Against all odds women vendors struggle under COVID-19 pandemic

By Nhau Mangirazi 

KAROI- COVID 19 pandemic has brought untold suffering to many, with women vendors paying the price to keep food on the table for their families.

In Karoi farming town, Ratidzai Mutero (39) is a breadwinner who carried a double edged sword on her shoulders after Government imposed restrictions under national COVID 19 last year.

Mutero went through the daily ritual of facing arrests and beatings from state security agencies.

She moved around with a satchel behind her back selling sweets, chocolates, boiled eggs among other items.

Women vendors in Karoi town and cities, played cat and mouse game with law enforcement agencies/.

Mutero said, ‘‘We had no proper travelling documents. We were assaulted and arrested several times. We were used to the beatings as passage to sell our wares. We could not report as we were operating illegally,’’

She explained that the COVID-19 pandemic is a life changing experience.

‘‘We faced many challenges when lockdown was imposed. There was reason for me to stay indoors as family wanted to be fed daily.’’ added Mutero.

Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Association (ZCIEA)’s Karoi territory president Florence Chakabvapasi agreed that their membership faced social and economic challenges during the COVID 19 pandemic lockdown period.

‘‘Our organization had limited resources to assist our membership due to financial constraints. We started with COVID 19 mitigation approach by distributing some sanitizers, gloves, and face masks membership countrywide,’’ said Chakabvapasi.

ZCIEA’s focus is on poverty alleviation in the informal sector.

It has a membership of 298 000 mostly women countrywide in 42 territories.

The Gender Commission of Zimbabwe (GCZ) said although the country made strides including enacting a constitution that gives right to dignity, personal security and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment (Section 51 and section 52), more needs to be done.

GCZ chairperson Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe said, ‘‘While these steps are indeed progressive and commendable, the Commission calls upon Government and other stakeholders to strengthen gender based violence response mechanisms such as access to justice, health and psycho-social support. We call upon survivors and the community at large to report all forms of gender based violence to the police and the commission for redress,’’   

Zimbabwe joined rest of the world in commemorating World International Day on 8 March under local theme Women’s rights to decision-making vital in the face against COVID-19 Pandemic.

Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) in partnership with Womankind, Women in Politics and Support Unit is implementing a Collective Action to Realize Equality (CARE), a feminist movement building in Zimbabwe project.

It aims at building on previous successes, shared expertise and experience to navigate the political landscape and strengthen the women’s movement.

‘‘The project aims at strengthening the women’s movement, making it more accountable to and inclusive of the women it seeks to serve. 

‘‘Taking cognizance that the COVID-19 situation has had negative implications on the rights and welfare of Zimbabwean citizens, women and the girl child in particular, this intervention will enable proactive responses in light of possible human rights violations at community level,’’ WCoZ statement.

Young Women Christian Association executive director Mucha Mukamuri said annual commemorations remain a ‘‘moment of reflection of the progress made towards the realization of equality among citizens,’’

Mukamuri said, ‘‘YWCA continues to raise awareness of the gender disparities that exist. We also call upon our leaders to seriously consider improving the budgetary provisions in order for the work of an equal community to be realized. Women are always victims of social and economic injustice,’’

Mutero is among several marginalized women communities yearning for social justice.