By Clainos Chidoko, Great Zimbabwe University
Access to resources by women in Zimbabwe has been a major challenge since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Women have been marginalized in various sectors of the economy, constraining their access to resources. The gender disparity is a result of a patriarchal society that favors men while suppressing women. This is highly evident in the ownership of land, and other productive ventures/resources; and access to credit, a direct link of inequalities in employment opportunities. Many women have also failed to access good education and other facilities.
Zimbabwe has been implementing land reform since 1980 addressing historical racial imbalances in land ownership. This challenged gender inequalities in the country. About 15 percent women have managed to get offer letters for new A1 plots . The pattern in A2 areas was even more skewed to males, with only around 10 percent being controlled by women. Looking at these figures, the record of land reform in addressing gender inequalities is poor. Most of the women who managed to access land are politically connected. Otherwise they could only access land through their husbands (Muchetu and Moyo, 2018).
In communal areas, women have often managed to create some form of independence. However the room for independence is limited as the land is often owned by their husbands. Also with less income to hire labor from outside the family members, women are often restricted to social reproductive activities, and providing labor for efforts controlled by men. The patriarchy setup is not fair, as men have full control of the land and women despite working on the land men’s hands will be seen when monies get on the table. Women in Zimbabwe have also been found to produce less than men because of their limited access to productive resources such as credit and inputs, leading to a vicious cycle, where lack of access to credit has led to low production and vice versa. Women farmers despite being capable have become less efficient and produce smaller quantities of crops because of fewer entitlements to land and limited access to inputs (Jaka and Shava, 2018).
Lending to women by financial institutions constituted less than 10 percent as per June 2018 statistics. This comes as limited access to financial services by women. Gender bias, cultural norms and inadequate regulatory framework have been identified as the main reasons contributing towards limited access to financial services by women as compared to their male counterparts. This is so despite the fact that financial inclusion has social benefits where women use their income productively channeling a large share to the upkeep of their families.
Lack of resources such as capital has alienated women in such critical areas like mining. Furthermore, deep level underground mining created difficult conditions for women to take part. Legislations were enacted to bar them from the mining areas. Lack of funding has remained a major challenge for mining enterprises because investor confidence in the sector is low. While financial institutions have been encouraged to extend loans to all people regardless of sex, women remain victims of mistrust, as the venture is considered a male domain.
On the labour market in Zimbabwe female labour has been on average rewarded less than male labour, although the gender wage gap has shrunk immensely of late. The reason is because of the patriarchal society that designates men as breadwinners and women as secondary workers. Also women have tended to be segmented into stereotypical feminine activities like nursing and labour-intensive and low skilled sectors like agriculture. As a result of low income women are failing to access basic resources that are necessary for their livelihood (Rubery and KouKiadaKi, 2016).
A low percentage of women have accessed tertiary education in Zimbabwe. As a result a larger percentage tends to occupy lower level jobs. These come with low pay as compared to men. Therefore they tend to take second in terms of financial muscle. They also tend to fail to access resources that would need money to acquire them. This is the case with many women in the country who are confined to social duties of caring for the children (Schwab and Sala-i-Martín, 2017).
Overally women in Zimbabwe have difficulties in accessing resources and opportunities. They tend to have limited land ownership, relatively little control over their income, limited access to financial resources and external credit and, therefore, insufficient cash flow to purchase agricultural inputs or to expand their businesses. They are also at a disadvantage to enter such business ventures like mining, among many where capital injection is huge.
In curbing this problem the government has launched the Zimbabwe Women Micro-finance Bank (ZWMB) on the 25th of June 2018, mandated with giving women increased access to finance. This was a result of the realization that women have been marginalized in the access to credit that they needed for their business ventures (Government of Zimbabwe, 2018). However men still benefit more than women in terms of access to credit, as the ZWMB has a desk for men. It also allows men to borrow in partnership with women.
In that regard Zimbabwe should promote gender equality and women’s economic empowerment and financial inclusion. Various measures, policies and support mechanisms should continually be implemented to elevate the status of women, men, girls and boys in line with domestic commitments, international obligations under the Sustainable Development Goals.
Government of Zimbabwe (2018). Financial Sector Report. Harare.
Jaka, H. and Shava, E. (2018). Resilient rural women’s livelihoods for poverty alleviation and economic empowerment in semi-arid regions of Zimbabwe. Journal of disaster risk studies, 10(1): 524.
Muchetu, R. G. and Moyo, S. (2018). Agricultural land-delivery systems in Zimbabwe: A review of four decades. African Study Monographs, Suppl. 57: 65–94.
Rubery, J. and KouKiadaKi, A. (2016). Closing the gender pay gap: A review of the issues, policy mechanisms and international evidence. International Labour Organisation. Geneva.
Schwab, K. and Sala-i-Martín, X. (2017). The Global Competitiveness Report 2015–2016. World Economic Forum. Geneva.
WanaGopa – NyawakanMiller, G.T. and Spoolman, S. (2011). Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions (17th ed). Belmont, CA: Brooks-Cole. https://masvingomirror.com