WOMEN with business acumen have no reason to protest nowadays that they are being discriminated against when it comes to provision of finances to either start or expand their businesses and, in the process, uplift their living standards.
Instead of receiving complaints, the Government is being lauded for recognising women as partners in development, with the latest to do so coming from the Copperbelt and Southern Provinces where the Government has continued to disburse grants to enhance women’s productivity.
Unlike yesteryears when Zambian women bitterly complained, justifiably, that they were being discriminated against, today the
Government in particular is keen to ensure that the womenfolk are empowered.
Just like the youth who equally have slim chances of obtaining business loans from commercial banks, the womenfolk have become some of the major beneficiaries of empowerment funds which are occasionally disbursed to various women’s clubs by Government officials country-wide.
Only on Thursday last week, a Ndola-based women’s club called Tubombeshe and Women of Hope, received two brick-making machines worth K30,000 bought by the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.
A week earlier, 15 women’s clubs in Southern Province received more than K130,000 from the same ministry for the purpose of enhancing their productivity.
The development, which has been going on for quite some time, is a departure from what used to obtain years back when women were not considered a priority on matters of development and hence were deprived of funding, even bank loans, to enable them to do businesses of their own choice.
Of course, this was not common only here in Zambia but in many other countries. For this reason, the vast majority of the poor people world-wide were said to have been women, while equally much of the population’s illiterates were female.
Of the hundreds of thousands of school-age children not in school, girls were believed to have constituted the largest number. And today, HIV/AIDS is rapidly affecting more women than men. In several Southern African countries, more than three-quarters of all young people living with HIV are women, according to UNAIDS.
In situations of food price crisis, this is believed to have had a severe impact on women. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says around the world, millions of people eat two or three times a day, but a significant percentage of women eat only once.
Further, ILO says it is common for some women to deny themselves even that one meal to ensure that their children are feed. This has resulted in these women suffering from severe malnutrition.
It is generally accepted that women bear almost all responsibility for meeting basic needs of their families, yet they are systematically denied the resources, including information and freedom of action which they badly need to fulfill this responsibility.
Studies show that when women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits. Their families become healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase. In short, communities become more resilient.
The Government’s ongoing exercise of empowering women is therefore, commendable and shows how the authorities have come to acknowledge women as key agents of change.
And this realisation is an essential element in the country’s efforts to fight hunger and poverty. Women surely need to be financially supported so that they too can effectively build their capacity to do something productive for themselves and, in the process help better the lot of the Zambian citizenry.
Our hopes are high that women will equally be among major beneficiaries of the Government’s housing empowerment scheme as it recapitalises National Building Society which will be expected to provide affordable finance for housing purposes. OPINION