Empowering Women in Zimbabwe
by Mary Ferreira
I first met Rosemary when I visited Zimbabwe to produce a feature story on gender equality and women’s empowerment for 21st Century, UNTV’s news magazine series. Still full of life and enthusiastic about her work, Rosemary told me that her husband died 14 years ago, "He got very sick and passed away, and I carried on." For any woman in this southern African country, it's difficult to operate a business because of the lack of collateral. Most of the family's assets are usually registered in the man's name. Rosemary started her business through a bank loan her husband obtained years ago.
When he died, she almost lost everything she said, "I had to call my son back from America after he graduated as an engineer. I told him we must work hard because the bank wanted to take everything away from us." Rosemary's son returned and they managed to pay off the loan. Now he develops new equipment for the mill, which processes ore retrieved from the mine pits.
Today, it's much easier for women to get into the mining sector since the Government introduced the "indigenization" programme in 2010. This programme is geared to increase local ownership of the country's mineral resources. It's also helping to empower women and encourage their participation in this critical economic sector, which earns revenue exceeding two billion US dollars annually.
Now women are more likely to obtain loans from banks because of special measures adopted and offered to female business owners under the indigenisation act says Dr. Olivia Muchena, Minister of Gender Affairs in Zimbabwe, "Through various programmes a good number of our banks are opening windows or special facilities for women."
To further empower women and achieve gender equality, the government is also partnering with the United Nations Development programme, UNDP, to include a gender perspective in all of its economic plans.
Through UNDP's Gender & Economic Policy Management Initiative, GEPMI, some 34 policy makers – men and women – attended a weeklong workshop in late 2012 to learn how to create gender sensitive policies.
Now more than 10% of all mining operations are headed by women, an industry previously dominated by men. Rosemary is now a government consultant helping new women miners avoid the pitfalls she once experienced when she first started her operation.
Watch this short clip of Rosemary’s story.