‘Poverty wears the face of rural women’
WOMEN activists have urged the government to continue looking into the plight of rural women.
Speaking on the eve of the International Day of Rural Women which was commemorated on Tuesday, October 15, they argued poverty wears the face of rural women.
Glanis Changachirere, whose organisation Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) works with rural women in Mashonaland Province, said that although women in general have peculiar challenges, these were more defined among rural women.
“Poverty wears the face of women, especially rural women,” Changachirere said. “Women in those areas lack access to information either because they can not afford radios, televisions and newspapers, or because the transmission is not good and newspapers follow highways.
“There is also the real issue that even if newspapers reach them they would opt to use the one dollar to buy relish.”
Changachirere said violence against women either of the domestic or political type was rife in the remote areas and it went unreported, as well as girls being married off at a tender age because the parents wanted “to have economic benefits” such as bride price at the expense of the girls’ education.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Vice-chairperson Grace Chirenje said the government had moved a stride forward in terms of policy frameworks, although these needed to be strengthened by action.
“The government has come up with a lot of policies to address the challenges,” Chirenje said, “but some of these policies have not translated into tangible benefits.
“For instance, although there are efforts to increase women representation in politics, representation of rural women remains very low. The economy is not doing well so the burden of labour in rural areas falls on women.
“However, there is a degree of consciousness that is growing on the cultural issues that affect women.”
The United Nations (UN) office in Zimbabwe said one of the challenges affecting women in rural areas was a high incidence of maternity mortality. The organisation said “home births are three times more common in rural areas compared to urban areas.”
Zimbabwe has one of the highest maternity mortality in the region pegged at 960 deaths per 100 000 live births.
A female medical practitioner and health activist, Dr Rutendo Bonde of the Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR), said the health nightmare for rural women that contributes to high maternal mortality was due to inadequacy of infrastructure and poor access to the facilities.
“Most of the peripheral centres are not manned by experienced health personnel,” Bonde said. “There is also shortage of midwives as these are concentrated in urban areas and central hospitals.” Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition