The New Monetary Policy has Dire Implications on Gender and Women’s Rights in Zimbabwe

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The Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), after deliberating on the Impacts of the new monetary policy on women in Zimbabwe, is imploring Government to reconsider its new tax regime as this will increase more burden on citizens. While the pros of the tax regime have been well-rehearsed, the reality is that the tax rate is grossly unreasonable and introduces a heavy financial burden on already overtaxed citizens. Given the severe cash shortages obtaining in the country, citizens are already struggling with the use of electronic money to pay for all their basic commodities on a daily basis. For them to have two percent deducted on each of all those transactions is overstretching, especially for women. The State cannot impose a tax policy which in addition to overburdening citizens, does not consider the unequal gender power relations in society, where women are overrepresented among the poor and among those that hold low paid jobs.

It is therefore against this background that WCoZ urges the Minister of Finance to address the country’s economic situation in a way that does not increase cost of living on citizens. Instead of overlooking its own bias, WCoZ insists that government assess and take due cognizance of how the tax policy is and will adversely affect the lives of women and citizens in general.

Loss of women’s income will inflict untold suffering upon children and cause families to remain in the poverty trap. As commodity and food prices increase, women will find it increasingly difficult to put food on the table. Their situation is made more difficult with the lack of steady injection of capital into much-needed social services. The health delivery system is of no exception. The unprecedented surge in drug shortages, exorbitant prices charged in US Dollars and suspended medical aid schemes is endangering the lives of women and a host of other citizens. Birth control pills have skyrocketed from $3 to $20. What does this mean for women and girls? To turn a blind eye to these harsh realities would be a travesty of justice.

Thousands of women informal traders and women-run enterprises in agribusiness such as poultry, the main beneficiaries of microcredit, are losing their livelihoods as banking institutions have started cutting microfinance lending because of the impact of the monetary policy on parallel market rates and inflation. This does not at all reciprocate with the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra. WCoZ calls upon Government in its policy responses to the country’s economic meltdown to focus on the role of women as economic agents. It is smart economics to invest more in women’s earning power so that we do not have the familiar trend of women and girls suffering disproportionately during times of economic crisis. In light of the serious implications of the tax regime on not only women but on all common persons and enterprises, WCoZ calls for the 2% tax on all transactions above $10 to be rescinded.

While the government’s power to impose tax serves an important purpose: to raise revenue, such policies should take into consideration the different needs of society and reflect on gender sensitivity. It is not just about how much revenue will be raised, it is about how the revenue is raised. WCoZ recommends the government to review and modify this policy in line with the constitution and with the full and equal participation of women, from a gender perspective with respect to the impact particularly on the women of Zimbabwe.