On Saturday 27 April, the curtain came down on the 60th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair which ran under the theme: Propagating Industrial Growth through Trade and Investment. This year’s edition stimulated debate on various platforms in terms of its relevance with the current economic challenges facing the country as well as the participation of local businesses in the once famed international trade exhibition.

According to the Minister of Industry and Commerce Nqobizitha Ndlovu, exhibitors occupied 53 710 square meters and there were 808 exhibitions by local and international players. We noted that government departments and other quasi-government entities also exhibited. Our participation in the 60th edition of the ZITF was to see and understand what different players in the private sector, independent commissions and government departments where doing to improve the state of women.
Below are some of our observations:

  1. We visited the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission stand in Hall 4 and noted display of statistics on women representation in parliament as well as in local authorities. Out of 210 directly elected members of parliament, only 25 are women while women occupy 267 out of 1958 council seats across the 93 local authorities. With the 60 proportional representation seats for women coming to an end in 2023, efforts to increase women’s representation in parliament and in local authorities need to be escalated. Key stakeholders like ZEC and other Commissions should be in the forefront of these actions which should also see the tightening of legislation to compel political parties to aim for candidates lists that adhere to the 50-50 principle and to have certain constituencies being ring-fenced for female candidates.
  2. Still on election matters, we sent a tweet about how Bulawayo is set to lose about three constituencies if delimitation of electoral boundaries was to be done using the current voter registration figures. We noted that although there was voter registration at the ZITF, more still needs to be done to educate citizens about delimitation and the consequences of losing constituencies due to non-registration.
  3. The Zimbabwe Gender Commission was also at the ZITF. This was one of the very few outreach initiatives conducted by the commission especially in areas outside the capital. Citizens still have a vague understanding on the role of the Commission, its current work and what it has achieved so far. The commission should work collaboratively with women’s organizations across the country in order to reach out to women in marginalized and remote areas. Like ZEC, the Gender Commission has a duty to ensure that the representation of women in parliament increases.
  4. In terms of women’s economic empowerment, we visited different exhibition booths to understand how cooperates seek to reduce the economic gulf between men and women. We noted with concern that most banks were unable to share statistics in terms of which demographic group (between men and women) has had more access to loans and mortgages. It is common cause that women are lagging behind in terms of access to capital but banks and other finance institutions should have statistics ready to enable them to deliberately seek to reduce the disparities.
  5. We were encouraged, however, by some institutions who are contributing to the empowerment of women. Deserving particular mention is the Infrastructural Development Bank of Zimbabwe who have assisted women especially in Masvingo Province to access title deeds for their properties. Their efforts can be studied and replicated to deliver home and property ownership for more women. We also spoke to Home Link Finance who told us they work with women by nurturing their businesses and helping them fulfill their financial goal. They said they do tailor made loan facilities that empower women so as to achieve tangible results while offering flexible and affordable payment plans. Women in manufacturing, property development and mining should also need access to capital so they can compete with their male counterparts.
  6. We also had an interest in women’s health. We noticed that Angel of Hope Foundation had an ambulance that offered free cervical cancer screening. This was an important service to women at the trade fair but there is need to conduct awareness campaigns and services in rural areas to enable women in marginal places access to information about cervical cancer as well as the screening.

Source: Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD)