Covid-19 lockdown expose the marginalisation of Gokwe South women

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…need support to live sustainably 

Perseverance Javangwe

Women and girls in the rural areas of Gokwe South in Mateta lack equal access to productive resources and assets, public services, such as education and health care, and infrastructure, including water and sanitation, while much of their labour remains invisible and unpaid even as their workloads become increasingly heavy due to the out-migration of man.

Proof of the socio-economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic has shown deepening inequalities and an increase in violations of the rights of Gokwe South women and girls.

The United Nations in Zimbabwe statement stated that, “Though there has been some progress made in broadening the socio-economic opportunities for women and affirming their rights in the Constitution, challenges remain.”

“Often times we are left off on key projects that have to do with women empowerment. The way the projects are implemented in the country it is as if they are only meant for the urban people only. We hear in the radios that women in so and so town or city are engaging in self-sustaining projects yet for us that is only news,” narrated Sesistina Mushava of Gokwe South, Mateta.

Rosemary Magacha who also resides in Gokwe South told this reporter that being in the rural areas entails that no better projects are supposed to come your way.

“Being in the rural areas entails being marginalized your entire life, no one cares or think about you. Surprisingly during the election period we see politicians coming with promises of certain projects that they intend to implement, however, after we vote for them that is the last we see them. We are hard workers here and if we can get a little bit of education on some advancing matters especially in agriculture we can actually feed the nation. We are able and brave women but we only lack support from others,” she said.

Speaking with this publication Human Rights defender, Nehemiah who stands with rural women says that there is huge challenge in the country with rural women being a forgotten lot and are being treated as if they are children of a lesser God.

“Rural women are key actors in agriculture, food security, and more generally sustainable development. Their contributions are however too often unpaid and invisible since they work in family farms or carry out subsistence farming to feed their families, and this work is in addition to domestic duties, and to their work of care and education within the family. It often comes with sweat and blood. With most of them having to spend years awaiting the return of their husbands in diaspora who in turn might come back empty handed.

“These very same women face many challenges in the rural areas worse still if they be mothers. These challenges are first linked to the lack of public infrastructure and services like water and sanitation, electricity/energy, transportation, healthcare, etc, which are the basics of a decent lifestyle especially in this generation.

“In addition rural women face discrimination linked on access to resources like land, loans and other financial services, modern tools, etc. These challenges, which are also made worse by global economic and food crisis, and by pandemics such as the recent cyclone idai and COVID 19, make mothers and their children particularly vulnerable to poverty.

“Hence to all this I stand to value Rural women for their strength, their unending love, their sense of ubuntu and above all their commitment towards working and living together. Our country and continent to be where it is today it’s a product of these rural queens who sacrifice their all for a better tomorrow of the next generation. I for one am a product of a rural mother (women) with her sacrificing for us to finish tertiary education. You cannot talk about me without mentioning her sacrifice,” she said.

Fifty-six percent of communal farmers in Zimbabwe are rural women. They play a significant role in agricultural value-chains, food security, and nutrition and natural resources management and rural enterprises, yet they are still marginalised. They are at the front lines responding to the pandemic but however their work is unpaid and invisible.

Furthermore the pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of women’s rights to land and resources. Discriminatory gender norms and practices impede women’s exercise of land and poverty rights in Zimbabwe. Since women’s land rights are often dependent on their husbands, covid-19 widows risk disinheritance. Women’s land tenure security is also threatened as unemployed migrants return to rural communities, increasing pressure on land and resources and exacerbating gender gaps in agriculture and food security.

Moreover, gender responsive investments to expand basic infrastructure, health-care and care services in rural areas have never been more critical. Bolstering women’s land rights in law and practice can help protect women from displacement and losing their sources of livelihood.

Community Voices Zimbabwe call on the relevant authorities to consider women In Gokwe South in implementing sustainable projects for them.

 

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