|Zimbabwe: Supporting Economic Recovery by Empowering Women and Youth in Business|
|Sunday, 30 October 2011 00:00|
Selling her goods at the Zimbabwe Market Fair, Mrs. Viola Mweembe, a member of a women’s group in the rural town of Binga cannot conceal her joy at being finally able to display her goods at the country’s capital, Harare, seeing it as a major breakthrough for their fledging handicraft business.
“This market centre is good for us because it is linking us with more customers and we will get better value for our products, increasing our income,” she says, adding the next move is to explore a regional and eventually, international market.
Echoing a similar view, Mrs. Mildred Mangwendeza, a businesswoman specialising in kitchenware “with an ethnic touch” wants to access the market in Harare, a city “that never sleeps”.
The two women were among 134 businesspeople from all parts of the country who took part in the Zimbabwe Market Fair, held from October 28-30, 2011 in Harare. Organised by the, Kunzwana Women’s Association, an NGO that works with marginalised women, children and the youth on commercial farms and adjacent resettlement areas, and Empretec Zimbabwe, another NGO established in 1992 to develop entrepreneurship in the country, the fair was supported by the Government of Zimbabwe, UN Women and UNDP.
In the words of UNDP Country Director, Christine Umutoni the fair was meant to provide a vibrant space where shoppers in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare can buy quality products from women and youth in Zimbabwe. “A place for business to be made, but also for people to meet across the country, products and cultures to be exhibited, a place for networking and inspiration for the sellers – and for the rest of us, a place to shop!”
Being a one stop shopping—and talking centre—the fair seeks to create a continuous, sustainable and locally led market that will empower women and youth through facilitating their market access and strengthening their capacity to create value-addition.
In an inspiring speech, chief guest at the fair, Dr. Olivia Muchena, the Minister for Women Affairs Gender and Community Development, urged participants not to despise what she termed as small beginnings. “We want women to be taken seriously” she said, adding that, in an increasingly competitive global market place, local businesspeople have to identify “what is uniquely Zimbabwean and which we can market and sell to the whole world.”
On the surface, it seemed like a women’s affair but businessmen also turned out in large numbers to market their merchandise, ensuring gender equality—of sorts. “We appreciate the realisation by UN Women and UNDP that such a fair goes a long way in eradicating poverty in Zimbabwe and achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” stated Dr. Emmie Wade, the Executive Director of Kunzwana Women’s Association.
Recalling that globally 50 % of women are engaged in vulnerable jobs that pay meagre wages, UN Women Program Manager in Zimbabwe , Hodan Addou, said there’s need “to draw attention to the contribution that women make to support economic growth and development.” The fair, she explained, was part of the women economic empowerment project that UN Women is implementing under the Gender Support Programme, with funding from European Commission, DFID and DANIDA. “I wish you success in the market fair and hope that you will make a lot of money,” she said.
For years, making money has been a mean business in Zimbabwe. The economy is recovering from a decade of several challenges including negative growth rates of -10% in 2008, cumulative budget deficits and massive devaluation of the currency as well as hyperinflation, “with the official inflation reaching 231 million % and monthly inflation at 1800 % in July 2008,” according to report in the Zimbabwe Medium Term Plan 2011-2015, a Government development blueprint.
But a slew of Government policy intervention measures including the Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP) in 2009 and the launch in July 2011 of the Medium Term Plan have led to a rebound in the economy, with a projected growth of 9.3 % in 2011 and inflation at the single digit territory of below 4 %.
However, in the best—and worst—of times, the UN has remained a key development partner, and in the last one year alone, mobilised an estimated USD 400 million in support of the Government’s various development efforts. UN support is focussed on all three pillars of sustainable development namely economic growth, social development and environmental quality. Meanwhile, the United Nations Country Team and the Government recently signed the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (ZUNDAF) for the 2012-2015 period, setting the development agenda in the years ahead.
By creating a platform whereby beneficiaries of the market fair can gain practical experience, organisers of the event hope it will continue on a regular basis and attain regional and international recognition, after gaining a foothold in the main urban centres of Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare.
The inter-agency collaboration, coupled with the Government support and involvement of the private sector as well as NGOs was a harbinger of good things to come as the country pursues its development agenda. For instance, with UN WOMEN and UNDP support, each of the participants went through a pre and post market fair training, aimed at enhancing their capacity to exhibit and interact with customers. The training also covered entrepreneurship, costing and pricing, quality control among other key related areas.The training results were evident as the women tried to implement what they had learnt with respect to labeling their products, pricing and display.
In addition, as co-chair of the the Economic Livelihoods, Infrastructure and Institutional Capacity Building (LICCI), IOM became involved in conceptualization of the fair and its organization. The agency also provided sponsor ship to three women’s groups who had been trained and assisted with start-up tool kits in a skills training project between 2009 and 2010. These women’s groups specialize in interior decor, arts & crafts, and Batik trade.
Other organisations involved in the fair were, International Rescue Committee, Solidarites International, Caritas, TAAF Zimbabwe, ZIMTrade, ZUBU, Zimtrade, Zvishavane Water Project, the Gender Support Programme and Harare City Council.
For more details on the Market Fair, refer to this link: http://zimbabwemarketfair.blogspot.com/
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