ZIMBABWE: RWA Zimbabwe National Meeting Report

RWA Zimbabwe held its 7th National meeting which brought together 4 000 rural women members from across the country. This was the first in person National Meeting to take place following two years of Covid-19 restrictions against public gatherings. From 24 to 25 August rural women from all walks of life converged at Somvubu High School, situated in the Inyati district in Matabeleland, North Province of Zimbabwe. Alongside the rural women were a pool of government officials from Ministries of Women Affairs, Lands and Agriculture, Local Government, Inyati Rural District Council, Councillors, Chiefs and Headmen, village heads, rural women from 7 SADC countries (South Africa, Swaziland, Malawi, Namibia, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Zambia), the District Administrator, Women and Land officials and the Board, Development  partners  (Liechtenstein Development Services) and women and men from the neighbouring wards.

The 2022 national meeting\’s theme was Rebuilding Rural Women\’s Livelihoods and resilience through sharing of alternatives during and post disasters. Zimbabwe like any other country was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and rural women bore the brunt of this, mostly due to their gender triple roles. The theme provided a space for women to share their experiences, alternatives during and after the disaster as well as a platform for them to relax and refresh away from their homes.

The first day of the meeting focused on connecting and getting updates from members from all the districts, this was accompanied by drama performances, poems, dancing and singing as women felt that this was their safe place to express their joy and happiness. During the afternoon session RWA members were split to join focussed group discussions on four key areas: The implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants Rural Areas (UNDROP), Gender Based Violence (GBV), Feminist School and Liquid Fertiliser Making.  Members were encouraged to join at least two groups so that they have an appreciation of at least two of the discussions.

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In the UNDROP group the discussion focused on  unpacking  all the articles  of UNDROP, women who make up most of the peasant farmers appreciated  the provisions of all the articles and knowing their rights as peasant farmers; from the GBV group, lot of issues came out  and one major reflection was that there are lot  unresolved cases of GBV and solution holders are not fully carrying out their duties, from the Feminist group members understood the feminist principles that were shared and appreciated the  need to push for gender equality to  challenge all the patriarchy and all the  women struggles, lastly women  also enjoyed learning how  to make organic liquid fertilizers. During the discussion it stood out that prices of farming inputs particularly fertilizers were going up every day, RWA members from regional countries also confirmed that this was not in Zimbabwe only, even in their respective countries they were experiencing the same. Members appreciated the knowledge they received and they all hoped that these organic fertilisers will be a better alternative to expensive fertilisers.

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The second day was the main day where the invited guests and government officials joined the meeting. The day started by touring of the 6-hectare irrigation where invited guests and regional sisters had opportunity to see some of the agroecology practices being done in the scheme.   After the tour all the guests and members converged to the main venue. This was followed by local RWA women presenting their different issues to the invited government officials and policy makers who were present. Below are some issues and demands which were raised:

  1. Women are facing a lot of land disputes – especially evictions after death of their spouses or after divorce
  2. Government must prioritise and increase access to land with water for rural women since they are the most producers of local food
  3. Governments must relax the restrictions on the movement of indigenous of seeds within and across the borders to promote growing of traditional seeds.
  4.  There is need for recognition as well as documentation of local knowledge for indigenous seeds and traditional foods while supporting agroecology
  5. Government must implement fully the UNDROP declaration
  6. Governments should improve addressing and resolving Gender based violence cases

In responding to issues of land disputes which were by some women, the Acting Secretary of the Zimbabwe Land Commission advised women to bring all their issues to them since it’s their duty to help in resolving land related disputes. However, he was also pleased with work that women are doing and their contribution to production of local food. All other demands were presented to representative of the Minister of Land and Agriculture who was the guest of honour. RWA Zimbabwe will be making follow ups regarding all the demands and issues which were raised.

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Apart from the main event there was farmers’ market which running. As it a norm that whenever rural women meet, they bring their produce for exhibition, selling as well as sharing, a farmers’ market was setup. Women brought variety of produce (fresh and dried vegetables, tubers, grains, variety of seeds, and variety of value-added products). All the products from farmers market were sold up on the second day of the meeting which was indication that women really support each other. Again, the farmers’ market also created an opportunity for learning, sharing and seed exchange as part of promoting growing of indigenous seeds.

The meeting ended on a positive note with the policy makers, government stakeholders, funding partners and RWA regional sisters congratulating RWA Zimbabwe for successfully hosting the 7th Annual Meeting which brought together lot of women from across all the district of the country. RWA Women also appreciated the quality they had spent together learning and sharing experiences.

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