Celebrating Women’s History Month - March 2018

In an effort to improve women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health rights, the Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) has in recent years been working with development partners to monitor expenditure as far as health service delivery is concerned. This move has assisted in improving health service delivery in some of the targeted communities. Given that March is Women’s History Month, the ZWRCN continues to advocate for the provision of adequate health service delivery that particularly affects women. It is with great joy that ZWRCN and women in Zimbabwe welcome the move to scrap off maternal user fees as well as introduce free treatment for children under the age of 5. This is a great step in lifting off the burden from women who are already overwhelmed with so many challenges given the bulk of the unpaid care work that they attend to.

It is very important to note that the scrapping off of maternity fees can help improve women’s sexual and reproductive health. Recent research has shown that a number of women have been dying giving birth in their homes or from postnatal complications because they could not afford to pay the maternity user fees.

Although this move is welcome, it very important to also consider if this is going to be a sustainable solution given the fact that in 2013 the maternity user fees were once lifted from most rural and district hospitals and later re-introduced as the government could not sustain all the maternal health costs in the country without support from development partners. It is ZWRCN’s desire to see the recent move sustained as it is very important in improving women’s sexual and reproductive health rights. Sexual and reproductive health rights have a strong bearing on women’s contribution to national development as these rights are linked to larger development goals like reducing poverty, achieving better health and ensuring equal rights for women and girls.

In this month of March as we celebrate Women’s History Month, ZWRCN calls for all interested stakeholders to find ways of sustaining the current policy where women do not have to pay for maternal health care. Zimbabwe is a signatory to the Abuja Declaration which requires member nations to allocate at least 15% of the nation’s annual budget towards the health budget. There is hope that if this is adhered to and most of the funds are channelled towards maternal health this move might be sustainable. With the support of the introduction of the 5% Health Levy on all airtime purchases by the government, there is hope that this can be a sustainable solution towards achieving good health for all with a special focus on maternal health care. Empower the women, empower the nation!