Maternal Healthcare in Zimbabwe
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the structure and function of healthcare systems all across the globe as a great influx of patients to hospitals has led to a strain on medical personnel and funding. Some of the greatest losses that healthcare systems are taking around the world due to this COVID-19 strain are the reduction or the complete elimination of certain specialties or services for a specific population. In Zimbabwe, a country in Southern Africa with a population of around 14.4 million, pregnant women and new mothers have suffered from a lack of quality maternal healthcare.

Inaccessibility

Pregnant women and new mothers in Zimbabwe face a difficult challenge, not only because the funding of a lot of maternal healthcare units has been depleted, but because of the dangers in commuting to the health centers or hospitals.

The lockdown in Zimbabwe due to the pandemic has been strictly enforced and has inspired an increase in violence on the streets. If a woman cannot find a medication or reach a local pharmacy during its newly limited hours, she may have to travel past checkpoints and on streets that contain a higher amount of police brutality than normal. There are several accounts of women deciding to stay home as it would be a greater risk to travel.

The restricted travel limits medical attention for pregnant women (check-ups and childbirth) and postpartum treatment (both physical and mental). Without the ability to contact people personally or to travel for help, women who have just given birth have a higher risk of postpartum depression and of physical complications as they live their lives in quarantine.

Violence

There has been an uptick in violence in the new pandemic-stricken world, especially for the women of Zimbabwe. Police patrolling the streets are often violent and “have not been sympathetic to pregnant women, insisting the need for a clearance letter from the police sanctioning movement.”

Additionally, pregnant women and new mothers at home are subject to more domestic violence. The restriction of movement makes leaving an abusive situation even more difficult. In combination with the aforementioned inhibition in the disbursement of contraceptives, assault in the home is a cause of an increase in unplanned pregnancies.

Mistreatment

Because of the fear of COVID-19 transmission within hospitals, women in Zimbabwe are asked to come into the hospitals only when they are deep into their labor and nearly giving birth outside of the hospital doors. Pregnant women who have started labor are often not permitted to enter health facilities because they are not close enough to delivery. When they do enter the hospital, mothers are often mistreated — not being permitted to have a companion or to stay long enough after giving birth.

This mistreatment and inaccessibility lead to an increase in complications for mothers and children during birth as they often arrive too late to the hospital for proper delivery or they give birth at home. Due to the mistreatment and lack of accessibility, women may also have unsafe “underground” abortions, which can lead to severe health complications.

Lack of Resources

If mothers can reach a healthcare facility, they often do not receive the treatment they need because of a lack of resources. Health facilities and clinics in Zimbabwe have drained supplies and funding during the pandemic. Physicians can no longer give out contraceptives or educate women on family planning due to a shortage. Family health planning services also had to cut down their educational programs. The lack of education and accessibility has increased the amount of unplanned teenage pregnancies as well as an increase in maternal mortality.

Aid

Though there have been many discouraging events for maternal healthcare in Zimbabwe, there has been a recognition of the events that are unfolding and several organizations are making great progress in fighting for maternal healthcare rights.

The White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) is a nonprofit, international coalition that fights for “reproductive, maternal and newborn health” among other rights relating to women’s freedom. This organization has created powerful campaigns in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on maternal care such as Respectful Maternal Care, which helps to educate others about women’s health and the rights they are entitled to when giving birth. This campaign can help stop the mistreatment of women and keep them safe during treatment and delivery.

Maternal healthcare in Zimbabwe faces many hurdles in becoming is safe and accessible. Childbirth and postpartum care have suffered because of the strict environment in the streets and healthcare facilities that the coronavirus has brought on. With organizations like the WRA, these women can gain access to the quality healthcare they need.

– Jennifer Long
Photo: Flickr

diminish global poverty
Self-driving cars and trips to Mars might be the first things that come to mind when thinking of Elon Musk. His massive-scale innovations will help humanity as a whole, but Musk’s initiatives are also helping to diminish global poverty. Since he was in college, Musk has sought to help humanity through space exploration, global internet and energy efficiency. The mission of Tesla, which Musk founded in 2003, is to accelerate the world of sustainable energy for the good of humanity and the planet. This mission will also have numerous benefits to the poor and overlooked populations of the world.

Tesla Powered Water Plants

In the coastal village of Kiunga, Kenya, water is available but contaminated. With most water sourced from saltwater wells, communities must bathe and cook with saltwater. Washing clothes and bodies with saltwater leads to painful sores that are hard to heal. On the other hand, drinking and cooking with saltwater leads to health problems like chronic diarrhea or kidney failure. These complications inhibit a healthy and productive society.

Tesla and GivePower offered a solution to Kiunga’s lack of potable water: a desalination plant that solar power and a battery reserve power. GivePower is a nonprofit organization aiming to provide resources to developing countries; it was acquired by Tesla Motors in 2016. A solar water farm that Tesla Powerwalls facilitated stores energy from solar panels to fuel the Kiunga facility at night and when there is a lack of sunshine. This plant produces about 70,000 liters of clean water every 24 hours, giving clean water to 35,000 people daily. This project has improved Kenyans’ lives, and GivePower aims to reach Colombia and Haiti next.

Tesla Powered Micro-grids

In many regions, people take electricity for granted. In Africa, hundreds of millions live without it. According to the International Energy Agency, 55% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lack basic electricity access. Energy is essential to power schools, homes and healthcare facilities. A lack of modern energy in developing countries hinders the ability to study, work and modernize. For instance, in Zimbabwe, widespread violence and poverty contribute to a declining economy. One beacon of hope is the money trade, which takes place almost completely electronically. An innovative mobile payment system called Ecocash facilitates financial transactions for customers with mobile phones. To be effective, this process relies on consistent power infrastructure.

One incident in July 2019 exposed the vulnerability of Zimbabwe and its markets. A power outage occurred, and Zimbabwe’s Econet generators failed to power up, resulting in a mobile money blackout. This consequently had detrimental effects on the country’s economy, as the majority of financial systems halted. Over 5 million transactions occur daily through mobile money markets, adding up to around $200 million. Interruptions to power cause Zimbabweans to lose millions of dollars.

Microgrids are the answer. Generated by Powerwalls from Tesla, these self-contained systems of solar panels and batteries can provide power across the globe. Above all, no community is too remote to benefit. Tesla’s Powerwalls will alleviate uncertainties that unfavorable weather, unstable prices and fuel shortages cause. Although they require an investment of $6,500, solar-powered batteries replace archaic diesel-powered generators to ensure stability and diminish global poverty.

StarLink: High-Speed Internet Access Across the World

A lack of internet and mobile applications make life harder in developing countries. Without educational, communication and health tools, the cycle of poverty cannot be broken. According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, an estimated 750 million people over the age of 15 cannot read or write. Access to educational tools and resources through the global internet can reduce drop-out rates and improve education levels.

Elon Musk’s StarLink internet would deliver high-quality broadband all over the globe, reaching communities that historically lack an internet connection. The internet can bring education, telemedicine, communication and truth to people oppressed in developing countries. It gives isolated and overlooked communities a chance to become more secure. Using Starlink is straightforward: Plug in the device and point it toward the sky. The costs and benefits of Starlink can be shared across multiple families. The Starlink project strives to place a total of 42,000 satellites in space by the end of 2021, enabling internet access and helping to diminish global poverty.

A Sustainable Future for All

Musk’s focus on energy technologies benefits everyone, including the world’s poor. One obstacle to ending global poverty, especially in extreme cases, is that the poorest populations are usually the most remotely located. However, with Musk’s innovations, even remote rural communities can advance with modern technology.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in Zimbabwe
Caroline Richards first saw homelessness in Zimbabwe in the nation’s capital, Harare. As a 19-year-old girl from the western United States, she had never witnessed anything like it before. “Some people had large tumors on their legs, or others were blind,” she said. “I was shocked when I first saw a tumor on someone’s leg that was around the size of a cantaloupe. I had never seen [anything] like that.” Richards left her home state of Utah in March 2016 to spend 18 months in Zimbabwe as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While there, she often interacted with the locals, entered their homes and saw how they lived.

Zimbabwe is a nation in sub-Saharan Africa with a population of over 14.8 million people, located south of Zambia and Malawi. More than 72% of the population lives below the poverty line, a rate that has unfortunately worsened over the years. Homelessness in Zimbabwe is an ongoing crisis, with the national housing shortage estimated at more than 1 million and over 1.2 million people on the government’s national housing waiting list. From Richards’ perspective, homelessness in Zimbabwe is often caused by a physical inability, unlike homelessness in the United States. “Most of the homelessness I saw was because of physical ailment or impairment,” she said. “There are some people who just haven’t been able to make it in the economy because every odd is against them.”

Unemployment and Homelessness

It is reported that the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is as high as 90%. Richards said she thinks this is a major contributor to homelessness in Zimbabwe. “The government doesn’t take as good of care of the Zimbabwean people as they should. The economy is in disarray all of the time which makes it difficult for the people to make ends meet,” she said. For example, in 2005, the government of Zimbabwe started a campaign, “Operation Restore Order,” to destroy slums across the country, leaving 700,000 people homeless. Former President Robert Mugabe and his government officials claimed the operation was a crackdown against illegal housing. The campaign was met with strong condemnation from several groups and organizations, including the United Nations. 

A Dense Population

Richards added that the housing shortage is also due to Zimbabwe being densely populated. “There are a lot of people in small quarters,” she said. “Because of the poor economy, it’s not uncommon for families to rent one room from a house with a communal bathroom shared with 4-6 families because that’s all they can afford.”

Richards described the Zimbabwean homes she entered as “made of concrete” and “well-kept.” Since many houses throughout the country don’t have electricity, they leave their windows open to let in natural light. Throughout her time in Zimbabwe, Richards lived in some of the smaller rural areas and shared homes with local Zimbabweans. Though she often witnessed the negative impact of homelessness on these citizens, she also learned from how they lived. “Living in Zimbabwe taught me that it’s possible to live comfortably in the most humble of circumstances,” she reflected. “Zimbabweans have very impressive hygiene, and even if a whole family of 6 was living in one little room, it would be perfectly clean, all their clothes would be ironed, and the children bathed. They made the most out of what they had and are creative in the things they do to make ends meet.”

Help for the Homeless

Though housing shortages and homelessness in Zimbabwe are still very prevalent, some organizations are striving to eliminate them. Homeless International, The Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and the Dialogue on Shelter for the Homeless in Zimbabwe Trust are working together to address issues of homelessness in Zimbabwe, particularly low-income housing. In partnership with the city of Harare, the Zimbabwe Homeless People’s Federation and the Dialogue on Shelter, which acts as the technical partner for the Federation, are working on the Harare Slum Upgrading Project. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project began in 2010 as a pilot project to accommodate 16 families and provide infrastructural services for 480 families in a certain Zimbabwean suburb. The project is still ongoing and impacts many community members, seeking to improve their living conditions. Homelessness in Zimbabwe is still a serious problem, but these and other organizations are doing their part to conquer it.

Emma Benson
Photo: Flickr

Improving Access to Clean Water and Sanitation in ZimbabweAccess to adequate clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe continues to be an issue, especially for those living in rural areas. While many organizations have been working together to improve these issues, inadequate access threatens to worsen the spread of COVID-19. In order to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe has increased funding for “resilience-building” in the country.

Clean Water and Sanitation in Zimbabwe

UNICEF reported that only about 35% of Zimbabwe’s population has access to adequate improved sanitation in Zimbabwe. This mainly impacts rural areas. In addition, CARE reported that 67% of people living in rural Zimbabwe don’t have access to safe drinking water. Inadequate access to sanitation and clean drinking water has a great impact on low and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 827,000 people in those countries die every year from a lack of access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene.

In 2015, the U.N. released a report by WaterAid on the impacts of improved water, sanitation and hygiene on poverty. Additionally, the report stated that improving access to clean water and sanitation could help increase incomes for people living in poverty. It could also decrease the strain on healthcare systems and the impacts of malnutrition and disease, which would improve health outcomes for the poorest people.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH Program)

Many organizations, including UNICEF, have been working to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene through the WASH program. The program provides education and builde things like handwashing stations. In addition, the WASH program provides people with access to clean water. Since June 18, 2020, the program has helped 1,859 people in Zimbabwe access adequate sanitation. Also, it helped 3,781 people gain access to clean water. Moreover, a total of 2.1 million people in Zimbabwe has been reached by the program so far.

Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic

In a press release on June 4, 2020, Sweden’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Åsa Pehrson said that COVID-19 has increased the need for access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. This need is not specific to rural areas. Additionally, Human Rights Watch reported that people living in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, and the surrounding metropolitan area are struggling to access adequate sanitation services and clean drinking water. More than 2 million people are in need of access. People who have to wait in long lines to access wells with clean water.

“Resilience Building” in Zimbabwe

In June 2020, The Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe announced that it is putting 15 million Swedish Kroner ($1.6 million) towards helping those in need of access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. The embassy is increasing an already existing investment in “resilience-building” for Zimbabweans. In addition, the Swedish Embassy plans to put the money toward strengthening water, sanitation and hygiene activities. These activities are implemented under the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund. Furthermore, the program will focus on water sources that already exist and aims to rehabilitate them. One part of the investment focuses on clean water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Another part will be dedicated to agriculture and livestock water sources in order to protect the food supply.

Zimbabweans continue to struggle to gain access to clean water and adequate sanitation, especially those living in rural areas. The WASH program has helped improve these conditions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to endanger those who still lack safe drinking water and sanitation. People living in big cities without access may be at risk while waiting in lines for wells with clean water. To help alleviate these problems, the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe is increasing an existing investment in the country. They are putting money toward both improving access to clean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, as well as protecting water sources for livestock and agriculture.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Hyperinflation In ZimbabweThe southern African country of Zimbabwe has one of the most horrendous track records regarding hyperinflation. Hyperinflation, which is when the prices of goods and services rise uncontrollably, usually occurs when a government prints more money into the money supply than what can be supported by the country’s economic activity. Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe has had the effect of lowering GDP per capita by 38% and increasing the unemployment rate to more than 70%, which in turn has increased poverty. Zimbabwe has tried many different solutions to stabilize its inflation rate, but it still struggles with high inflation rate volatility. In May 2020, the inflation rate was at 785.55%, well over the defined amount of 50% to be considered hyperinflation. This article explains Zimbabwe’s political and economic situation that led to its hyperinflation, and possible tactics to combat it.

Rampant Corruption and Mugabe’s Regime

Robert Mugabe governed Zimbabwe in 1980 to 2017 after the country had gained independence from Great Britain. Mugabe had been a Socialist revolutionary icon who was elected as president after the revolution but later regressed into an oppressive dictator. Mugabe’s tight grip on power, rampant corruption and monetary policies of his regime are some of the principal causes of Zimbabwe’s economic problems. After almost four decades in power, Mugabe was usurped from power. He was replaced by his longtime vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017. Mnangagawa’s presidency has maintained power for the country’s ruling party: the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Throughout both administrations, corruption has been embedded throughout all levels of society, including much of Zimbabwe’s political institutions. Bribes and facilitation payments are commonplace among the police, private companies, local councils and public officials. These kinds of payments are responsible for the $1 billion dollars of public money that Zimbabwe loses every year.

The 2009 Hyperinflation Crisis

During the worldwide recession of 2008, Zimbabwe’s own financial crisis made the country’s inflation rate skyrocket astronomically. Mugabe’s policies regarding land redistribution from white commercial farmers to the majority black population had the undesired effect of widespread food shortages and economic sanctions from the U.S. and E.U. Hyperinflation then reached incomprehensible rates of 79.6 billion percent. While these events are claimed by the ZANU-PF to be the initial causes of Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation, every effort Zimbabwe has taken to control hyperinflation is held back by the status-quo of corruption that the ZANU-PF upholds.

The root economic causes of Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation lies within monetary policies that make the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) print too much money. Some ways the government has tried to curb inflation have included demonetizing the Zimbabwean dollar in 2009 and adopting many different currencies, including the US dollar, South African Rand, Euro, Chinese Yuan and more. This allowed for higher transparency, which led to deflation. Over the next decade, the U.S. dollar became more scarce. This led to the reintroduction of the Zimbabwean dollar in 2019, bringing back high levels of hyperinflation. Some experts say that a radical change in the financial system as a whole is needed to properly address this trend. In particular, changing the system from having a dissatisfactory central bank to a currency board or free banking system could allow for better monetary policy.

Non-Governmental Institutions Helping the Situation

Certain NGO’s are working to combat Zimbabwe’s corruption and financial issues. Two are Transparency International Zimbabwe and Zambuko Trust.

Transparency International was established in 1993 and currently works in more than 100 countries. They research and advocate for policies and laws to end systemic corruption. They provide statistical data such as the corruption perceptions index and the global corruption barometer and also provide information on the state of corruption and their activities through their own blog, magazine and academic publications. Transparency International and other civil society groups across the continent have become serious actors in the fight against corruption and the loss of public money from it.

Zambuko Trust is a microfinance institution that has given financial opportunities to many, especially those who work in the informal sector. It was established in 1990 by Christian businessmen who set out to provide financial services for the poor. They provide small business loans, horticulture funding and agricultural jobs, business management training, advisory services and loan insurance. Zambuko Trust provided services to 16,000 people before the hyperinflation crisis of 2009. After the country demonetized the Zimbabwean dollar and introduced multiple currencies, the institution was able to revive itself. These services have allowed businesses to sustain themselves and people to buy a house or afford schooling during such periods of economic strife.

While Zimbabwe’s financial institutions are scrambling to bring this recent wave of hyperinflation under control, NGO’s are able to combat the effects economic turmoil has on small businesses and the poor and advocate for a society free of corruption.

– Tirza Morales
Photo: Flickr

USAID and UNESCO are working to change gender normalities in Zimbabwe by normalizing men’s contributions to household activities that are traditionally perceived as feminine. Equal division of domestic duties leads to improved child health and nutrition, as well as advancements in women’s rights. These social benefits are instrumental in alleviating poverty in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe and Gender Norms: An Overview

A country of 14 million, Zimbabwe has recently faced declines in public health, education, infrastructure and standard of living. Of the population, 63% of households live in poverty. Government policies and climate issues hamper farming and impact food insecurity. In addition, the country has a high burden of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and maternal and childhood disease.

Women traditionally hold an inferior position in Zimbabwean cultures, which are often patriarchal. Women often work for no pay in the home or in subsistence agriculture; alternatively, they perform low-paid wage work. Women cannot own or claim land except through their male relatives or husbands.

Gender Norms and Food Security in Zimbabwe

USAID and UNESCO are working to transform gender normalities in Zimbabwe, and the positive effects of these efforts extend far beyond women’s rights. Empowering women and normalizing men’s participation in the domestic sphere effectively increases the household labor force and children’s access to nutritious food. In rural Zimbabwe, one-third of children are malnourished, largely because of gender norms that lead to unhealthy feeding practices for young children.

As USAID reports, there is a close connection between women’s lack of assistance in the domestic sphere and child nutritional status. USAID wrote, “In a typical day in rural Zimbabwe, a mother must collect water, search for firewood, make a fire, cook and wash dishes, repeating this cycle for every meal. She must also spend a large proportion of the day tending to the family’s crops. Mothers simply do not have the time in the day to focus on all their responsibilities, including the childcare and nutrition necessary for the healthy growth and future productivity of their children.”

USAID’s program Indoda Emadodeni (“A Man Among Men”) holds monthly dialogues in which advocates, or Male Champions, challenge social norms and discuss the benefits of expanding men’s roles with both traditional leaders and the community as a whole. Participants in the program reported great pride in their domestic skills, including cooking, feeding and dressing infants and doing their daughters’ hair. The fathers enjoyed the closer relationships that they developed with their children. 

The program has yielded excellent results in many areas. A survey found statistically significant improvement in behaviors and support like fetching water and firewood, childcare, taking their wives to medical (including prenatal) appointments and cooking. There was also a 52% increase in joint decision-making among spouses. Rather than being stigmatized, these supportive and beneficial behaviors now elicit high praise in their communities, “uyindoda emadodeni” which translates to “you are a man among men.”

UNESCO’s Impacts

The United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization agency is also running a project entitled “Challenging constructions of masculinity that exacerbate marginalization of women and youth,” in which the organization focuses on women’s empowerment through male engagement with gender issues. By conducting trainings and dialogues, the program leads men to reframe masculinity and reconsider their behavior.

One participant, Tichaona Madziwa, described how he “started to see [his] wife as a partner, a shareholder in this household…[and] really started to respect [his] wife’s decisions and perspectives—something that was not considered the norm.”

As he began to cook and care for his daughter, his relationship with her grew stronger. Madziwa, like the other program participants, found that the change of perspective greatly benefited him and his family.  

Normalizing men’s performance of domestic work lightens women’s workload. This, in turn, both empowers women and improves child nutrition. These USAID and UNESCO programs are effectively addressing the issues of both food security and gender normalities in Zimbabwe.

– Isabelle Breier 
Photo: Wikimedia

Trees of KnowledgeSub-Saharan Africa continues to face high rates of education exclusion. Across the region, nearly 34 million children do not attend school due to inadequate funding, geographical distance and lack of educational staff. Children living in impoverished areas often have treacherous commutes to school and may experience teacher absenteeism upon arrival. Other children cannot attend school because they must work to support their family or tend to their livestock and land. Trees of Life is working to address the issues limiting access to education.

Education Challenges in Zimbabwe

In countries like Zimbabwe, the problem is pronounced. Most children in Zimbabwe receive primary education but only 49% of high-school-aged Zimbabweans attend secondary school. Furthermore, economic challenges have tightened funding for public and boarding schools, causing a steep increase in the cost of attendance. As a result, communities have taken to creating make-shift alternative schools run by locals to save on expenses. These schools remain unregistered in order to avoid fees and therefore do not undergo government inspections.

These challenges, however, are not unique to Zimbabwe. There is an urgent need to improve access to education in many communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Experts have suggested that the implementation of technology into educational services may be a more cost-effective route than building physical infrastructure. Additionally, much of the population has access to basic smartphones or mobile devices. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s fastest-growing region in terms of smartphone adoption, estimating an addition of 167 million subscribers by 2025.

However, inconsistent and expensive data coverage as well as limited electricity for charging limits internet connectivity for many devices. Zimbabwean AI expert and entrepreneur, William Sachiti, has recently taken up this challenge with an idea for improving access not only to the internet but also to educational tools in rural areas. The project is entitled Trees of Knowledge, which reflects the common practice of gathering under the shade of a tree for class.

Technological Solutions

The Trees of Knowledge technology allows a tree or other landmark to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal. Any device within a 100-meter radius can connect to the network and access a pre-loaded server of educational content. The signal is produced by a micro-computer molded into the tree to protect it from damage. The module is powered by a small rechargeable battery that can run for several years without maintenance. The system also includes a solar-powered charging station that users can plug their devices into.

Any content can be uploaded to the educational server, but Sachiti hopes to eventually transition toward including lessons from local educators, making the content specific to each region. This would allow teachers to work with each country’s department of education to ensure that the curriculum is appropriate.

Trees of Knowledge has the potential to improve educational opportunities for rural and excluded communities. This highly integrated solution could mitigate long commutes to school, which can span from five to 1o kilometers. The system provides access to educational content as well as guidance for those unfamiliar with these new resources. As an open-source technology with no patents or intellectual property regulations, the logistics behind Trees of Knowledge are available to be shared and replicated. Since its publication in 2019, several large NGOs in Africa have picked up the idea.

Future Steps

The concept behind Trees of Knowledge is highly adaptable and can be applied to other uses. Similar technologies have recently been implemented by some national parks and nature preserves, who are using interactive digital programs to teach visitors about the ecology of an area. In rural communities, this technology could provide tutorials on first-aid skills, health and hygiene. On remote trails or routes, it may be used to offer critical safety information and orientation.

By removing the obstacles of cost, data coverage and power consumption, Trees of Knowledge is a highly sustainable idea aligned with the goal of minimizing climate change and habitat destruction. This new technology can provide a variety of educational resources by seamlessly integrating into the environment, yet leaving it unchanged.

– Sylvie Antal
Photo: Wikimedia

Women in ZimbabweThe magnitude of gender inequality in various African countries is still an ongoing concern. The Republic of Zimbabwe is a promising example of progress. The Zimbabweans’ determination to end the continued inequality in their country encourages many and provides hope for women in Zimbabwe.

5 Encouraging Signs for Women in Zimbabwe

  1. Changes in the Zimbabwean Constitution to implement multiple laws on gender equality. After gaining independence from Britain in 1980, the newly formed Republic of Zimbabwe drafted its first constitution. When the constitution began to see disadvantages toward women, it caused not only local but global disapproval. These changes, along with public activism in recent years, show encouraging signs that Zimbabwe is getting closer to gender safety. Women in Zimbabwe became legally protected in having equal status and rights as men 33 years after the original constitution. Zimbabwe’s Bill of Rights states that all “laws, customs, traditions and practices that infringe the rights of women conferred by this constitution are void to the extent of infringement.” In 2015 the government went on to initiate an institutional framework to continue working on women’s rights and gender equality. The Ministry of Women Affairs and Community Development carry out this role. However, steps taken by the nation are still not near full efficiency.
  2. Despite the late start, a rise of employment for Zimbabwean women shows great success in achieving equal status to men. Zimbabwe ranks number seven out of the 195 countries worldwide in the number of women above the age of 15 holding jobs. In this ranking, Zimbabwe even surpasses first world countries including the United States, France and Canada. Data collected on March 1, 2020, by the International Labor Organization shows women make up 78% of Zimbabwe’s working population. Although this high ratio does leave concern for possible ramifications, the benefits coming from the largely female workforce are showing promising signs of self-sustainment.
  3. The U.S. and Canada have teamed up with local Zimbabwean groups to become a part of their positive movements. The Embassy of Canada to Zimbabwe promotes Zimbabwe’s projects challenging gender inequality. Canada’s main mission is encouraging male allies to join the women’s rights movement. Canadian Ambassador to Zimbabwe René Cremonese shares the important role men play in challenging social norms by standing in solidarity with women. The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe participates in public affairs forums with citizens to provide direction on how the U.S. could support women advocates. For example, in one forum, embassy employees and officials heard from women in Zimbabwe who work in education, health, government, civil society and private sectors about the daily obstacles they face from sexism. These women are setting the bar for women’s involvement in Zimbabwe’s society. The movement is considered to be important to advance U.S. foreign policy.
  4. There are continuous breakthroughs for women activists thanks to the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ), a network of organizations and activists. Women, both independent and members, representing different rights organizations go into specific fields including education, peace-building, constitutional rights and media to improve all sectors of life for women and girls in Zimbabwe. The WCoZ, formed by women in Zimbabwe themselves, has been influential since the congressional reform in 1999. In the 2013 redraft, WCoZ’s work helped achieve the 75% of edits on gender provisions. This victory ensures women’s rights will be protected by the country’s highest level of the law. The WCoZ continuously commits to pressure local governments when gender laws are ignored. The coalition also supports campaigns led by women who lack funding for election compared to their male opponents. Platforms run by the WCoZ that respond to various gender issues continue to be a safe haven for local women to seek support.
  5. Women in politics are catching on. The minority of women who were able to hold government positions during the first constitutional redraft in 1999-2000 did not successfully pass needed gender provisions. Women who were active in advocacy and lobbying for women’s rights thought it best to form coalitions with movements focused on broader civil society movements. This was not supported by voters due to the women’s movement involvement with government-led committees, which were not trusted at the time. Women activists had to wait nearly 10 years before regaining the opportunity for legal gender protection. This time, during the 2009-2013 redraft, they singularly promoted women’s rights and concerns so that no alliances could create political divides among voters. Women who hold seats in Zimbabwe’s Parliament today continue this work. The constitutional revision from 2013 that sets aside parliamentary seats for women is due to expire in 2023. Zimbabwean advocates continue to work on solutions to create new provisions on how to include young women in Parliament since many lack resources to even get elected.

Zimbabwe is only one example of an African country that has made improvements within the last few decades and continues to do so successfully. The encouraging progress of equality for girls and women in Zimbabwe still has issues that need to be overcome. Even the successes of constitutional change, employment, international aid, women’s groups and political adaptations are laced with pitfalls. Yet, they signify valuable change. Global attention on the struggles in Africa is key to promoting change. Global attention also brings light to the important changes that have already been made.

Grace Elise Van Valkenburg
Photo: Flickr

Economic Empowerment for Women in ZimbabweIn the Shona language, the word “Hamba” means “go.” And this is the exact mission of Mobility for Africa’s new initiative. More specifically, its “Hamba” motorbikes promote economic empowerment for women in Zimbabwe especially those living in rural areas.

A Speedy Solution

The motorbikes are electric-powered three-wheelers or e-tricycles. They are sturdy enough to help Zimbabwean women with farm and domestic work, and reliable enough to transport those in need of healthcare facilities. Mobility for Africa rents out the motorbikes to groups of up to five women. The entire group pays $15 a month for the Hamba, and charging the motorbike’s lithium-ion batteries at a station only costs between $0.50 and $1.

Mobility for Africa’s website lists three key goals: to empower women living in rural Africa through transportation; to improve their quality of life and that of their families; and to create a more sustainable future by developing transportation built on renewable energy.

Economic Empowerment for Women in Zimbabwe

Physical isolation from roads and economic centers can make rural life challenging. The Hamba allows Zimbabwean women to do the following activities, which previously they could not do, or could not do without great difficulty:

  1. Transport produce to more distant markets. The ability to sell their farm products more easily allows women to increase their income. The Hamba allows them to save time and energy reaching their destination.

  2. Collect essential items for the women’s families. These items include medicine and other supplies that are necessary for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

  3. Complete domestic work such as transporting firewood or water. By saving time on tasks like these, women have more opportunities to earn an income or pursue an education.

  4. Transport people to healthcare facilities. This includes both ferrying pregnant women to clinics so they do not have to give birth at home, and taking COVID-19 patients to receive medical attention.

As of June 30, Zimbabwe had only reported 574 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths caused by the virus. Despite these low numbers compared to many other countries, the country’s lockdown has had a negative impact on people’s income—especially the income of people working in the informal sector. This includes many women. These economic difficulties make opportunities like the ones the Hamba provides even more important.

The Bigger Picture

According to estimates from the World Bank, extreme poverty in Zimbabwe increased from 29% in 2018 to 34% in 2019. That’s an increase of one million people and the World Bank expects that these numbers will continue to grow through 2020.

The situation is especially dire in rural areas. There, 76.3% of children find themselves in “abject poverty,” and many struggle to find enough to eat. The recent drought brought on by El Niño has contributed to this crisis, and now the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to make matters even worse.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Zimbabwe’s food security situation was already critical before the pandemic. With lockdown measures and restricted movement, household incomes have dropped, and more of the country’s population has become food insecure. This grim picture makes expanding economic opportunities essential for Zimbabweans, especially those in rural areas where physical isolation keeps them from many resources.

Overall, the Hamba motorbikes provide many opportunities all geared toward economic empowerment for women in Zimbabwe. With the Hamba, Zimbabwean women are increasing their income, saving time on domestic labor and working to keep their families safe during the pandemic. These are the kinds of results needed to enable them to rise up out of poverty.

– Emily Dexter
Photo: Flickr

Combating Intensified Hunger in ZimbabweSince the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Zimbabwe has faced crippling issues of hunger, starvation and high malnutrition rates. The World Food Programme (WFP) recorded in December 2019 that 7.7 million people living within Zimbabwe were food insecure. Moreover, Global Citizen reported that approximately 90% of children between the ages of 6 months and 2-years-old may die without food aid. Here is some information about intensified hunger in Zimbabwe.

COVID-19 is Intensifying Hunger

The population of people lacking sustenance in Zimbabwe–half of its total population–has only grown since the conception of COVID-19. There has been an increase of nearly 10 million people surviving on less than one meal a day since COVID-19.

Reginald Moyo, a resident of Cowdray Park, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe told The Borgen Project that the “majority of the people don’t have permanent jobs and they [live] by hand to mouth, so [with] a month without working[,]…they are now facing starvation.” Many people are working to address this growing crisis. The people of Zimbabwe, international organizations and the Chinese government have provided aid to Zimbabweans in need.

Efforts from International Organizations

On May 4, 2020, the U.N. entities of Zimbabwe, working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), released an official food analysis report in response to the growing hunger in Zimbabwe. The report stated that “The total funding required to assist the 3.7 million people by the international humanitarian community for July 2019 to April 2020 amounts to USD 331.5 million.” The effects of COVID-19 have intensified hunger in Zimbabwe and increased the need for assistance. The Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) requested an additional 6.7 billion USD to combat hunger in order to protect lives.

However, aid is not only monetarily based. In 2002, the nonprofit group Action Against Hunger set a goal to provide food aid, healthcare, sanitation/hygiene needs and water to countless Zimbabweans in need. It estimated in 2018 that its efforts aided 25 Zimbabweans through nutrition and health programs; gave 52 people water, food and healthcare; and dispensed 3,187 people with food. Action Against Hunger not only gave the required resources for survival but also provided education on how local Zimbabwe efforts could improve hunger in their country.

Response from Zimbabwe’s Government

On March 30, 2020, President Mnangagwa reopened the markets to aid small-scale farmers and traders in the difficulties they faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this may seem to not directly address hunger in Zimbabwe, the decision has determined their survival in the upcoming months. Prior to this change, farmers and traders could not go outside or attend to their crop which limited their income as well as their food supply.

The Borgen Project interviewed Nkocy Thando, a farmer living in rural areas within the Bulawayo area of Zimbabwe. Thando stated that since the markets have opened up again, locals have been able to “work when they open in the morning to three [in] the afternoon.” He expressed his immense gratitude for this change and stated that he felt that “all would be okay soon.”

Aid from China

The Chinese Embassy and the private sector are also combating hunger in Zimbabwe by addressing COVID-19 needs. RFI, a worldwide French news and current affairs broadcast reported that China’s efforts have included:

  1. Completing an upgrade worth $500,000 to the Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital, which is the main COVID-19 center in Harare, Zimbabwe.
  2. Two Chinese firms providing 1,000 goggles, 50,000 masks and 510 protective suits to a charity that the First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa, runs.
  3. The Chinese Embassy equipping Zimbabwe with 7,600 suits for protection, 166,000 masks, 20,000 testing kits, 12,000 pairs of gloves and five ventilators.
  4. The China International Development Cooperation Agency donating $3 million to UNICEF Zimbabwe.

Diverse Responses

There are many organizations working to address the existing and intensifying issues of hunger, starvation and high malnutrition rates in Zimbabwe. However, their solutions range from governmental mandates reopening markets to increased funding for poverty-reduction organizations in the United Nations (UN). While the current responses to hunger in Zimbabwe seem mainly focused on COVID-19 efforts, they still are making a difference in combating intensified hunger in Zimbabwe.

– Alexis LeBaron
Photo: Flickr