A timeless African nugget of wisdom teach that ‘when elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.’ This best describes the situation of women in Zimbabwe at the moment due to the ever escalating socio-economic crisis in the country.
As Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), we note with bleeding hearts that it is women who are bearing the burden of a collapsing economy. To put things into perspective, there is shortage of medicine in the hospitals, doctors are on strike, persistent fuel and cash shortages, water rationing and power cuts. Prices of basic commodities have skyrocketed and the cost of living is now beyond the reach of many. In all this real incomes have remained static.
Basic commodities like sugar, bread, salt, cooking oil, meat and mealie meal have gone up by up to 400% in the last 4 months. The mobile and electronic money 2% tax has added to the hardships facing women. As the first term of school opened, women were once at the fore of struggling to provide for children to go to school. Fees for schools have gone up along with stationery and uniforms. The face and carrier of all this gross suffering facing society is the woman. This is double tragedy given the burden of gender roles and patriarchy which women already carry.
It is in this context that we as WALPE join the loud calls by other civil society organizations and the church for a national dialogue to resolve the challenges facing the country. We believe that engagement and sincere talking is the best foot forward for the country. Politicians on both sides of the divide must know that it was women who constituted the majority of voters in the last election.
Women under the current circumstances will not find time to effectively occupy leadership positions when they are preoccupied with basic bread and butter issues. The current crisis further alienates women from actively and freely contesting for public elected positions.
The national dialogue we are calling for must be premised in bringing all voice to the table more so that of women. Women bear the brunt of economic failure and their voices need to be heard loudest in resolving the national challenges. The time for political bickering and grandstanding is over, we demand that dialogue commence now before a total implosion. Women have suffered enough and the time to address the impasse is nigh. The time to find each other and chart a shared and inclusive future is now!