GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa Conference Opens in Harare

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwashs | iZiviso Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Women parliamentarians, leading African women entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, and development partners from Africa are meeting in Harare over the next two days for the inauguration and launch of the GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa.

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The conference, being attended by approximately 300 participants, is aimed at providing a strategic political platform to accelerate game changing approaches to HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights responses for women and girls. The idea to create an Africa-specific GlobalPOWER Women Network stemmed fom a September 2010 meeting in Washington DC that saw prominent female decision makers come together alongside their US peers to discuss how to accelerate the implementation of the UNAIDS Agenda for Women and Girls.

Participants at the conference are expected to address the key issues affecting girls and women in Africa including eliminating new HIV infections among children, keeping mothers alive and maternal and child health. The meeting will result in the “Harare Call to Action” to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality through HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights responses.

President of the GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa and Zimbabwe Deputy Prime Minister, Thokozani Khupe said that women must take an active role in ensuring their empowerment.

“To achieve the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, it is critical to recognise women and girls as key agents in making this vision a reality – society has to invest in the health of women and girls,” Khupe said.

Addressing the conference, Zimbabwe President Robert Gabrial Mugabe said the launch of the network will take the issue of women’s emancipation and empowerment a step further.

Äfter the launch, the real work will begin and call for the same passion, unity of purpose and consistency in pursuing the goals which have characterized this Women’s Network thus far. Of particular note will be the challenge of giving unstinting support to women candidates of every hue and cry; of varying professional qualifications, driven by different talents and capabilities to realise their potential in the collaborative work of Global Power Women Network, the Africa Union and UNAIDS,”said Mugabe.

In Africa, women and girls carry a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic – they constitute 59 percent of all people living with the disease. To make matters worse, gender inequality compounded by gender-based vioence, increase women and girl’s risk of HIV infection.

Ëmpowering women and girls to protect themselves against HIV infection and gender-based violence is a non-negotiable in the AIDS response,”said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe.

Africa’s Quest for a Green Revolt

EARLY in the morning, Mary Kanyaire, 33, collects water and firewood, and then prepares a meal for her two school-going children before she heads out to the fields, approximately 3 kilometers away from her homestead.

Alone, under the hot sun, she weeds groundnuts in a sandy field with a hoe. Although she knows she will not get a good yield, she strives on, buckets of sweat pouring down her face. Continue reading

The Morality of Water

waterandsanitationPoverty, inequality and unequal power relationships are the main cause of the current global water and sanitation crisis, according to a paper titled “The human right to water and sanitation: benefits and limitations” which is contained in a UN report: The Right to Water – Current Situation and Future Challenges.

Despite the gravity of the situation, water and sanitation rarely make the headlines in the news media. The financial and human cost of the crisis is humongous.

“The global damage caused by diseases and productivity losses related to unclean water and poor sanitation is estimated at a staggering US 170 billion dollars per year with developing countries’ economies bearing the brunt of this burden. Sub-Saharan Africa alone loses 5 % of GDP or US 28,4 billion per year, a figure that exceeded total aid flow and debt relief into the region in 2003,” states the report.

Such a hemorrhage is clearly unacceptable, and for Sub-Saharan Africa it is clear that lack of access to water and sanitation is not only about health and development; it is an economic imperative. Continue reading

AIDS home-based care in Zimbabwe in dire need of support

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The HIV epidemic is shaking up Zimbabwe, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and the shock is being reflected in the collapse of the public health-care system.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2006 World Health Report, the African continent bears 24% of the global burden of disease but has only 3% of the global health-care workforce and 1% of the world’s financial resources.

The report identifies 57 countries that cannot meet a widely accepted basic standard for health-care coverage by physicians, nurses and midwives; 36 of these ‘critical countries’ are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The WHO estimates that it will take an additional 2.4 million physicians, nurses and midwives to meet current needs, along with an additional 1.9 million pharmacists, health aides, technicians and other auxiliary personnel.

In simple terms, the public health-care system can no longer accommodate the millions of ill people who require medical attention, care and support. Ironically, the money that is flowing into Zimbabwe to combat HIV has done little to resolve the problems of the poor and weakened public health systems – problems made worse by the ‘brain drain’ of qualified medical personnel.

Critically ill people, it seems, are being offloaded from the public health system onto the community. Increasingly, the burden of HIV care is being borne at the community level, particularly at the household level, where much of the care work and support costs for people living with HIV (PLHIV) are now being taken on. Continue reading

Zimbabwe’s Hungry Stomach Politics

In the run-up to the June presidential run-off elections in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe’s government banned the distribution of food to poor people by NGOs. The government accused NGOs of using food to campaign on behalf of the political opposition.

More than anything else the government ban on food distribution is a revelation of how much the stomach has influenced political developments in the country.

Zimbabwe is a nation-state that has been increasingly built on the politics of empty stomachs since it attained independence from British rule in 1980.

A combination of widespread rural poverty and a legacy of the liberation war have in many ways nourished President Robert Mugabe’s rule since 1980.

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Unity-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) has mastered the art of handing out Lazaric crumbs to the majority of the people, particularly in the rural areas, in exchange for political gain and control.

Continue reading

It’s so sad, as her death was avoidable

By Godsway Shumba

Guest Blogger

 

“Lord! Give me another chance. I want to live and look after my children. They are still very young.”

 

Vimbayi (not her real name) repeated this prayer for several nights during her last days. In spite of her desperate prayers, she died at the age of 28, leaving behind two children.

 

Perhaps the saddest part is that her death was avoidable if she had had the correct information and people to support her.

 

A relative of Vimbayi, I finally got a chance to see her five months after hearing of her failing health. By that time, she was very weak. I asked her husband whether she had been tested for tuberculosis. He handed me her medical records.

 

At first, I thought that this was a breach of confidentiality. Later, I realised time was running out and we needed to do our best from an informed position. In my community, before HIV/Aids, people easily shared medical records.

 

But the Aids stigma changed the way people share information about their health.

 

The records confirmed that two sputum tests for TB had produced negative results. Unlike her husband, I also realised that Vimbayi had tested positive for HIV. As someone who was working in the HIV/Aids field, I knew the meaning of phrases such as “patient referred to OI (Opportunistic Infection) Clinic” and “post-test counselling done and positive living discussed”.

 

Prophylaxis treatment had been prescribed but I could not see any signs of it. She told me she stopped taking it two months previously because there had been no improvement.

Continue reading

Is Fair Trade Simply Hype?

Imagine an elderly man toiling under the hot sun to weed a crop of cotton in a remote African village. When the crop is harvested, a middleman appears in the name of free market trade and purchases it at a ridiculously low price. Due to lack of information and access to markets, the poor farmer, like many others in his village, is left with little choice but to part with his crop.

 

Most likely, he will not be able to afford healthcare, or send his children to school, and all his sweat will go to fattening the purse of a huge conglomerate in the global north.

 

The conglomerate will process the cotton (or whatever product it is) into a good that the poor farmer can only dream of purchasing. In spite of all his toil, the poor farmer will live and die ragged, bequeathing his children a legacy of poverty.

 

With the Fair Trade label, an elderly farmer growing cocoa in Ghana is able to carry a sack of her beans to a certified shop where she knows the scales will be accurate and she will be paid for the full weight of her crop.

 

Through that system, she is guaranteed fair compensation, access to the market and potential demand for her product. Also, she has as much of a say as her male counterparts in decision making processes associated with the Fair Trade label in her community.

 

Thus, the Fair Trade label has improved the lives of people who produce goods, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, rice, flowers and more by putting a humane face to the global trade system.

 

Fair Trade is an alternative model that combines poverty alleviation and market based approaches to correct anomalies which exist in conventional free market trade. The system tips the balance in favour of poor producers, enabling them to become secure citizens of the global society and in control of their lives.

 

Through influencing socially oriented changes to trading systems of major businesses and governments, the Fair Trade label has significantly contributed to helping poor people escape the clutches of poverty through access to an equitable share of revenue.

 

According to Wikipedia, in 2006, Fair trade certified sales amounted to approximately US$2.3 billion worldwide, a 41 percent year-to-year increase. Approximately one and a half million disadvantaged producers worldwide benefited directly from fair trade while an additional five million benefited from fair trade funded infrastructure and community development projects.

 

Apart from fair compensation, the strengthening of community systems, gender equality and environmental protection through fair trade helps to build poor people’s self-sustenance and independence.

 

Contrarily, with free market trade, primary producers – often poor rural people – earn a negligible amount from the sell of their goods. Little attention is paid to the environmental impact of production processes or issues related to gender equality. As a result, statistics show approximately two billion people a third of humanity work hard to support themselves yet still struggle to survive on US$2 per day or less.

 

But through the Fair Trade certification system, poor producers and their families are able to earn respectable incomes which they can use to transform their lives. Also products obtained from poor people are competitively branded and marketed, which creates potential demand.

 

A key advantage is that the model is adaptable to different crops or products with the main goal being to create social capital essential for helping marginalized communities escape poverty.

 

With free market trade, huge conglomerates with access to lucrative world markets, mainly in the global north, benefit at the expense of poor people. On the world market, poor people’s toil is unseen as well-heeled customers jostle to purchase nicely packaged products that do not reflect the source of raw materials.

 

In a report titled “Tipping the Balance: The Fair Trade Foundation’s Vision for Transforming Trade 2008 -2012”, Fair Trade highlights how the label is increasingly gaining worldwide recognition.

 

“From being the preserve of a committed few, the Fair Trade Mark is now recognised by three out of five people, and appears on thousands of food, drink and clothing items as well as other goods. In this decade alone, the value of Fairtrade sales has grown more than tenfold reaching nearly 500 million in 2007,” states the report, which focuses on the label’s performance in the United Kingdom.

 

“Fairtrade is a response to failure of conventional trade to deliver a better deal to people in the poorer countries of the world. It has shown trade can be a powerful driver to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development if only it is clearly directed to those ends,” adds the report.

 

According to the report, in the Amazon rainforest straddling Bolivia, Brazil and Peru, among other projects in many parts of the world, the Free Trade label helps nearly 30,000 families earn a decent living from harvesting Brazil nuts.

 

“The fair and stable pricing and premium for investment at the heart of Fairtrade standards underpin sustainable development in these communities while protecting the precious natural resources of the rainforest,” states the report.

 

In addition, Fair Trade insists on democratically governed organizations in which men and women have an equal say on issues related to the use of the Fair Trade label premium.

 

This bottom-up approach has led to investments in health, education and small businesses, helping marginalized communities grow to their full potential.