Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET) is part of a Steering Committee Working Group on Unpaid Care and Domestic Work (UCDW). The Working Group is convened by the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe in collaboration with Oxfam Zimbabwe. Other members of the Working Group includes PADARE, Shamwari Yemwanasikana, WALPE, Hope for a Child in Christ, Bekezela, Bethany to mention a few. Together with the organisations stated above, VISET recently participated in the Parliamentary Public Hearings conducted by the Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprises Development from 29th August to 02 September 2022 on Recognising Unpaid Care and Domestic Work.
The public hearings sought to find out the specific barriers that UCDW creates for sustainable development in Zimbabwe. The hearings, the first of their kind, provided a platform for the public to be able to explain to policymakers, how investing in quality, accessible and affordable public services and infrastructure in Zimbabwe can address unequal UCDW and unlock progress on multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The first port of call was Marondera, where participants spoke on the need for policies to be changed to ensure they recognise UCDW. Government at all levels was exhorted to support Gender Sensitive Budgeting. An improvement in social service delivery would see the lessening of UCDW burden as much time was being lost in queuing for essential needs such as potable water. The COVID-19 pandemic saw many women saddled with caring for family members, keeping them away from economic activities, and yet they were excluded from any cushioning mechanism. VISET Coordinator for Domboshava Mr. Mazhambe emphasised on the need to educate men on the challenges of UCDW and the need to alter some cultural norms that perpetuates suppression of women rights. Another VISET member Ms. Mary Nyadome proposed that as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, organisations doing work in communities must give back part of their proceeds and resources to support efforts towards UCDW.
The next stop was Mutare where Women’s Affairs, Community and SMEs Development Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Chairperson Hon Chido Madiwa emphasised comprehensive participation by participants. Solomon Chisoni, a VISET SOCHAMP based in Mutare, urged the Government to ensure there is modern infrastructure for players in the informal economy. As this will lessen the burden of care work for Women Informal Workers. He further called for the development of solid social protection systems that protect the vulnerable and ensure that they are protected against corrupt officials. The scourge of UCDW hits hardest people with disabilities. He also said that policies must be biased towards the disadvantaged and vulnerable. Financial inclusion is a tool to lessen the burden of UCDW. Women who get financial support have better chances of being productive even when they are playing the dual roles of UCDW and informal work. Drug abuse especially among young people came out strongly. There was also the added layer of burden to women who take care of young people who are falling sick because of dangerous drugs. A female participant called for policies that support the participation of women in governance and political processes.
Masvingo edition of the hearings saw participants urge government to construct infrastructure that caters for people with disabilities as a way of reducing the impact and burden of unpaid care work especially for informal economy workers. There was a call for social grants to women since they spend most of their time looking after children. These funds can be used to progressively change the lives of women at all levels. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare was urged to urgently address domestic worker salaries and women in the agricultural sector as they were at criminally low levels. Madida Madida, a human rights defender based in Masvingo lamented the lack of a comprehensive Social Protection System in Zimbabwe. He added that SDGs can only be met if unpaid care work is recognised and rewarded. He also called for the need to modernise health facilities, particularly in rural areas where the majority reside.
In Bulawayo, participants from Matabeleland North said people struggle to access basic health services and this has a heavy bearing on women who fail to do other productive initiatives as they focus on things that must be provided for by Central Government and Local Authorities. There was also a call for domestic workers to be recognised as key carers who are mostly underpaid, with no social security or compensation when injured at work. A student proposed a radical transformation of the education system so that it embraces the historical imbalances and pave way for tailor made interventions to support young people and women. The burden of taking care of the sick impacts on the level of productivity for women informal economy workers and the Finance Ministry through the National Budget was urged enact interventions to address this challenge at all levels.
The last stop of the public hearings was in Gweru where a call was made to put in place social grants that support the vulnerable, especially women. Participants also said that there was a connection between lack of social service delivery and the increase in unpaid care work. Women spend time on chores such as looking for water and firewood at the expense if engaging in productive work that improves their lives.
VISET acknowledges the support of Oxfam, fellow civic society organisations, its own membership countrywide and finally, the Parliament of Zimbabwe along with government ministries. The task ahead in addressing the issue of UCDW is too complex for any one entity to overcome on its own and will require the assistance of as many like minded entities as possible and to that regard, VISET, undertakes to play its part every step of the way!