My Journey to the World Pulse Online Community
The journey that led me to the World Pulse online community and inspired me to apply for Voices of Our Future is the work that I am currently doing. I am a woman who is lucky enough to be working in a country where the unemployment rate is 70% and poverty levels are as high as 80%. Zimbabwe’s economy has been in decline for almost a decade, with the peak of the crisis period being late 2007 and early 2009. In 2009, dollarisation of the economy (introduction of the US dollar as the national currency) removed inflation as a critical problem, however high prices, unemployment, and recurrent drought have left an estimated 1.5 million households, homes to some 3.5 million children, extremely poor and food insecure (National Action Plan for OVC II, 2011, Zimbabwe).
Women make up 53% of these households and have been the most affected by crisis. Unaffordable food prices, school fees and healthcare costs are forcing the household to compensate by reducing quality and quantity of the food consumed, reducing other “less essential” expenses (health and education) and selling the assets of the household. Such harmful coping mechanisms have serious consequences for the household members, particularly the girl child, who is forced to drop out of school and engage in risky behaviour and in exploitative income generating activities such as forced prostitution and child labour for survival of the family.
I work with children and women from poor, food insecure rural households. My mission is to empower women and child-headed households to be economically independent. The power imbalance between men and women also translates into economic dependency for women. Zimbabwe is a patriarchal society; men have greater control and access to productive resources. Women are pressured to stay in risky or abusive relationships with men because of the economic consequences of leaving. Limited income-earning opportunities are a common challenge for girls and women in Zimbabwe. Women and girls are forced to exchange sexual favours for money or gifts in order to meet their basic needs, support their families and pay for school fees, exposing themselves to HIV infection.
In the work that I do, I facilitate the establishment of Self Help Groups for poor women. They meet as groups of at least 15 women on a weekly basis, pull resources together through weekly savings and after some time they are able to access loans from the capital they have saved to start income generation activities. My work is driven by the sustainable livelihoods approach whereby people use what they have to develop themselves. So far I have managed to establish functional 8 groups in Bulawayo and the rural areas of Umguza who have established business doing art and craft, sewing, poultry and market gardening. Besides economic empowerment I train women in advocacy to become voices of change in their community. New groups are still being established. Through my application to voices of the future I hope to share some of the success stories of these self-help groups.