FEMALE creatives in southern Africa have called on governments in the region to establish quotas for women in the sector, provide safe working spaces and support their work to encourage productivity in the post COVID-19 era. BY LIFE STYLE REPORTER Speaking during a Unesco ResiliArt debate organised by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ), Zimbabwe Music Crossroads director Melody Zambuko said governments should establish quota systems for women when providing assistance. “The unequal access to opportunities is quite clear. The working space needs to be levelled as women are the multi-taskers of our society. You will remember that long before COVID-19 women were marginalised in the workspace. Regardless of occupying the same position at work, the female officer earned less than their male counterparts, she said. Bulawayo-based artist and businesswoman Patience Phiri said the COVID-19 period had extended the gap between male and female artists. “What we need as women is for the government to invest in us. We want to say to the government please love us, please pay us, please give us safe platforms, and can we please be treated equally to your boy children that you love so dearly. If you invest in us, we will make you so proud,” she said. Trade Union for Musicians of South Africa (TUMSA) founder Ernestine Deane said many female artists found themselves in a prolonged situation of unemployment as the arts, culture and tourism sectors were the first to be affected by the COVID-19 lockdown measures. “We call upon the governments to issue as a matter of urgency any available relief funds. The government needs to quickly identify the different needs of the various communities that make up the creatives sector and support each community with its desired needs. There is no one-size-fits-all, especially for women who have been severely affected by COVID-19,” she said. Tapiwa Langa from Mozambique said female artists in the region felt left out of government programmes but were afraid to speak out. ResiliArt is a global movement initiated by Unesco that aims to strengthen the resilience of artists and cultural professionals in the face of the enormous challenges posed by the current health crisis.