MANICALAND women from all walks of life joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Women’s Day commemorations held at Hotsprings in Chimanimani West.
Not even the rains could stop the festivity after a short-lived but heavy downpour in the morning. Various women’s forums from as far as Chipinge, Buhera, Chimanimani and Marange attended the celebrations that were organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Lawyers Association (ZELA).
The fundamental objective of ZELA is to do research and advocacy on environmental law issues affecting the country, as well as steering empowerment initiatives for the benefit of communities in mining and farming areas where large corporates have ventures.
In attendance were women’s forums that ZELA has helped set up in different areas, encouraging women to come up with income generating projects to fend for their families. The women who address each other as ‘sisters’ spoke glowingly about ZELA and how its women empowerment initiatives had opened their eyes as women in the wake of the discovery of diamonds in Chiadzwa.
One of the women said there was high unemployment in the Marange area despite there being diamond fields where people from other areas are being employed in the mines.
“As locals we are therefore demanding for the redress of this when the consolidated diamond mining company starts operating, immediately taking the plight of locals as well as adopting a 50/50 approach when employing people. As women we feel we also need to benefit from the development in our area. At the same time we also demand equal pay rights with the man,” said one sister.
Sister Gladys Mavhusane from the Odzi catchment area bemoaned the effects of river pollution and how villagers lost their cattle with no compensation from the diamond mines“In Odzi some of us do not have livestock anymore because they died from the pollution of Odzi River by these diamond companies. We have not been compensated for the loss because there is no evidence as they did not respond quickly when this happened,” said sister Gladys.
She added that they used to sell baobab fruit in Mutare and make mats they sold to traders who resale in South Africa, but the trees where cut down to pave way for mining activities.
“The roads are now impassable because of damage from heavy duty mining trucks. We even have cases of women who gave birth on the way to clinics because of the bad roads and unavailability of public transport. Transport fares are also now expensive to Mutare due to bad states of road. “Imagine Harare to Mutare is $7 but we pay more than $10 from Marange to Mutare, which is less than half the distance to Harare.”
Gladys said some of the after effects women in Odzi were facing include infections such as uterus infection.
Speaking on behalf of Chipinge Rural District Council Karen Mudehwe encouraged women to advance their education to equally compete against male counterparts.
“Do not rush to get married, get an education because that is the only way men will not be-little you or take advantage of you. Also do not over rely on your husband’s because if anything is to happen to them you and your children will not have anything to fall back on. The new mines can offer you jobs but without proper qualifications you will not get them,” she said.
ZELA official Nyaradzo Mutonhori added that to educate a girl was to educate the whole nation. Save-Odzi Community Trust Mrs Rosemary Jena-Chibuwe said the formation of women’s forums has helped a lot since they can now help pay for school fees for the disadvantaged.
”Women have been disadvantaged for a long time. We had serious issues of school dropouts in our area, especially the girls. I am grateful I was chosen and sent to Malawi for training on how to run these forums and am now imparting the knowledge to other women. I thank ZELA for helping us celebrate a day like this where we can openly fight for and demand for our rights,” said Ms Jena-Chibuwe.
Some of the women relocated to ARDA Transau thanked ZELA for advocating the accommodation grievances but said paying for water was becoming burdensome with no income.
“When we were relocated we expected to have a better life. Instead we wish we could go back to Egypt. We are now paying for water yet in Bocha water was for free. We cannot even have gardens as the water bills become unmanageable, whilst the grazing land for our livestock is limited,” said one of the women.