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