By JULIUS PHIRI –
MICRO enterprise development is a powerful catalyst and a key ingredient in efforts to transform lives of the poor.
This on one hand enables the world’s poor to experience a dramatic increase in the standards of living including health and happiness.
The enterprising poor seek to provide a better life for their children by growing their own businesses and improve incomes.
The micro enterprises serve a vital purpose in improving the quality of life for people in developing countries.
Micro finance on the other hand, seeks to help micro enterprises by loaning small amounts of capital to these businesses.
This allows poor individuals or families to start their own businesses, earn income and benefit their communities.
For example, a woman in a developing country may use micro credit to get a loan and purchase a sewing machine.
However, women have the potential to change their own economic status, as well as that of the communities and countries in which they live.
Yet more often than not, women’s economic contributions go unrecognised and their work undervalued.
The women’s economic empowerment, that is, their capacity to bring about economic change for themselves, is increasingly viewed as the most important contributing factor to achieving equality between women and men.
But economically strengthening women who are half the world’s workforce is not only a means by which to spur economic growth but also a matter of advancing women’s human rights.
The bottom line about investing in women is that it helps speed up the development of local economies and creates more equitable societies.
Economic empowerment is the first step towards the social and political empowerment of women. As a result of that, women are succeeding as politicians, gaining their voice through leadership and participation.
The women’s impact on policy increases as governance systems become more inclusive, democratic and violence-free.
It must be noted that the International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s which was a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialised world. The period saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
It was during this time when oppression and inequality spurred women to become more vocal and activities in campaigning for change.
About 130 years ago, a woman named Clara Zektin who was the leader of the so called Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day.
This is a special day for celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and the future.
Recently, Daughters of Mary Immaculate (DMI) organised a colourful International Women’s Day activities at Chipata’s David Kaunda (DK) stadium to appreciate efforts aimed at honouring the role of women in society.
The festivities were held a week after the commemoration of international women’s day which is cerebrated every year on March 8.
In attendance was Vice-President Inonge Wina who saluted DMI for playing a pivotal role in transforming women’s lives through capacity building initiatives.
Speaking in a speech read on her behalf by Deputy Minister in the
Office of the Vice President Lawrence Sichalwe, Ms Wina said DMI Women’s World in Zambia was a source of inspiration to change women in terms of capacity building, promotion of livelihoods, entrepreneurship and other income generation programmes.
She said with the support from the local leaders and volunteers, DMI has so far reached out to 215 self-help groups and formed 25 children parliaments thereby bringing about a visible change among 3,000 women and children.
“These activities have led to enhanced leadership and management abilities and collective decision making for women in these groups,’’ she said.
Ms Wina expressed gratitude that 1,500 women have accessed micro credit loans and commenced micro enterprises which have contributed to an increase in their family income.
She said the need to promote women as change agents in the country still remains a serious programme for the Government. She said the signing of the amended Constitution by President Edgar Lungu early this year not only enhanced the governance of the country but it has also gone further to enshrine gender equality principles in support of the partnership between males and females.
“The Constitution under part 18, Article 231 calls for the establishment of the Gender Equality Commission. This is a step in the right direction because an enforcement mechanism for achieving gender equality has been placed at national, provincial and district levels,” Ms Wina said.
With regards to the political arena, Ms Wina said President Lungu has promised Zambians a female running mate during the August 11, general elections.
She said President Lungu has further re-affirmed that in the forthcoming elections, the Patriotic Front (PF) party will set aside 40 per cent of all elective positions for women. She said the target is to have 50:50 representation of men and women.
Ms Wina said this year’s International Women’s Day was encouraging everybody to make a pledge by taking steps to help achieve gender parity more quickly.
Speaking earlier, Chipata Catholic Diocese Bishop George Lungu said DMI shall continue to accelerate development programmes and income generating activities to the women folk through livelihood promotion and other empowerment programmes.
Bishop Lungu urged the women to continue participating fully in the programmes in order to bring about the positive change in their lives.
He said the church has a mission to be a guiding light in the world.
The prelate said the Catholic Church has always been hailed as a significant partner of the Government when it comes to addressing issues of social nature such as health and education.
Bishop Lungu commended the Government for its efforts to serve the people who voted for them.
“Our passionate desire as a church is to increase the pace of this race dubbed planet 50:50 by 2030 so that we step up gender equality,” he said.
Bishop Lungu further disclosed that Kilimanjaro Sisters of Minga have been given the responsibility to help deal with growing fatalities caused by cervical cancer. He said last year, the sisters targeted to reach at least 5,921 women for screening but only managed 1,728.
He said Minga Sisters had been given the coverage of 25,917 women in Nyimba and Petauke districts of Eastern Province.
Bishop Lungu said the reduction in budget allocation to the Ministry of Health has drastically reduced monthly grants to mission hospitals by about 30 per cent.
“For a long time now monthly grants to our health facilities have usually been so erratic and often not granted,” he said.
Sister Marie Rani from DMI urged all women and men of Chipata to work together in partnership in order to address the challenge of poverty, inequality and help their communities to transform and prosper.
She said through the medical camps conducted by DMI, 1,525 women were treated and referred for further checkups on various illnesses. “1,500 women have accessed micro credit loans and commenced micro enterprises thereby increasing their family income.
“Two hundred farmers’ families were trained in organic agriculture and usage of modern tools which has helped them to increase their land’s productivity and yield,” Sister Rani said.
DMI is also addressing essential needs such as access to clean water, primary health care, nutritious food, basic education, and vocational training.
More women and girls should have an education by going to school in order for them to access economic and political opportunities.
DMI has pledged to work with the poor, especially the marginalised women and children, to enable them enjoy the human values of love, justice, peace and equality through an empowerment and capacity building process.