Investing in Her, Investing in Us: Why celebrating Women’s Month matters This month we celebrate the women who have made an impact in their communities and in the country’s development.

Rumbidzayi Zinyuke-Health Buzz

Every March, Zimbabwe joins the global celebration of Women’s Month.

This is an important annual celebration that helps us reflect on the challenges facing gender rights and highlight the stories of inspiring women through the ages.

Women may have come a long way to get where they are now, but they still have a long way to go before they can fully realise their dreams or harness their potential.

This year’s theme, “Investing in Women: Accelerating Progress,” could not be more relevant to the nation’s development goals.

Zimbabwe boasts of a rich history of phenomenal women who have championed change. From independence fighters to business leaders and scientists, their contributions are undeniable.

Yet, challenges persist.

Gender inequality continues to hold back progress. Women face hurdles in all spheres, be it education, employment or political participation.

Some of these hurdles are exacerbated by deep-rooted biases. These ingrained societal norms and stereotypes about gender roles still influence everything from career choices to leadership opportunities. 

Unfortunately, the biases can sometimes be unconscious, making them even harder to undo.

Women often shoulder a disproportionate share of unpaid work like housework and childcare which limits their ability to pursue careers, education and personal fulfilment.

And rural women become more affected than their urban counterparts as their chances of breaking the barriers blocking their paths to emancipation remain slim due to poverty.

However, many women have been entering the workforce over the years, but the proverbial glass ceiling always comes into play. 

But leadership positions remain stubbornly male-dominated. This lack of representation creates a barrier to equal pay and influence.

These challenges are complex and interconnected. Achieving true equality requires a multi-pronged approach. There is a need to challenge stereotypes, dismantle unequal power structures, and ensure fair representation in leadership roles. 

Above all, there is a need to invest more in women, as this year’s theme suggests.

Speaking at the launch of Women’s Month last week, Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said there was a dire need for intentional gender transformative reforms to ensure inclusive societies.

She said implementing gender response financing and healthcare was paramount to building a wholesome and balanced woman.

“Investing in women and accelerating progress as austerity measures more often than not have been seen to have a negative impact on women,” she said. “With this background of challenges facing women in today’s world, there is indeed a need for this discourse and conversation focusing on the various stages women go through from adolescence to matriarchy with an effort to invest in women and accelerate their progress. 

“Empowering women is essential to the health and social development of families, communities and countries. When women are living safe, fulfilled and productive lives, they can reach their full potential. Contributing their skills to the workforce and can raise happier and healthier children.” 

The Minister could not have said it more aptly, addressing the investment gap is required.

And the theme this year is a stark reminder.

Investing in women’s education, healthcare and economic opportunities isn’t just the right thing to do, it is smart economics. 

Experts say societies that empower women experience greater economic growth and stability.

Studies by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank estimate that closing the gender gap in the labour force could add trillions to the global Gross Domestic Product. 

This significant increase stems from a simple fact: when women participate fully in the economy, everyone benefits.

Thus providing them with access to capital, mentorship, and training can further unlock their entrepreneurial potential and fuel economic growth.

But the benefits of empowering women extend far beyond economic indicators. 

Studies show that societies with greater gender equality experience lower poverty rates, improved health outcomes, and stronger social cohesion.

USAID Zimbabwe mission director Ms Janean Davis concurs that women can indeed accelerate progress in any country.

“Throughout history, women and girls have shattered barriers and paved the way for progress,” she said. “From advocating for equal rights and access to education, to leading ground-breaking innovations in science, technology, and the arts, women have continually proven their unwavering commitment to excellence. 

“So, as we celebrate International Women’s Month, let us reflect on the progress we have made, the challenges that lie ahead, and the boundless potential of women to shape a brighter tomorrow for generations to come.” 

It is, therefore, prudent that this month, we celebrate the women who have made an impact in their communities and in the country’s development.

By highlighting their achievements, we inspire young girls to dream big and defy the limitations that haunt them. 

The  Government on its part has undertaken several initiatives to promote gender equality and empower women.

The 2013 Constitution enshrines gender equality and prohibits discrimination based on sex. Sections 17 and 56 are particularly important for guaranteeing these rights.

The country also launched the National Gender Policy in 2017, which outlines a roadmap for achieving a society where women and men participate equally.

To promote equal participation of women and men in the political arena, the country introduced a quota system which aims for a 50 percent female representation in Parliament.

Through the Spotlight Initiative, the Government with support from the UN and EU made efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls.

There are indeed many other programmes that support women in terms of providing training, mentorship, and financial resources to women running businesses.

However, challenges remain.

The high rates of child marriage and teenage pregnancy are a drawback as they continue to hinder the empowerment of the girl child.

There has been slow progress in the achievement of the 50 percent quota system as well.

Overall, Government has made strides towards gender equality, but more collaborations and continued efforts are still needed to overcome persisting challenges.

Because women make up 52 percent of the country’s population, hence Zimbabwe cannot afford to leave half its population behind.

By investing in women, the country can unlock a wealth of talent and creativity because women are powerful agents of change, driving innovation and progress in all sectors. Women’s Month is, therefore, not just about remembering the past.

It is a call to action.

It is about creating a future where Zimbabwe thrives because all its people, women and men alike, have the chance to reach their full potential. 

Let us use this month as a springboard for concrete action, for policies and initiatives that empower women and unlock a brighter future for all Zimbabweans.

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