Women must rise, tell true story of Africa: First Lady

17 Oct, 2021 - 00:10 0 Views
Women must rise, tell true story of Africa: First Lady First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa address delegates while flanked by Dr Irina Abramova (right) and Anna Belyaeva (left) during the Third Eurasian Women’s Forum in St Petersburg, Russia on Friday. Picture: John Manzongo

The Sunday Mail

Tendai Rupapa in ST PETERSBURG, Russia

African women must arise and tell the true story of the African continent to correct media stereotypes that depict a continent of war, poverty, diseases and human rights abuses, including confronting challenges that lie ahead, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.

If women fail to arise, together with the children and generations to come, she said, Africa will be worse off than other continents.

Instead of committing space to highlighting positive issues about Africa, like its extensive mineral resource base, the media is hell-bent on writing misleading articles to scare away investors and retard the continent’s progress.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa talks to Dr Irina Abramova during the Third Eurasian Women’s Forum in St Petersburg, Russia on Friday. Picture: John Manzongo

However, international forums like the Eurasian Women’s Forum held in Russia, where the First Lady told delegates the continent’s true story, present an opportunity for Africans to tell their accounts with the benefit of credible facts.

The First Lady’s remarks come amid an open admission by some investors and development partners who attended the forum that they feared visiting Africa because of negative media reports.

But, the First Lady, who is also the vice president of the Organisation of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), implored African women to join hands, arise and tell Africa’s correct story.

Zimbabwe has not been spared the media onslaught as it was portrayed as a country with serious human rights abuses.

This is despite the fact that under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa, the country has initiated far reaching political and economic reforms and introduced the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.

The New Dispensation has also crafted investor-friendly policies.

The Third Eurasian Women’s Forum also presented an opportunity for women to discuss issues affecting them, share experiences and craft tangible solutions.

First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa talks to Ms Nadezda Pronina who was thrilled by Amai Mnangagwa’s empowerment initiatives to women, girls, disadvantaged and vulnerable people during the Third Eurasian Women’s Forum in St Petersburg, Russia on Friday. Picture: John Manzongo

Here, the First Lady met delegates from over 100 countries and this allowed for the cross-pollination of ideas.

In a wide-ranging speech, which left the business dialogue on the role of women in the integrated development of the African continent at the forum spellbound, the mother of the nation said the false and negative portrayal of Africa scuttled efforts to empower and develop the continent.

She added that the misrepresentation of facts about Africa in the media has affected partnerships among women around the globe, and this is a major cause for concern as it makes women remain behind even in things they have capacity to do.

Furthermore, Amai Mnangagwa said it was critical for women to further their education and implored those in positions of authority not to forget their peers who are behind to achieve meaningful growth in women empowerment.

Women record proceedings with their mobile phones during the Third Eurasian Women’s Forum in St Petersburg, Russia on Friday. Picture: John Manzongo

It was a first since 1980 for Zimbabwe to be represented at the forum and the historic appearance can be credited to the hard work and philanthropic efforts by the First Lady.

“Women who are in positions of power must not forget other women who are behind them. It is us women who should fight for each other. I am glad this forum has brought us from Africa, meaning that the forum is now growing bigger because there is a lot of involvement. We are saying all women should come in to ensure this forum grows to greater heights,” she said.

Amai Mnangagwa paid tribute to Russian President Vladimir Putin for exhibiting in his keynote address to the forum on Thursday that he knew challenges affecting women and acknowledged the significant role they play.

“I want to thank the President of this country, Vladimir Putin. What he said in his speech was about us women, how do we help women, expecting mothers, single parents, all women in general. What President Putin said cuts across all the continents, all the countries that women are there to work for their families. They are the backbone of the homes and after that given the opportunity, they can grow and they can bring peace, bring humanity and development from the family level because that is where it starts,” she said.

The First Lady, who back home is leading from the front in ensuring that women participate fully in various income-generating projects as part of her multi-pronged empowerment drive, chronicled to the forum the various projects she is undertaking for the benefit of the womenfolk.

“As First Lady of Zimbabwe, I am encouraging and assisting women in vulnerable circumstances to go back to school. Regardless of where they are, what they are involved in, I want to make sure they are all educated. I want to see all the women having bank accounts from what they are doing with their hands, not waiting for the husband to come and say ‘thank you very much you have brought me bread. Father, before you leave there is no salt’,” she said.

Dependence on men, the First Lady added, was triggering gender-based violence (GBV), resulting in challenges in marriages.

“There is a lot of disharmony in families because the moment the woman is not capable or given the opportunity to get educated and work for herself, that marriage has no future and the country and community cannot develop. This is why we are saying women must be educated and be given opportunities,” she said.

The First Lady said it was fundamental for women to take care of their health and that of their families, including reproductive health.

“Women must learn to say ‘no’ to what they can’t take. I am encouraging women to stand for themselves and to show that they are a people who can work for themselves and who can decide what they want in life. We have women, who because of situations, have become ladies of the night. I have taken those women on board and said to them this is a very old profession, leave it because it will bring a lot of diseases and problems.

“At a later stage, you will see that you have been destroyed. I want them to be educated so that they are able to fend for themselves and be a better people in the society. I have also advocated on health and diseases like non-communicable diseases (NCDs). You see our rural women, they are disadvantaged in terms of information, be it social media, it is not there, so I travel across the country talking to the women about their health and what they should know that concerns their lives.”

She decried the surge in deforestation and burning of grass, saying this would have a bearing on climate change.

“As women we should make sure that we put our minds together and I say forward ever with this forum for women where we can discuss,” she said.

Sharing the platform with the First Lady was Liberian Vice President Mrs Jewel Howard Taylor, who highlighted some of the achievements her country had made towards the advancement of women.

She encouraged young women and girls to aim for greater heights.

“Women can coalesce around each other on particular projects or particular issues that affect entire lives. They either make good and break barriers or against a force of evil. Women are usually forces for good,” she said.

She said women can be what they choose to be as long as they are focused and committed.

One of the panellists, Mrs Bineta Diop from Senegal, who is the African Union Commission envoy on women, peace and security, and attended the forum virtually, said women deserved honour as they played a significant role in all sectors including agriculture.

She said they advocated that women be given access to land and markets.

“Seventy percent in Africa are women and we are advocating for women to access land and international markets,” she said.

Commenting on culture in Africa, Mrs Diop commended the First Lady and the Liberian Vice President, who were clad in their African attires, for representing the continent well.

Amai Mnangagwa was resplendent in a beautiful dress made from Zimbabwe’s national fabric.

The special envoy for women said there was need to showcase African products on the international market.

Madam Anna Belyaeva, the executive director Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS), told the forum that working with women from Africa was an eye-opener, as what was peddled by the media did not match the reality on the ground.

“The objectives of our association are about coordination and steering our efforts in business moving towards Africa. From the perspective of women, I would say we must see to it that we arrange trade missions of Russian companies and also that we arrange different forums in such companies.

“But it’s rather a difficult challenge because our mass media cover the African continent in such a way that it’s fraught with awful things like conflict. But after visiting the African continent for the first time, I keep telling Russian women they should do that and it’s not the way its covered by mass media,” she said.

Madam Belyaeva said contrary to the media reports, Africa had vast opportunities for growth and development.

The South African United Business
Confederation commended Zimbabwe for establishing one of the most vibrant women’s banks, the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank, saying this was key in empowering women.

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