening is not going to be good for young women.
“But, considering the numbers that we have as young women, we then harness that number collectively and see how we can be able to get involved in the economic development of this country,” she further explained.
She revealed that they have chapters in each of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces and so far have reached out to women in Midlands, Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, and Mashonaland East.
“What we need to do is to do outreaches in other provinces so that people can get an appreciation of us coming to them and maybe also unpacking what we are all about at an event.”
According to Mavetera, they have tried to identify projects for each province and what is now needed is to ensure that young women in the country will be able to benefit from Government projects in one way or the other. She further said they will also have self-styled projects to motivate and empower young women in each province. Scooping the award for “Best New Commercial Exhibitor in Every Sector for Innovative solutions in response to Covid-19” at the just ended Zimbabwe Agricultural Show (ZAS) has motivated them, greatly.
“The issue is about us seeing and getting involved and being visible to see that at least there is a certain way that we as young people can then be able to dominate. It motivated us in saying that as young people, we have actually shown that we are also capable in our own right.”
She added: “It does not necessarily mean that when we got into that competition we were only competing with older or younger people. “Taking the top prize shows that as young people there is some capability, which is within us. It proved exactly what we wanted to say young people can also do it. It has motivated us and told us that there is need for us to also see how we can then be able to complement all efforts and see that we are visible and also be able to get all these awards.”
Being a young female Parliamentarian, Mavetera said when she looks at the numbers of young women in parliament below 45, they are less than 15.
“We are looking at 100 women and 15 only are below the age of 40. That alone leaves a lot of questions than answers. But, it is only because young women have not been proactive enough. We need to motivate ourselves and to be involved from that angle.”
She emphasised the need for young women to have a collective force, stand and say “this is what we managed to give birth to as young women.”
Hon Mavetera also pointed out the need to see more young women in all sectors of the economy that include tourism, agriculture, SMEs, mining sports arts and culture.
“There is need for us to be effective there. For us to be able to point at things and say this is what young women have been able to do. Besides us being young women, we are wives, mothers and we are also people that are supposed to be working in this economy.”
All these, Mavetera added, should be intertwined so that they become an effective force, which brings young women to the front of economic development.
“We have the energy which needs to be brought together to say what have we given back to, what have we done? As I always say we do not look at things happening, but we get involved in things happening.”
Mavetera said they were targeting women who are 45 years and below and have taken a leaf from the International Parliamentary Union, which also focuses on that age group.
She reiterated the need to navigate between the youth and women adding there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to the two groups.
“We need to find ourselves to say it’s not that the old women are taking space for young women, it’s a matter of us complementing our efforts and each of us standing at their part and playing their part,” she said.
“For us to be here, it is because of the older women’s role as young women. There is never a time we can think the space we are not occupying has been occupied by the older women. We should be able to complement each effort that has been done and also be able to learn from what they do.”
Outlining some of their activities, Mavetera said they want to see young women get into agriculture and tourism effectively and produce results.
“We as young women also had an extension of the NDS sectors. For us we have tourism, agriculture, SMEs, mining and sports arts and culture.”
Inclusivity, she pointed out, is important and as such they are also looking at women with disabilities, those in universities, young women in business, and those living in the rural areas.
“It all becomes a wholesome package whereby we look collectively at each and every young person, to say where does this one come in and how do we make them seen there?”
This she added is not a matter of them coming up with a one size fits all model, but being specific and customising each sector as they go.
“It is important for us to say what do women with disabilities and those in universities want and we speak with one voice, no one should be left behind. The President has been clear that we do not want to leave anyone behind. He has also said that nyika inovakwa nevene vayo (A country is built by its inhabitants). As young women, we need to see where we are supposed to come in.”