Ruth Butaumocho and Nyemudzai Kakore
Acting President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa has expressed concern over the low participation of women in politics and decision-making in the region despite efforts to increase their involvement.
Officially opening the SADC ministers of gender and women affairs meeting in Harare yesterday, Cde Mnangagwa said statistics on the ground showed that progress in increasing the participation of women in politics and decision-making was very slow and gradual.
“It is worrisome to note that the participation of women in politics and decision making still remains low in the region. Women’s representation in the SADC Parliament increased by two percent from 23 percent in 2013 to 26 percent in 2014 and women’s representation in local government increased by one percent while in Cabinet it dropped from 22 to 21 percent.”
He, however, applauded member states for promoting women’s participation in decision-making by including legislative measures to that effect.
In the case of Zimbabwe, Cde Mnangagwa said women’s representation in Parliament increased following the introduction of a quota system for women in both the lower and upper house, as provided for, in the new Constitution.
Cde Mnangagwa added that it was important to tie up women’s involvement in decision making with their economic empowerment.
He noted that lack of economic opportunities for women was one of the factors that was hindering their progression, a situation that needed to be addressed and ensure that they have access to economic opportunities
“Women in the SADC region are well known for being industrious and yet they continue to have unequal access to economic opportunities, and closing of gender gaps in productivity and earnings remains pervasive,” said Cde Mnangagwa.
He urged the SADC secretariat to facilitate the development of the Regional Multi-Dimensional Women’s Economic empowerment programme to accelerate action towards economic empowerment of member states.
Speaking on the same occasion, the acting Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development, Cde Sithembiso Nyoni said social ills facing the region, among them poverty, were hampering women’s efforts in achieving total empowerment.
“Women from Southern Africa have taken up positions of leadership across the continent and globally.
“Despite these achievements, we still have a lot of work ahead of us to deal with other issues facing our region such as poverty amongst women, high maternal and infant mortality rate, high HIV infection and prevalence rates among women which continue to rob our region of its most productive workforce.
Cde Nyoni called on the member states to come up with concerted efforts and effective strategies to tackle these social ills.