Tafadzwa Ndlovu Herald Reporter
Sadc Gender and Women Affairs ministers have called for increased funding for gender programmes at both national and regional level to create equal opportunities for women and men.
Speaking at a media briefing at the just-ended Sadc Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs meeting held in Harare last week, Acting Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Cde Sithembiso Nyoni, said there was a unanimous call for member-states to channel more resources towards women’s political and economic empowerment.
“Economic empowerment of women not only positively impacts on their own lives but is also essential in poverty eradication and the overall development of the region,” she said.
“Ministers recommended that member-states, in consultation with Ministers of Trade, Investment and Industry, develop a regional multi-dimensional women’s economic empowerment and explore ways of enhancing women’s access to financial resources and markets and establish mechanisms and instruments to facilitate their access to finance for economic empowerment,” she said.
She said there was general consensus that limited funding for women’s rights and gender equality was a crucial factor restraining the achievements of the Sadc Protocol on Gender and Development.
Minister Nyoni said women’s empowerment would help in eradicating poverty and bringing development in the Sadc region.
South Africa’s Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women, Ms Susan Shabangu, said gender budgetary allocations in most Sadc countries were not enough and that there was need to focus more on women to ensure their equal participation in all sectors of the economy.
“What we need is gender mainstreaming in every sector of the economy and involve women in empowerment schemes,” she said.
“We know that the money is not enough but we need to come up with strategies from each member state which empower more women.”
Zimbabwe has established a women’s bank with an initial capital outlay of $5 million as a strategic response towards women’s economic empowerment.
Sadc ministers expressed concern over the challenges faced by women in science, engineering and technology but said a separate subsidiary organisation should be set up to address the challenges with the help of Sadc Ministers responsible for science, technology and innovation.
Women face greater difficulties in accessing land and other livelihood resources and also carry a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work.
The three-day meeting, which was held from May 27 to 29, discussed a wide range of issues affecting women such as limited access to resources, poverty, high levels of maternal mortality, gender-based violence and child marriages.
The meeting provided a platform for ministers to share experiences and challenges, motivate and learn from one another as they drive the implementation of gender commitments in their respective countries.
It was attended by Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs from 14 SADC countries.