GEAT leads poverty eradication fight in Harare
A broad representation of civil society organisations launched the first day of WSF2011’s Extended program, as Harare brought their message to the world.
Farmers unions, housing cooperatives, HIV/AIDS support groups, students and trade unions rallied around the call from Gender and Economic Alternatives Trust. GEAT Coordinator Tafadzwa Muropa highlighted that the key objective in Zimbabwe’s fight against poverty is the equal participation of women and men in formulation of the country’s economic policies.
The IMF/World Bank imposed their ESAP policies from the early 1990s which, according to Rita Nyampinga of ZCTU trade union congress, brought massive retrenchments across the country’s public and private sectors. Women continue to bear the brunt of harassment in the workplace from Harare’s municipal police, Chinese, Nigerian and other shop-owners, and even employers in civil society where vulnerable women were required to work until after 11pm. On these issues, NGOs and womens rights groups need to band together to test whether local and national loan agreements are sustainable.
The Extended group of WSF2011 learnt of GEAT’s efforts to bring three key political parties together since the elections in February 2009. After more than a decade of political and economic instability, there is still much rebuilding needed in the country’s economic and social fabric. Forced housing evictions from May 2005 were the target of the ZINAHCO housing cooperative association’s energies. Women’s voices were confined to the grassroots level in most housing cooperatives, with men dominating the cooperatives’ Boards and the highest level of decision making across the country.
Gertrude Ukomba on Thembinkosi highlighted the country’s dire unemployment levels as the greatest challenge facing women who live with the daily risk of HIV/AIDS. Together with Leyvinia Katshana of the Students Solidarity Trust, they highlighted that core cultural tendencies were at the heart of the Zimbabwe’s poverty.
’Of the 90,000 children that drop out of primary level of schooling in Zimbabwe each year, most are girls’, said Ms Katshana. ’The cultural tendency is to elevate the boy child at the expense of the girl child, and society finds it profitable to educate the boy, as he will carry on the family name, thereby compromising the country’s female education.’
Mastery of internet communications at this year’s World Social Forum means that Zimbabwe’s messages are brought to world attention. Understanding is generated in the common fight against poverty, and strength and support can be drawn from the broadest, and most unlikely, corners.
Representative of the farmers union (ZFU), Lilian Goliati reinforced the earlier message of ZINAHCO about lack of a women’s voice when decision making was concerned. ZFU drew encouragement at the village level, and the farmers have launched their own gender policy to tackle decision making processes at the level of the province and the Board. ’Launching a gender policy is one thing’ she said. ’The key challenge comes when the organisation tries to implement and adhere to that policy.’
There was broad agreement that recent actions by Harare City Council and the Ministry of Environment indicated a larger malaise. Women relied on the maize crops that the Council had destroyed in recent weeks. Demolition of wetland housing by the Ministry (for environmental reasons) meant that policy makers needed to be engaged, so that appropriate land could be provided for sustainable housing.
The struggle continues, with Tafadzwa, GEAT and all participants committed to an action programme to reclaim women’s economic and social rights in transitional Zimbabwe.
[Contact: GEAT Coordinator alternatives32 at yahoo.com for updates on the campaigns throughout 2011]
See online : Zimbabwean websites