Auxilia Katongomara Bulawayo Bureau
FIRST Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday said chiefs’ spouses needed to be supported to adequately play the critical role of buttressing the work of chiefs in the country. She said traditional leadership was important in the country and Government made sure that there were laws to guide the work of chiefs, which made them custodians of culture, heritage, minerals, allocation of rural lands and ensuring no one died of hunger in communities.
The First Lady said this in a speech read on her behalf by Deputy Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Jennifer Mhlanga.
The event was the First Lady’s interface with the chiefs’ wives from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in Bulawayo.
“Statistics show that almost 80 percent of our people stay in rural areas,” said the First Lady.
“Without you as helpers, our chiefs cannot manage alone. This, therefore, means that you are a very special group as you stand day in and day out helping our chiefs to care for the communities.
“Let me encourage you to continue doing good in helping our chiefs to look after their constituencies.”
The First Lady said her office, together with her philanthropic organisation, the Angel of Hope Foundation, were carrying out humanitarian activities in the country.
She said she was looking forward to joining hands with the chiefs’ wives to work on improving the people’s lives.
“Today, I am calling upon you all chiefs’ wives to take it upon yourselves to work for the development of your communities,” said the First Lady.
“I am available to work with you, sharing ideas and linking with Government departments and also organisations that complement Government developmental work.”
The First Lady encouraged women and girls to go for cancer screening.
“The challenge with cancer is that you can live your life without knowing you are affected, hence my continuous call for all women to be screened,” she said.
“I have a mobile clinic which travels around the country offering free screening services to help reduce loss of lives to cancer, especially cervical and breast cancers.
“I am also focused on our girl child, ensuring that she has equal opportunities with her boy counterpart in all spheres of life. Let’s encourage our girls to complete their education and keep discouraging them from early marriages and pregnancies which destroy their future.”
The First Lady spoke against gender-based violence.
“Our girl child has many obstacles ranging from non-completion of higher education, being used to appease avenging spirits, being married off to very old men against their wishes and many more,” she said.
“Also, we have some of our people who have disabilities and in need of our help in society and I am offering assistance to them all.”
Bulawayo Minister for Provincial Affairs Judith Ncube said the importance of women in a given society cannot be over emphasised.
“I am very confident that this gathering, a first of its kind, will contribute significantly to gender equality and women empowerment in the rural areas,” she said.
“As a nation, we need to create opportunities to unlock women’s potential to exploit both social and economic circles.”
Cde Ncube thanked the First Lady for her concern for the people of Zimbabwe.
Police Commissioner Charity Charamba also encouraged women to report cases of abuse. Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank chief executive Mrs Mandas Marikanda implored women to apply for loans and to venture into castor bean farming. The chiefs’ wives asked questions regarding their welfare after spousal deaths, challenges they encounter in their societies such as water problems and need for support in awareness campaigns.
Chiefs from Matabeleland accompanied their wives to the meeting which was also graced by Ambassador Mary Mubi and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Cde Tsitsi Gezi.