(AA) – While hundreds of millions of women marked the International Women’s Day across the world on Sunday, Zimbabwe’s women had nothing to celebrate.
They say the day has lost its luster as women continue to suffer, despite being the backbone of any successful society.
The day is celebrated this year under the theme “Make it Happen.”
Nevertheless, 29-year-old Loraine Phiri from Epworth, a densely populated and poor settlement in southeastern Zimbabwean capital Harare, feels otherwise.
“Over the years, I have learned to believe that the day is meant for the rich,” Lorraine, a mother of three boys, told The Anadolu Agency.
“One would not believe that the community is so poor that it has no electricity, piped water or even proper toilets, yet it is said to be in Harare,” she added.
Ironically, this was the place where the International Women’s Day was celebrated by a coalition of Zimbabwean women lobby groups on Sunday.
Lorraine dropped out of school. She had never been employed and relies on a paltry salary from her husband as well as proceeds from vegetable vending on a street corner in her area.
Lorraine’s husband – 36-year-old Bernard Phiri – is employed as a security guard in Harare’s Central Business District. His salary only covers key expenses, such as the rent of their small flat, food and the school fees of their children.
“I heard that some organizations were coming to Epworth today for the International Women’s Day, but what can I do?” she asked.
“I have to make a living and cannot waste time at all,” she added.
On the other side of the town, there is a posh community. Called Avondale, the community boasts a diverse population.
Rose Vambe, 41 and the mother of three children, lives in Avondale.
She is a popular fashion designer who runs a clothing company called Ashava Designs.
The company produces an assortment of clothes for both men and women, using African materials.
“The road has not been that smooth,” Rose, a single mother, said. “I used my pension to start the business, because banks could not believe in me and refused to give me a loan,” she added.
A marketing and computer science graduate, Rose worked for international financial services company Old Mutual for a number of years. However, in 1997, she resigned because she dreamed of starting her own business.
She said she could only get a loan from a Zimbabwean bank through help from her ex-husband.
“I had no collateral because all our properties were in my husband’s name,” she said.
Rose called on the Zimbabwean government to amend laws that deny women access to financial assistance.
It is the same for Lorraine, the mother of three from Epworth. She said she failed to access any financial assistance because her husband is too poor to own a house.
Rose said, however, that being single does not mean inability.
“Most women do not own properties and this becomes a major setback for them,” she said.
She added that her marriage broke up five years after starting her business because her husband felt insecure.
“I believe that women should be empowered through education,” Rose said. “Men also need to be educated to accept women who are professional,” she added.
Rose is one of a few people who were lucky to receive assistance from financial institutions, despite high interest rates.
She has been fortunate to be allowed to sell her wares at African Union gatherings across Zimbabwe.
In August of 2014, Rose made huge profits during an African Union gathering in Victoria Falls.
While the International Women’s Day advocates the empowerment of women, these women are treated as second-class citizens in this country.
This was a fact that spurred Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Grace Mugabe, to call for empowering women, including those selling tomatoes on the streets.
She lashed out on Friday at police for abusing women – most of whom are single mothers who fail to make ends meet.
“I urge police to stop it [the abuse of women],” the First Lady was quoted by local media as saying.
Rose says, however, that stopping the abuse of women alone will not do.
She says women should be taught to stop being used as political and sex tools.
“For as long as women are not taught to stop being used as political and sex tools by men, the International Women’s Day will be celebrated every year without any change,” she added.