Improving Women's Empowerment in ZimbabweGlobal efforts to achieve gender equality have made an impact on long-standing notions of male dominance in many countries. This change can be seen throughout the increased social and economic opportunities available to women around the world. The overwhelming evidence from research continues to indicate that gender equality is necessary for ensuring sustainable development. Thus, improving women’s empowerment in Zimbabwe is key to having a successful future.

The United Nations established 17 goals under its initiative known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A major tenet of the SDGs is to promote gender equality. In Zimbabwe, the U.N. has consolidated its efforts to promote women’s and girls’ empowerment through the establishment and implementation of laws, policies and frameworks.

While a push for greater women’s empowerment in Zimbabwe has been codified into law, the practice is oftentimes overshadowed by the actions of traditional society. Despite setbacks such as gender-based violence and limited financial opportunities, a couple of key steps in women’s empowerment have been made in Zimbabwe.

Supporting Women in Leadership

According to the U.N., women’s representation in politics and decision-making positions in Zimbabwe is still below those benchmarked in the SDGs. The UNDP, in collaboration with U.N. Women, held the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the Women Parliamentary Caucus in support of a High-Level Political Dialogue regarding the upcoming 2018 elections.

Promoting Financial Independence

In 2012, the first Zimbabwe Market Fair was held in its second-largest city, Bulawayo. This two-day fair focused on empowering women and youth and equipped the 134 participants with “pre- and post-market fair training aimed at enhancing their capacity to exhibit and interact with customers.” This targeted instruction not only benefited women but caused a ripple effect on families, communities and the country as a whole.

There is still progress to be made in regards to women’s empowerment in Zimbabwe, but continued efforts through programs and dialogue are paving the way to a more gender-equal future.

– Belén Loza

Photo: Flickr

poverty in ZimbabweAfter 57 years of colonial rule, African guerilla forces wrested control of the territory that had been Southern Rhodesia since 1923. By 1980, Robert Mugabe was elected to the position of Prime Minister of Zimbabwe.

Following Zimbabwe’s independence, the economy, which was mainly supported by the agricultural industry, fell on tough times. In 2000, the government chose to instigate a policy of land redistribution from whites to native Africans. This reorganization placed the fate of the country’s economy in the hands of comparatively inexperienced farmers.

Cash crop production, once a huge contributor to the Gross Net Product, was nearly lost as a result of unyielding droughts. Additionally, those farmers who produced the dietary staple maize faced further difficulty in production, due to the government’s lack of support in areas such as water management.

To further demonstrate the severity of the country’s situation, look no further than the 72.3 percent of the population living in poverty in Zimbabwe.

10 facts to clarify the state of poverty in Zimbabwe

  1. Since the early 1990s, roughly 20 percent of Zimbabweans have emigrated in search of greater economic prosperity elsewhere. This has left a large gap in the nation’s workforce and knowledge base.
  2. With the majority of males moving from rural agricultural towns to the cities, women are increasingly becoming single heads of household.  
  3. Poverty in Zimbabwe is mainly concentrated in the northern province of Matabeleland, and in the southeastern regions of Manicaland and Masvingo, where water is extremely scarce.
  4. As of 2015, 16 percent of Zimbabweans were food insecure, meaning they were unable to obtain nutritious and plentiful food for their families.
  5. Just 7.6 percent of farmers in Zimbabwe practice conservation agriculture, a method of soil management that ensures nutritious soil and increases crop production.
  6. Zimbabwe suffered from 12 years of sanctions imposed by the U.N. in opposition to President Mugabe’s continued rule after the disputed election of 2002. In 2015, the U.N. lifted those sanctions and offered the government $273 million in aid, which was intended for collaborative development projects.
  7. About 28 percent of children in Zimbabwe are stunted by a lack of adequate nutrition in their diets.
  8. Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product has been declining since the 2008 financial crisis. In the years immediately following the crisis, it fell by 17 percent.
  9. 86 percent of households in which the woman is widowed are impoverished.
  10. 57 percent of women living in rural areas use contraceptives. The maternal mortality rate is 960 out of 100,000 births, with a dramatic increase in rural areas.

The question now is whether or not Zimbabwe will be able to improve its situation in the coming years. Unfortunately, with the economic growth rate dropping to just 0.5 percent between 2015 and 2016, there may be a need for an increase in external development aid if there is any hope of reversing the effects of poverty in Zimbabwe.

-Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Zimbabwe

Once on its way to becoming a middle-income nation, Zimbabwe’s society and economy has experienced great deterioration since 1997. Approximately 72 percent of the country’s population now lives in chronic poverty, and 84 percent of Zimbabwe’s poor live in rural areas.

When looking at the causes of poverty in Zimbabwe, it is necessary to take the effects of the 2008 financial crisis into account. As a result of the crisis, Zimbabwe saw its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline by 17 percent. By comparison, the GDP growth rate for other African countries was five percent.

Although Zimbabwe made great progress to recover from the 2008 crisis, its GDP growth rate is declining since 2013. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), this decline is the result of stalling investments and adverse climate conditions that hurt the agricultural sector. Nearly 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s workforce is employed in the agricultural sector.

Drought and Poverty in Zimbabwe

As a result of the 2015-2016 drought that affected most of southern Africa, the rural poor have become more vulnerable to the loss of both their food security and their livelihoods. A 2016 study by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) shows that approximately 4.1 million Zimbabweans, nearly a quarter of the population, face food and nutrition insecurity due to the drought.

ZimVAC is a consortium of the Zimbabwean government, agencies of the United Nations, NGOs and other international organizations. Formed in 2002 to assess the issues facing Zimbabwe’s poor, it is overseen by the Food and Nutrition Council of Zimbabwe which works to find multi-sector solutions to the country’s food insecurity.

Some of the groups heavily impacted by food insecurity are children and pregnant or lactating women. Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the region as well as one of the highest rates of HIV globally, at approximately 15 percent as of 2014. Women and children living in food insecure homes are HIV prone and either already or in danger of becoming malnourished.

Children under the age of two that do not benefit from optimal breastfeeding are more likely to contract diarrhea or pneumonia. They may also not develop to their full potential. Acutely malnourished children under the age of five are more likely to contract diseases that require intensive care.

Drought and reduced rainfall also negatively affected the quality and availability of water. Almost half of households lack sufficient water for their livestock. Eighty-one percent reported having insufficient water for their crops. Zimbabwe’s average rainfall is projected to drop by 10 percent by the end of the century. IFAD asserts that the rehabilitation and maintenance of irrigation systems must be of the utmost importance to stabilize agricultural production. Improving irrigation systems would minimize crop failure, raise household incomes and increase food security for rural smallholder farmers.

To understand the causes of poverty in Zimbabwe, the poor performance of the country’s manufacturing industry must also be explored. Manufacturing surveys estimate that industrial capacity utilization decreased from 57 percent in 2011 to 36.3 percent in 2014. This is mainly because of an erratic power supply, a lack of capital, higher input costs, antiquated machinery and deficiencies in infrastructure.

IFAD believes that by prioritizing climate-smart, efficient agricultural production and investment in infrastructure and industrial capacity building, the causes of poverty in Zimbabwe will be diminished.

Amanda Lauren Quinn

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Zimbabwe
Tensions run high in the landlocked Southern African nation of Zimbabwe. Protests and civil disobedience exploded in recent years in response to the government’s persistent incompetence and malpractice. Worse still, the government in Harare responded to the mass demonstrations with violence and unethical treatment, worsening the state of human rights in Zimbabwe.

Today’s tumultuous wave of popular dissatisfaction is tied to the ruinous drought in the region, which threatened food security for millions and contributed to shortages of cash. With the government largely unable to prevent mass starvation nor compensate civil servants, the Zimbabwean people fear another period of national suffering.

Only nine years removed from the beginning of the crippling 2008 economic crisis, Zimbabweans directed their anger at the government for its failure to develop the country and its disregard for human rights. These grievances only worsened with the government’s retaliatory agenda, which resulted in the unlawful treatment of activists and others.

Protesters in Zimbabwe often encounter police violence and arbitrary imprisonment, and many are charged with false accusations of criminal activity. Even non-protesters are arrested and imprisoned for days, demonstrating the government’s blatant disregard for the rule of law and due process.

Also, freedom of expression in Zimbabwe is incredibly limited, showing that human rights in Zimbabwe are far from meeting acceptable standards. Police forces in Zimbabwe frequently deny the media the right to cover protests, and many journalists are arrested and detained for indeterminate amounts of time on false charges. Violence towards the media is common as well. One journalist covering protests in Harare was even clubbed by riot police.

The government’s general disregard for human rights reflects the influence of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has been in control of the government for over three decades, during which time he did little to modernize Zimbabwe’s social and economic institutions. Mugabe uses political violence and unlawful seizures of personal property to further his own interests, tyrannical behavior that is common practice for the government.

Under the Mugabe regime, human rights in Zimbabwe are vulnerable to repeated, malicious attacks. When the people remain submissive, they suffer from economic, social, and political destitution. When they speak out, they experience brutal reprisals.

Despite its long history of transgressions, the current regime will not last. At 93 years old, the geriatric President Mugabe’s days are very limited. Hopefully, Zimbabwe can peacefully oust out Mugabe’s pawns and develop a stable economy and strong human rights protections. With enough support from the U.S. and other countries, the people of Zimbabwe can evade another economic crisis and inch closer to a truly egalitarian democracy.

Isidro Rafael Santa Maria

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in ZimbabweZimbabwe is an African country situated just above South Africa. Known for their rich culture and sense of community, Zimbabwe is the twenty-second poorest nation in the world, according to Business Insider.

With 66 percent of Zimbabweans working in agriculture, it is not uncommon for diseases with agricultural origins to spread. Here are some of the most common diseases in Zimbabwe for those working in agriculture:

Cholera

Cholera is a contaminated food- or water-borne disease that causes diarrhea and vomiting. Both of these symptoms can lead to dehydration and even death. Between August 2008 and July 2009, there was a massive cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. According to World Nomads, “cholera deaths have decreased recently, although the disease is still present and may break out again with little warning.”

Malaria

This terrifying disease spreads through mosquitos. For Zimbabweans working in the fields, malaria is a highly possible occurrence and “a major killer across Africa.” Protection from this deadly disease is a simple mosquito net. However, with the average African living on about $3 a day, even a tool that could save their lives is too costly.

Rabies

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that is spread in the saliva of infected animals.” Working outside with livestock, Zimbabweans in agriculture can be very prone to this terminal disease.

Although these three common diseases in Zimbabwe are especially susceptible to those in agriculture, anybody in Zimbabwe could become infected with them. Here are some of the other common diseases in Zimbabwe that could affect everyone:

HIV/AIDS

Zimbabwe has a very high rate of HIV/AIDS. According to World Nomads, “15 percent of the population has the virus,” and it is the number one killer of people in Zimbabwe. This sexually-transmitted disease is incredibly harmful and a huge issue in many African countries.

Typhoid

Typhoid fever is very similar to cholera in that this disease spreads through the intake of unclean food or water. However, typhoid is not always as serious as cholera. Symptoms of typhoid include high fever, weakness and stomach pains, but rarely death.

Measles

Measles starts when an infected person sneezes or coughs, and continues with fever, cough and red patches on the body. Although there has been some progress on the measles disease, it is still among common diseases in Zimbabwe. In the 1990s, “measles was considered one of the five major causes of morbidity and mortality among children aged <5 years,” according to the CDC.

These common diseases in Zimbabwe are an issue in the everyday lives of natives. With increased education and aid, these health problems will become a thing of the past.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr


Over the last few years, Zimbabwe has been in a major drought due to climate change. According to NewsDay, the residents of this African country have experienced “suffocating dry spells with uncertainties on when exactly the rains [will pay them] the long awaited visit.”

The uncertainty of rain has led many Zimbabweans, especially children, to become undernourished and thirsty at all times. With 90 percent of agriculture being rain-fed, most of the food sources are also being destroyed.

This is where the international NGO Practical Action steps in. These expert problem solvers have developed a way to contain the little rain that does fall and allow it to be used for everyday water needs by harvesting rainwater in Zimbabwe.

Practical Action states that one key source of clean water is through “harvesting rainwater as it falls and retaining it in the soil or in tanks below ground.” There are a couple of methods it has come up with to help store rainwater, for both irrigation and drinking purposes.

First, by constructing divots into the earth, people can trap the rainwater instead of letting it run off the land. This better sustains crops, which improves nutrition.

A second way to capture and store rainwater is with tanks. Practical Action gives many examples of how to do this, including water falling off of roofs, flowing out of dams or gathering up in puddles. Underground or above ground, tanks are useful for collecting rainwater and storing it for an indefinite amount of time until it is needed.

There are many benefits to this innovation. Harvesting rainwater in Zimbabwe can be done whether there is a little sprinkle or a storm. The Zimbabwe National Water Authority said: “The claim that rainwater harvesting is only possible when the rains are heavy is, unfortunately, one of the biggest misconceptions that have scuttled rainwater harvesting efforts in the past.”

People can harvest rainwater year-round, so Zimbabwean families can see more impactful results.

Zimbabwe local and Rainwater Harvesting Chairman Tias Sibanda has noticed a change in his life due to his use of this system. He remarked: “Thanks to the water harvesting techniques shown to us by Practical Action… and with the contour field structures, we are now more ‘food secure’ and have no worries about soil loss.”

Harvesting rainwater in Zimbabwe could be a hugely beneficial technique to keep families healthy and happy for the duration of the drought.

Sydney Missigman

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Zimbabwe
Lake Chivero, a key water source for Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, is one of the several major dams that have reached full capacity countrywide. The synchronized overflow of the dams followed incessant rains that have pounded Zimbabwe for two weeks. Contrary to popular belief, this overflow is a good thing – at least in regards to the water quality in Zimbabwe.

The spilling of Lake Chivero, according to Harare Water Director Eng Hoslah Chisango, would improve not only the availability of water but also the water quality in Zimbabwe. When the lake spills, the downstream pour carries dirt with it and so the quality of the raw water is improved.

According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority, Lake Chivero has risen to 108 percent capacity. But Lake Chivero’s overflow is just one of many across the country. Other water reservoirs have also been full as a consequence of the heavy rains, and the national dam level average has risen to 65 percent. This is a huge landmark, especially in Zimbabwe, where the residents suffer from scarce water supplies.

The two weeks of heavy rains may not seem noteworthy, but in Zimbabwe, they are just the opposite. The domino effect set in motion by the overflow of dams across the country could help Zimbabwe get access to clean water for the near future. This is especially important as the country’s overall water coverage is a mere 56 percent. Most people rely on water from boreholes (narrow shafts drilled into the ground), which is almost all contaminated. Women and children, who are often the ones responsible for going to the borehole, often have to wait up to five hours to collect water.

Water quality in Zimbabwe is nevertheless an important problem that needs to be addressed, but the dams may provide momentary relief for the country. On a large scale, the overflow will not offer the necessary relief to the Harare residents who have been suffering from both the country’s droughts and the council’s inefficiency to find a long-term solution. Hopefully, the dam overflow sheds light on the poor water quality in Zimbabwe and the need for additional aid.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr

Zimbabwe_Woman
Zimbabwe:Works, beginning in 2012 and now ripe in its second phase since January 2015, is a collaborative project to enhance the careers of young Zimbabweans. Sponsored by USAID, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Zimbabwe:Works implements programming in local non-governmental and private sector organizations to train youths in entrepreneurial skills, professional networking and financial literacy. In a shrinking economy, such assets might otherwise be denied young Zimbabweans, as would their chance to pursue meaningful, lucrative careers.

Through the Passport to Success (PTS) curriculum, young Zimbabweans are learning teamwork and career readiness skills which not only augment their economic futures but also impart a sense of confidence and self-worth. Already, nearly 4,000 young people in Zimbabwe have received financial literacy training since the inception of this second phase, and about half of these have accessed loans from microfinance institutions to build or develop their own businesses, with more than $12 million in ensuing net profits. With an aim to assist more than 22,000 by its conclusion at the end of this year, Zimbabwe:Works is providing young people with the financial legs for standing on to create and grow their own economic opportunities.

Zimbabwe:Works addresses the problematic and growing disconnect between current employment opportunities and young job seekers, and with Zimbabwean youth constituting 67 percent of the nation’s unemployed, the situation waxes urgent. For women especially, 21.2 percent of women between the ages 15 and 24 are unemployed, compared to 11.7 percent of men in the same age demographic.

Addressing the capitol of Harare last year, the Head of DFID Zimbabwe Annabel Gerry said, “Women and girls are over-represented in low-skilled, low-productivity, low-paid occupations. This project is going to provide young Zimbabweans, and women in particular, with skills and economic opportunity for themselves and the nation at large.” With an emphasis on the interconnectedness of gender equality and poverty reduction, Zimbabwe:Works has made the economic preparation of young women a particular priority.

To invest in the future careers and opportunity access of young people is to address poverty at its roots. The educational and vocational skills which Zimbabwe:Works provides a young generation not only facilitates the pursuit of individual success but reestablishes the foundations of a strong national economy. And with the serious weight placed on optimizing opportunities for women, Zimbabwe:Works attempts to address the “engendered nature of poverty” and end the social inequities which perpetuate national poverty.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Sista2Sista Club Empowers the Women of Zimbabwe
Gender inequality is a crippling factor that debilitates women and young girls in impoverished countries, such as Zimbabwe. In response to the increasing rate of dropouts and sexual abuse that is prevalent in Zimbabwe, the Sista2Sista club was established in 2013 to assist in empowering Zimbabwe women to learn about personal rights and advocate for themselves.

Stories like that of  15-year-old Shamiso Nyamutamba are far too common in Zimbabwe. By age 5, both of Shamiso’s parents had passed away and she was sent to live with her uncle, who planned to force her hand in marriage and send her to work instead of pursuing an education. Shamiso’s time with her uncle included abuse and discrimination and though she was fortunate enough to eventually escape the harmful environment, she was still required to make work a priority in her life in lieu of an education. Soon after her transition, Shamiso heard of the Sista2Sista club that offered a safe place for vulnerable girls, such as herself.

Shamiso eventually learned she was HIV positive since birth. Through the advocacy and empowerment that Sista2Sista provides, she continues to grow with their health services and school programs. She has “proven to be academically gifted, ” and as described by Shamiso, Sista2Sista “taught [her] that early marriage is wrong… and to report cases of abuse right away.”

Since the organization of Sista2Sista started, 10,388 Zimbabwean girls have joined the club. The U.N Population Fund provides financial support and advocates for the initiatives of promoting sexual and reproductive health rights. UNFPA works to reduce maternal mortality rates, provide family planning education and prevent new HIV infections and gender-based violence. The UNFPA supports the need for an informed “understanding of population dynamics and using an integrated, rights-based and gender-sensitive approach.”

Ongoing support for women through organizations such as Sista2Sista has created a movement in Zimbabwe that continues to invent new methods needed to advocate for furthering women’s rights. As outlined in the Girls and Young Women’s Empowerment Framework, the Government of Zimbabwe plans to increase accessibility to sexual and reproductive health services. Additional goals include increasing female participation in the decision-making processes and equality in all levels of education, as well as increasing the rate of violence reporting experienced by girls from three percent to 50 percent by 2020.

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

The Elders Support Zimbabwe Through a Letter to SADC
The Elders, a group of global leaders unified by Nelson Mandela, have urged the heads of state of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to support Zimbabwe through an upcoming transitional period.

In a letter to the SADC, they point out that Zimbabwe is “on the verge of an important transition.” The advocates behind the letter, including Kofi Annan, Graca Machel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, note that with the support of the SADC, Zimbabwe could experience a shift to democratic leadership and a boost to their economic and social development.

Zimbabwe has been rife with protests recently as a result of displeasure with President Robert Mugabe’s rule, as well as various economic problems that have developed in the country.

There are cash shortages throughout the country, the government is planning to reintroduce bond notes as legal tender and civil servants are lacking several months of pay. Civilian anger about these facts has led to multiple protests that police have broken up through the use of batons and tear gas.

Government authorities are attempting to subdue civilian protests, many of which have been organized through social media, by drafting a law that will punish civilians with up to five years jail time for “abusive” use of social media.

The Elder’s letter comes at an auspicious time considering the current tumult within Zimbabwe. Additionally, the letter prefaces the upcoming SADC group summit in Swaziland.

In the letter, not only do the Elders support Zimbabwe but they also make clear that aid to Zimbabwe will be beneficial for the nation as a whole and should, therefore, be something that SADC thoroughly consider in their impending meeting.

The letter states, “The Elders believe the upcoming summit is an important opportunity to reflect on how best SADC can help Zimbabwe manage the complex challenges ahead.”

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr