Since 2013, the Improving Girls’ Access through Transforming Education (IGATE) initiative in Zimbabwe has been aimed at identifying and reducing the barriers that limit and hinder girls’ educational access. The IGATE program in Zimbabwe is transforming girls’ education through empowerment.
Current Issues with Girls’ Education in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe has the highest regional literacy rate with 96 percent. However, women make up 60 percent of the illiterate adult population and the school dropout rate remains particularly high among female students.
Through the sponsorship of the Girls Education Challenge Fund, the six-member organization and education initiative IGATE has a goal of reaching 90,000 women and girls. For these students, it aims to improve access to school while raising retention and performance rates.
How Exactly the IGATE Program Helps
SNV, a Dutch nonprofit focused on equipping communities with the knowledge to overcome poverty, is one of the six IGATE partners. It has been implementing the IGATE program in Zimbabwe with a specific focus on addressing the following barriers that interfere or hinder girls’ access to education:
- Village savings and loans
- Schools Development Committees (SDCs)
- Capacity building including the Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) component
- Bicycle education empowerment programme (BEEP)
- Male champions for girls’ education
- Channels of hope (religious component targeting challenges of early marriages)
- Improving children’s reading culture (happy readers)
Through educating the community and empowering women with the tools they need for success, the IGATE program in Zimbabwe has already seen large improvements in individual lives. For example, programs like the Power Within girls club have helped children feel more equipped for success. According to World Vision International, Basitsana, a member of the club, stated, “We have been taught about child rights, career guidance and also communication. I think as I continue with this project, I will grow up to be a more clever and confident person.”
Other models, such as the Village Savings and Lending Scheme, have helped parents pay for their children’s schools fees. Taki, a parent and beneficiary of the program, commented, “My life has significantly changed since starting activities with IGATE. I used to face difficulty in paying school fees…Now I can pay school fees for my children and also buy other necessities, especially for my daughter, such as sanitary pads.”
Continuing the Effects of IGATE
Not only has IGATE made differences in individual lives, it has also impacted the country as a whole. To date, IGATE has grown from its original eight districts to now 10 districts in Zimbabwe while also adding three new models of intervention focusing on barriers of distance, learning outcomes and male champion support.
In the first three years of operation, IGATE estimates that the number of people directly benefited was around 70,000. Specifically, 4,500 School Development Committee members, 12,000 mothers of girls who participate in a mothers’ group and 2,000 traditional religious leaders whose involvement will allow for culturally and religiously appropriate approaches have all benefitted.
Specific achievements of IGATE through the partnership of SNV include:
- 363 mothers’ groups of 467 target schools trained in Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM) and the making of Reusable Menstrual Pads (RUMPs)
- 361 school matrons have been trained in MHM and RUMP-making in the 10 districts in four provinces.
- 467 Schools Development Committees have been trained in school governance, in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene management in schools, in planning and budgeting and in girl child issues including gender-based violence and child abuse in schools
- Two sets of manuals including training guides were developed and approved through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education’s Curriculum Development Unit
- 164 school health teachers were trained in participatory health and hygiene education (PHHE)
For the future, the IGATE program in Zimbabwe has ambitious goals to reach 50,000 school girls in 450 schools across three provinces and eight districts.
– Anne-Marie Maher