Millions around the world observed International Women’s Day, Friday, this year running under the theme, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.”
Zimbabwe marked the day in Gokwe, in the Midlands Province.
In a tweet published on his official account, President Emmerson Mnangagwa wrote “we continue to work towards full equality and further empowerment for girls and women in the new Zimbabwe.”
The country’s Women’s Affairs Minister, Sithembiso Nyoni who attended the Gokwe festivities, said the government was making good on its commitment to empower women. Nyoni, who also serves as legislator for Nkayi North, attributed much of the progress to the country’s First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa.
“Our first lady is very committed to the girl child and I’m sure you have seen that with her trust, Angel of Hope, she has taken the girl child very seriously,” said Nyoni. “For your own information, most rural schools, secondary schools, have a higher enrollment of girls than boys. Girls are getting more educated. At the UZ (University of Zimbabwe) as I speak, the enrollment is more females than males. So something is happening to the girl child. They are getting awareness,” she stressed.
Nyoni further applauded the government’s efforts to empower women by placing them in powerful positions such as the ministry of information and defense, and also previous high level posts like vice president. She outside government and politics, women have also found opportunities.
“We now have women in business, who are running very lucrative and very big businesses, women that are CEOs of big companies, like Econet. Econet has a woman CEO that’s a big company, and in the judiciary, you find in Zimbabwe we have a 50/50. So we have made inroads,” Nyoni said, adding, however that “its not enough, we are fighting for a 50/50, but its better, let’s celebrate the steps we have taken.”
Deputy chairperson Budha-Masara of the Zimbabwe Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, however downplayed the claims of progress for women in Zimbabwe. The member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa, said government claims that it has created opportunities for women are mostly rhetoric, with little action.
“The government is talking too much about the women empowerment – women empowerment programs,” said Budha-Masara. “The Women’s Bank was established but there is nothing tangible in terms of resources that are being allocated to the women’s projects, regardless of whichever political parties that you are aligned to.”
Budha-Masara also criticized the government’s inability to protect women against violence.
Her comments reflected those of MDC leader Nelson Chamisa who in a tweet posted on his personal account honoring women for their achievements, also chasticized the government for failing to protect them human rights.
“In Zimbabwe, horrific crimes against women, including rape are common,” wrote Chamisa. Our new Zimbabwe will end the impunity behind these gender atrocities.
In observance of the day, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutterrez issued a plea for more support for women.
"Let’s make sure women and girls can shape the policies, services and infrastructure that impact all our lives. And let’s support women and girls who are breaking down barriers to create a better world for everyone."