Self-empowerment projects: A beacon of hope for women

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The bulk of women in Zimbabwe still have limited access to financial opportunities, a situation which forces many into transactional sex and other activities that increase their vulnerability and marginalisation.

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE

The glaring gender disparities have hugely contributed to the continued disenfranchisement of women who are often the care givers but with no means to effectively carry out that important role.

However, for women like Bernadette Chivhima from Kuwadzana, a lifeline has been thrown at them through training and provision of start-up kits by the Women’s Self-Promotion Movement (WSPM) in collaboration with Bread for the World (Germany) and the Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development ministry.

WSPM is focused on women empowerment through capacitating disadvantaged and marginalised women and girls and initiating them into self-promotion projects. It carries similar projects in countries like Zambia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chivhima is part of the women who were identified from Harare’s various suburbs like Mbare, Hopley, Kuwadzana, Mabvuku, Waterfalls, Stoneridge, among others.

“As a breadwinner, I am very excited about these projects and am part of a poultry venture with other women from Kuwadzana,” Chivhima said.

She is confident once their poultry project is full throttle she will be able to send her children to school and provide decently for them.

A young woman, Felistas Chitsedza, who is also part of the Kuwadzana group, said she felt empowered already because now she can plan her future with a guarantee that she will have a reliable source of income.

“The training we received before embarking on the project prepared us adequately and we know exactly how to run our venture profitably,” she says proudly.

The women all participated in the training on several aspects which included entrepreneurship development, book keeping, and financial literacy.

During presentation of the certificates in August, Women’s Affairs minister Nyasha Chikwinya said limited access to start-up kit and financial opportunities has forced women and girls into transactional sex.

“Women are exposed to all forms of exploitation ranging from human trafficking, sexual slavery and sexually-transmitted diseases and other illnesses,” she said.

The Minister of State for Provincial Affairs in Harare Metropolitan Province Miriam Chikukwa speaking at the same event said she was saddened by the fact that many women were still living in abject poverty and destitution.

“I am happy that WSPM is one of the organisations that have been working with my office to empower women and girls,” she said.
The minister highlighted that women’s empowerment was a priority for the government.

In Mbare, women who took part in the programme are equally optimistic about their future. Running a canteen project, the women are aiming for bigger business ventures.

“Projects like these are life changing and as mothers we are often excluded from critical family discussions because of our status economically but this will soon change,” Rosemary Razaro, the treasurer for the canteen project which is a hive of activity with patrons coming from far and wide, said.

The members are aiming higher and would want to grow their business and challenge the status quo of male domination in most spheres of the economy.

For the Hopley women, the projects have offered them a rare opportunity to escape the poverty and bleak life which are all common features in the settlement. They have set up two tuck shops using their start up fund. They have also contributed towards the initiative which is set to transform their lives.

Hopley is one of the hot spots for prostitution, teen pregnancies, domestic violence and unemployment. Most affected are women and children who are often without means to resources.

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