We join the world in celebrating International Day of Rural Women, which is running under the theme, “Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All.” The theme highlights the contribution of all rural women and girls, who make up on average, upwards of 40 percent of agricultural labour in developing nations. They prepare fields, harvest the crops, are involved in processing and preparation of the food grains, and distribution, and yet food security for them remains a challenge, due to unequal economic power relations.
Empowering women is essential to the health and social development of families, communities and countries. It is an indisputable fact that when women are granted more opportunities, they and the communities they hail from thrive in a sustained manner.
In Zimbabwe, our women folk in the rural areas are the biggest demographic, yet there is negligible attention paid to their empowerment.
Since the early 1960s when migrant labour was introduced in the wake of the mining boom in South Africa, many women have held fort in family units in the absence of their spouses, carrying the financial and social burdens single-handedly. The war of liberation in the 1970s equally brought with it the added burden of absent male folk in communities, at times never to be seen again. In the 1980s, following Independence, rural women at times would be left at the communal areas, whilst males sought employment in the cities. The scourge of HIV/AIDS in late 1980s and 1990s left elderly grandmothers having to fend for grandchildren. The harsh economic environment brought by company closures in the 2000s saw many able bodied young people leaving for the diaspora, again leaving their children with their elderly mothers in the rural areas.
Yet despite playing such critical roles in the country’s history, these are people whose needs are only taken care of by occasional food and agricultural input assistance. There can be no doubt that more can and should be done to not only cater for their welfare needs, but also by way of transforming their communities to empower them in a sustainable manner.
We as an organization are currently running programmes such as the Transformative Feminist Leadership Training in various districts of the country as part of our contribution in removing physical and psychological barriers that stand in the way of rural women so that they can take on greater roles in society.
VISET is also implementing Unpaid Care and Domestic Work (UCDW) training sessions and research to ensure that care duties are distributed equally, without the burden falling squarely on women.
We are grateful for the assistance and cooperation of our partners, government ministries such as Ministry of Women Affairs, Small to Medium Enterprise Development, Ministry of Public Service and Social Welfare, and local authorities, who are key players in our implementation matrix.
Together, we are confident that the lives of rural women will be transformed for the better!