The National Development Strategy’s (NDS1) fight for women’s inclusion
By Abigail Han and Miles Huntley-Fenner
It should come as no surprise that the women of Zimbabwe face a unique set of gender-based challenges that can make life extremely challenging.
One in four girls aged 15-19 is married, making secondary education difficult or merely impossible to attain. Lack of access to maternal health is another by-product of the hurdles women face. Maternal mortality affects 581 out of every 100,000 live births, and young women are twice more likely to be affected by HIV and AIDS than young men and boys. Additionally, women and girls face extensive spousal abuse and gender-based violence.
Thankfully, the Zimbabwean government has made plans to change these statistics for the future through the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1). Included in this plan are the many hurdles women face today including their limited access to finance, limited access to land and freehold property, limited opportunities to influence policy, and legal, cultural, and patriarchal barriers. This proposal is planned to bring gender equality through gender mainstreaming until the year 2025.
Many of the strategies and programs that are included in the NDS1 include:
The Youth and Women Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity for All Program, Promoting Women into Positions of Influence, Promoting Equality at all Levels of Society, Advancing Women Political Representation, Youth and Women Advocacy Initiatives, Enhancing Access to Financing for Women in Business, the introduction of old age and children grants, women and youth empowerment programmes, and market linkage programmes for empowerment interventions.
Gender equality carries numerous economic and social benefits that help people of all genders in Zimbabwe, especially women. 52% of the Zimbabwe population consists of women and girls, many of whom are limited in their ability to access education, influence policy, and own land. As a result, women are a largely untapped source of economic potential. With gender equality, Zimbabwe would see a greater influx of educated workers, policymakers, and landowners who can contribute to the national economy.
In an economic study done by Esther Duflo on the representation of women in India, she concluded that the long-term effect of having more women in positions of power as policymakers, lead to an increase in goals and ambitions of the young girls in the villages. The short-term effects of having more women as policy makers also included that there was an increase in investment in public goods such as water wells. It is crucial to have more leaders who are representative of the population that they are serving.
While NDS1 is a step in the right direction towards gender mainstreaming, its lofty goals risk failing to be met in the absence of a specific strategy. Achieving gender equality is a monumental task, and requires not just optimism, but specific and actionable policy, for instance, curtailing discrimination against widowed women who struggle to maintain control of their property.