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First Lady – A real Angel of Hope for rural women

“The empowered woman is powerful beyond measure and beautiful beyond description.” – Steve Maraboli
As the country joined the rest of the world in celebrating the International Women’s Day on Friday, rural women and girls in Zimbabwe were celebrating the milestones spearheaded by a woman who has embraced the need for inclusive development including women in such peripheral areas such as the Doma in Kanyemba and the San community in rural Plumtree.

Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa has been identified as a real Angel of Hope by women in rural areas through her empowerment programmes targeting to scale up investments in rural development, finance and agriculture, as well as to expand rural women’s access to, and ownership of, productive resources and land.

WOMEN AND INHERITANCE
The action-oriented First Lady has taken a leading role in conscientising women on inheritance issues which have for long become major challenge for women residing in rural communities who in most cases do not know what to do when it comes to managing their deceased husbands’ estate.

The First Lady, after realising how widows and orphans lose property after the death of their husbands and parents, initiated the programme to educate them on their rights.

She has roped in officials from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Master of the High Court, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Generations Executor Services and Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to help her raise awareness on inheritance issues.

The programme has been welcomed by rural women as an eye-opener.

“Inheritance issues have traditionally been identified as taboo (among women) in our community but now Amai and her legal team have come to give us confidence regarding management of the deceased estate. Amai is the kind of woman who really resonates well with our daily challenges”, said Ndanatsiwa Bondo of Mberengwa.

WOMEN AND ACCESS TO INFRASTRUCTURE
“We are grateful for the steps taken by Amai to advocate for critical infrastructure that eases the burden of rural women such as schools, clinics, boreholes and roads. She has been busy with taking care of the peripheral women and sourcing vital infrastructure that makes life bearable for the rural woman”, said Mavis Chakari , a member of the Women’s Coalition in Shurugwi.

Chirumanzu RDC chairperson Cllr Gladys Chivige said the culture of savings imparted by Amai Mnangagwa through the Mukando projects will leave a lasting impression.

“For the Chirumhanzu women, Amai Mnangagwa is a real Angel of Hope because we have been taught to save money and embark on communal projects that have already transformed our livelihoods. We now have vibrant chicken rearing projects and market gardening”, said Cllr Chivige.

With regards to education, Amai has the girl child at heart. She launched the “First Lady and the Girl Child” programme where she has been going around the country interfacing with students from Grade Six up to Form Six. The girl child is faced with a lot of pressures from different sectors of the society, from within the household to the community and society at large.

“As the civil society, we are excited to support the First Lady in campaigning for the girl child as she is more vulnerable. Not that we are to discriminate the boy child but special attention needs to be given to the girl child as the most disadvantaged children are girls.

“Our country can only attain an upper middle income economy status by 2030 if we invest more in the girl child. Early child marriages, teenage pregnancies, HIV and Aids infections and school dropouts are some of the challenges facing the girl child,” said Nyaradzo Mashayamombe of Tag A Life International.

Amai Mnangagwa’s campaign for cervical cancer awareness and treatment has resulted in more women especially in the rural areas getting the services for free and in their localities. Her cancer awareness campaigns across the country saw over 100 000 women undergoing cervical cancer screening last year.

“Amai’s cancer campaign has given us a lifetime chance to get cancer screening and treatment for free. The opening of a one-stop centre catering for all reproductive health checks at Gweru Provincial Hospital has given us an opportunity to improve women’s health at no cost,” said Nyasha Mahwende, a representative of people living with disabilities in the Midlands Province.

PERIOD POVERTY – MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE
Women, and particularly girls in the rural areas, are still facing a nightmare when they have to address their monthly menstrual periods. Government has removed import duty on sanitary pads, a move welcomed by women as the price of basic toiletries is now beyond the reach of many.

However, with the escalating cost of living, there are serious calls to avail sanitary wear at no cost especially for school-going rural girls as the current situation is affecting their confidence levels.

A female teacher at Chemudondo Primary School in Mberengwa says more girls face stigmatisation as they start their menstrual periods in primary school.

“Our girls often begin to lose confidence when they start their periods and the current trends show that the girls normally start their periods in Grade Five.

“As a result some may opt to absent themselves from school for those five days or week. I recommend that sanitary wear be provided for free in schools, mainly rural schools where the majority cannot afford it.”

The United Nations estimates that half of all women and girls in poor countries are forced to use rags, cloths, grass and paper during their periods since many can’t afford to buy sanitary products.

The foundation for equality has already been laid for the development of women and the girl child in Zimbabwe by the First Lady. It now calls for more support from Government and all stakeholders to support women as the nation seeks to improve rural development.

Source : The Herald

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