By Rumbidzayi Zinyuke
First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa has challenged young women to actively participate in economic activities that will uplift their lives while at the same time rebuilding the country’s economy towards an upper middle income economy status.
The First Lady, through her Angel of Hope Foundation, has been working hard to change the lives of girls, women, the vulnerable and those in marginalised communities by initiating various empowerment projects.
As she launched the Young Women for Economic Development, an apolitical initiative which seeks to empower young women in all sectors of the economy, the First Lady, in a speech read on her behalf by Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, said the programme will enable women to unleash their economic power and potential, which was critical in the country’s development.
“There are several ways to do this, chief amongst them being changing of economic policies, changing laws and changing attitudes and culture amongst the young women,” she said. “In this regard, we are able to achieve social empowerment which is when women are represented as evolved and worthy beings in the media, instead of in a regressive way.
“Economic empowerment comes about when they are treated as contributors in the same way as men are and paid accordingly without discrimination.”
Through Vision 2030, the New Dispensation has diversified the economy to involve women in critical sectors and high decision making positions.
The First Lady hailed the extension of the Proportional Representation, which gave 20 National Assembly seats to the youth, with 15 of them reserved for young women.
She said Proportional Representation MPs had enhanced President Mnangagwa’s vision on gender inclusivity and several policy changes favouring the girl-child and hence igniting a positive change in society through gender equality.
“The basic fundamental covenant which has made us all gather here on this day is that being a girl-child is a blessing,” she said. “I applaud the young women here in taking this initiative to voluntarily share ideas and objectify the need for participation in the rebuilding of our economy as we move towards an upper middle income economy.
“It is my hope that when we are old, these young women will take the baton and improve all that we are doing today. The youth are today and tomorrow’s leaders.”
Amai Mnangagwa expressed worry that women, particularly in third world countries, tended to be over-represented in less secure jobs such as informal, temporary or part time work.
“Globally, women also tend to be locked out of leadership positions where gender seems to matter more than ability. Women make up only five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs,” said the First Lady.
“They account for only 24 percent of senior management positions around the world, these numbers are fairly consistent across Asia, North America and here in Africa.”
First Lady reiterated the importance of education in bringing about equality in all spheres of life.
“The most crucial form of this endeavour towards economic development is educational empowerment because education is truly a leveller and it brings all on equal footing,” she said.
“When one is educated, it should not matter whether they are men or women as long as they get the job done and that is why education should not be denied to girls, which I am happy that you are working on empowering the girl-child through access to education and also helping out those who are facing financial challenges in getting education.”
Amai Mnangagwa said Government had made inroads in allowing a child who would have got pregnant while still in school to continue with classes and achieve their goals.
She said educated girls would become women with self-confidence, intellect and conscience that excel in every field and can also become heads of department and decision makers.
“Education is a great tool to empower women as it will bridge all other gaps in our society and we as a nation will prosper,” she said. “I urge you all ladies and gentlemen to encourage one another to participate in all our sectors of the economy and for us to embrace a gender sensitive society in which there is equality of all.”
Chairperson for Young Women for Economic Development Honourable Tatenda Mavetera said the initiative would target to uplift issues affecting women.
“We need to be able to advocate for women through gender inclusivity so that women can be included in terms of decision making,” she said. “We applaud the Second Republic for awarding 15 seats which are specific to young women in Parliament.
“We are able to be part of an agenda which aims to make sure that we stop child marriages and curb gender based violence. We understand and appreciate very well that as women we constitute 55 percent of the population therefore it is within us, for us to make sure that we are able to partake this and make sure that we are included in the key positions.”