BINDURA — Women’s economic empowerment depends on educational and skills, access to finance and credit, a favourable policy framework that seeks to break through gender disparities to provide economic opportunities, training funds and programmes for women in both rural and urban areas.
BY VIMBAI MARUFU
Having grown in a rural setting and experienced an array of injustices and discrimination as a girl child, Glanis Changachirere established the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) in 2009, an organisation that sought to promote sustainable livelihoods of young women from marginalised communities.
“I founded this organisation based on the experiences I faced in the rural areas that included discrimination, social injustices and a multiplicity of roles that are not favorable to the girl child,” Changachirere says.
“The organisation is a space where younger women share and discuss issues that affect their lives socially, economically, physically and come up with alternative solutions to their problems,” she adds
Since its inception, IYWD has been carrying out projects in Mashonaland Central Province in the districts of Bindura, Mazowe, Shamva, Madziva and now has a membership of above 2 000 which is within the organisation’s target group of 16-35 years and an unconfirmed figure of those outside the range.
IYWD has been carrying out projects to educate younger women in rural and mining communities and has trained 30 women from Bindura and Mazowe districts business skills and helped them to start up small business ventures.
IYWD uses a wide range of activities towards meeting its goals which include training, dialogue and discussion platforms, community-based livelihoods projects, information documentation and dissemination, sport, theatre, advocacy and lobbying, networking and policy research and analysis.
Some of the women are making re-usable sanitary pads for their own use or for sale in their communities, while others make school uniforms, engage in farming, poultry and detergent making.
One of the beneficiaries, Onai Chitakunye (32), said the programme has educated her on a number of issues that include awareness of rights, decision-making power and helped her start up her small business.
“This programme has helped me gain confidence in myself, something that I didn’t have. I can now stand up for myself since I am now aware of my rights through the teaching of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“I did not have a job, but the business management workshops that are done by Glanis helped me start my own sewing project and I can now sustain my family through selling my staff,” she said.
The IYWD has, through its interventions, created dialogue spaces for women to engage their community leaders, local councillors and parliamentarians on issues that affect them.
The organisation also sensitised traditional leaders on young women’s rights and encouraged those to use a right-based approached in the courts.
“As a step towards a multi-sectoral stakeholders approach to encourage women”s particicipation, IYWD has set up committees with traditional leaders to deal with cases of violence against women that inhibit their participation in decision-making and developmental processes in their localities.
“Following the successful implementation of this project, IYWD is now playing a Para-legal role in traditional courts and influences judgments on cases of involving women,” Changachirere says.
On Thursday, the organisation had planned to celebrate International Women’s Day in Glendale, a gathering that saw women from Shamva, Bindura, Chivese and other surrounding areas coming, but was disrupted after a directive came from the District Administrator’s office to cancel the event.
“The disruption of our event today shows the struggle that comes with being a woman and society’s failure up to this day to recognise women and their different narratives. The Women’s Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on such struggles, celebrate ourselves for fighting through and look into the future ahead as a collective,” Changachirere bemoans.
IYWD has empowered a lot of young women and won an International democracy award in Washington DC last year for working towards young women’s participation in decision-making and policy processes.