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First Lady invited to global dialogue on climate change, women empowerment

Tendai Rupapa in MOSCOW, Russia

CLIMATE change, women empowerment and inclusivity dominated debate at the Third Ecumene Global Forum here, where First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa shone like a beacon as she chronicled the various initiatives she has made to uplift the status of women, the girl child and youths in Zimbabwe.

Dr Mnangagwa was invited by the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and chair of the All Russian Society for Nature Conservation to address a plenary session dubbed “Women and Sustainable Development” where she joined other environmentalists, women empowerment champions, philanthropists and sustainable development experts from many different countries.

Amai Mnangagwa is a champion of women economic empowerment who is not selective in her approach and has rolled out tangible programmes for the benefit of this key demographic group which has traditionally lagged behind in terms of economic status, education and various other aspects.

The forum is an influential platform that brings together international experts, representatives of scientific and business circles, public and private organisations to tackle issues affecting mankind.

It provides a unique opportunity to discuss key challenges of long-term sustainable development of the world economy and strengthen partnerships for joint implementation of projects.

Each year, the results of the forum’s intensive discussions are presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP).

Coming at a time when climate change has emerged as one of the biggest environmental challenges facing the world, through joint efforts and discussions at such platforms, the world will be able to reduce the effects.

An El Nino-induced drought due to climate change, has been forecast in Zimbabwe, therefore the conference comes at an opportune time for Zimbabwe which needs to bolster its mitigation measures.

Already, Dr Mnangagwa is working with communities in promoting the cultivation of traditional grains like sorghum, millet and rapoko which are drought resistant and are well-known for their high nutritional value and medicinal properties.

The fact that the First Lady has been invited to such an important forum speaks volumes about the confidence the world has in her and values her many social interventions, especially her hands-on approach.

The mother of the nation’s narration captured the imagination of guests at the forum who gave her a standing ovation as she left the stage.

“I wish to thank the UN Goodwill Ambassador and chair of the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation for inviting me to this auspicious occasion.

“It is my humble opinion that sustainable development can only be possible through the impartial distribution of assets for a shared, prosperous future. As we strive for social justice and equal opportunities, it is critical that everyone has a voice towards building resilient societies in the spirit of leaving no one and no place behind. In this regard, the empowerment of women is key to ensuring sustainable socio-economic growth and prosperity of both present and future populations,” she said.

Dr Mnangagwa chronicled strides that were also being made towards the advancement of women and youths.

“In our country we just came out of the elections which were held just last month and the President Dr ED Mnangagwa won resoundingly and what he did first is he immediately saw to it that women were involved in decision-making positions.

“We have seen him appointing women to ministerial positions and as deputy ministers because where there is no woman, there is no development as we know that women run households and provide good family care.

“Unfortunately, problems towards achieving sustainable development goals are sometimes hindered by the impact of diseases, pandemics and climate change. We have involved so many women in our country to be hands-on in what is happening and for them to know that they have the opportunity to work for their families, to work for the economic development of the country.

“As the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I have driven many projects and programmes that involve women like in agriculture to mitigate food security so that every family has to be secure in terms of food,” she said to applause.

The Government, Dr Mnangagwa said, has rolled out infrastructure development programmes like the construction of dams and introduced climate-proofed agriculture like the Pfumvudza/Intwasa so that they salvage something even under harsh climatic conditions.

“In our country, we are saying families should now divert to traditional grains that help mitigate climate change. The traditional grains are healthy. We are talking about youths as well.

“We are saying youths should have something to do because we are not leaving anyone behind. We we need to involve them and hear what they say and walk with them. We want to see development of the country, we are saying we are here to build our own country, we have to work for our own country and we have made some progress and we want children to grow knowing that they have to work.

Part of the delegates follow proceedings at the Ecumene Global Financial Forum which First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa addressed in Moscow, Russia

“We have this problem of drug abuse which is now rampant globally, therefore we need to educate our children on the dangers of drug and substance abuse and take them from the streets, make them busy and make sure that they have something that sustains them than loitering in the streets.

“I also do many programmes that see women involved like educating them on health issues that they have to know that they have a decision to make about their reproductive health,” she said.

Dr Mnangagwa also highlighted the various initiatives she is making in the health sector working with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to provide screening services even in the country’s hard-to-reach areas.

“I also advocate for screening of so many diseases like cancers because early diagnosis saves lives. Through my Angel of hope Foundation, I have a mobile bus clinic which conducts cancer screening which also involves men.

“In most cases, men do not want to come in the open, they do not want to discuss their health so we go to them with the mobile clinic and urge them to know their status, know where they stand and seek treatment if need be so that they live longer and look after their families together both parents being there.

“I am also involved in environmental issues where I have taken communities to plant trees and educating them not to cut them down and burn forests because this will have a huge impact on climate change. I am personally involved in the planting of trees with communities so as to motivate them.

“I am happy they have embraced the programme. I am also the wildlife ambassador where I speak candidly against poaching.

“Animals are there for our heritage, its our history. I go around the country bringing awareness to communities on wildlife behaviours to avoid human-wildlife conflict. In conclusion, women empowerment is important because once you empower women, you have empowered the nation,” she said to applause.

Vice president in charge of Scientific Research, Cooperation and International Relations at Cadi Ayyad University, Fatima-Zohra Iflahen, concurred with Dr Mnangagwa’s views and commended her presentation.

She is also a gender and development consultant with several organisations and associations.

“Economic women empowerment, as the First Lady of Zimbabwe Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa rightly expressed, is very important because without economic empowerment of women, you can not talk of progress. Women are at the heart of sustainable development.”

“I feel that without their recognising that women do have specific limitations and restrictions on them, drawbacks in their lives and impediments, we risk the implementation of policies of utter crisis or policies that in the long run further disadvantage women, that impede progress and that do not create targeted policies that deal with the specific needs of women and address their full potential. The global gender gap is everywhere in disfavour of women,” she said.

Under Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UNCCD Mr Ibrahim Thiaw echoed similar sentiments, saying filling the gender gap remains unfinished business in every corner of the world.

“This year we are organising the international community in support of women’s grand rights, more equality and more dignity in the world and in support of sustainable development. The hands of women have always shaped and nurtured life across our planet from the richest soils to the most barren lands yet the same hands often do not have access to the rights of the lands that they labour over,” he said.

The World, Mr Thiaw said, benefits from the hands of women but fails to recognise the benefits of their labour.

“Improving women’s access to productive resources such as land could increase agricultural output by up to 4 percent. Improving women’s land rights means enhancing food security and overall economic well-being. With equal access to land women could produce 20 to 30 percent of food leading to good health, nutrition and education for their families and communities.

“Investing in women’s equal access to land is not just an act of justice, it is an investment in our future, a commitment to the prosperity of our planet,” he said.

In Zimbabwe, Amai Mnangagwa is spearheading the Agric4she programme empowering women through farming.

She gives them inputs, chemicals and machinery so that they obtain high yields for food security.

President of the BRICS International Forum, Purnina Anand shared the same views saying the conference was critical for women as they were the drivers of social progress.

“The role of women in sustainable development and on the international arena and their voices need to be at the forefront. As we know that 46 percent of the world population consists of women and they participate in almost all areas of production, services and family support is important to shape our lives,” she said.

In a speech read on his behalf by the chair of the plenary session, Mr Maksim Sofonav, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the forum will this year be looking for answers to the most urgent issues, including the use of artificial intelligence and digital currencies, environmental disorder, reduction of biodiversity, and climate change.

“The state of the environment is one of the most pressing topics for the global community today.

“The search for solutions requires consolidated efforts to select the main focus for reducing the major risks and threats, as well as the exchange of knowledge and tools.

“I am confident that only through joint efforts we will be able to reduce the effects of global warming and preserve the Earth for future generations. I wish all of you interesting and productive meetings, constructive dialogues, success, and achievements,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations Selwin Charles Hart, Mrs Elizabeth Maruma Mrema deputy executive director of UN programmes on environmental protection spelt out the need for people of the world to look at the positive side of nature conservation.

“Nature loss, climate change and pollution are aspects of the same planetary crisis. They are profoundly interconnected in reinforcing each other’s impact and in the past decade due to our unsustainable consumption and production patterns, they have escalated.

“Inaction on biodiversity loss and climate change leads to real life consequences such as climate weather events and economic impacts.

“The world already knows many of the solutions to the challenges facing the planet and humanity like renewables, energy efficiency, ecosystem restoration, food system reform and much more,” he said.

Topical issues during the three day conference include, climate change, women and sustainable development, carbon markets, economics of biodiversity and nature based solutions, Youth and Sustainable Development, Education skills and Learning, Culture and Sustainable development among others.