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ZET Blog: Development Approaches

Development – like freedom, cannot be endowed, it must be achieved

Apparently the world of international development is at an impasse – so many theories, so many conferences, so many papers published, and still the poor remain poor and the development workers somewhat at a loss. The journey has been long – from a certain General Marshall’s utterances in 1947 through the large-scale construction projects, from the ‘discovery’ of poverty by the World Bank in the seventies to the present day era of glamour-aid. Though some successes have been noted, poverty on the whole is still here – and increasing.

So then, why is so much goodwill generating such conflicting results? What are we doing wrong? Well, this is my view – in the first instance, what is development? My belief is that development is – in the words of McEwan – a natural, immanent evolutionary process without intentionality. What I think he means is that, left alone, people will find a way to improve their lot in life. That in fact this is an instinctive drive in all of humanity to improve our condition. We do this in a form of trial and error – learning, adjusting, adapting – and in the process, developing or improving. The process is as important as the result. But more importantly, the result is not always clear at the beginning – so for instance I set off thinking I am going to be a farmer, and through trial and error find that actually I am a talented musician, and maybe I should be a rock star. We all more or less meander our way through life in this way – and the key thing here is that we make the choice of what lessons to keep, and what lessons to discard – a process describe by sociology as agency : the ability of people to make independent choices.

However, with the ‘discovery’ of poverty, development changed from being a natural process informed by independent choice, to ‘an intentional practice with a set goal’ i.e. a means to create order out of the social disorder of rapid urbanisation, poverty and unemployment. Development thus could be determined and directed towards a known end using suitable tools. This therefore meant that someone (the development expert) sat down and decided what the desired goal was (the poor person will be a farmer not a rock star) and then said expert devises tools to make this happen. Expert then sells plan to a donor and a timescale is agreed – so development worker has 3 years to turn poor person into a farmer.

This is where the fun begins. We have had five decades of tools of development – from the original blue-prints that assumed so much and achieved so little. We have redefined words like participation, local ownership, sustainability etc. In fact we have even debated and understood agency (and then tried to manage it…..) We have created complex tools like the log-frame. Conference papers have been read in their numbers, and small successes hailed. But in the main – people are still poor. And now we have an impasse.

The impasse is, I believe, the best thing to come out of international development. Because now we can look at what development is – a natural process. And what it is not – the intentional practice. All the effort of trying to harness what is essentially an internal process has not worked because it cannot work. No amount of planning and funding can replace agency – the need for people to make independent choices. Both those who hand over this internal drive to another, and those who try to manage this in the lives of other people – no matter how well intentioned, will fail. Development is the process, it’s what people achieve for themselves – it cannot be planned and managed by a third party.

This article was originally published by The Global Native in 2016.

Written by Na Ncube, Director at The Global Native


ZET Blog: The Power of Ingenuity

Rafiki Girls Centre: Patricia’s Story

It is very difficult to estimate the size of the informal sector in African economies as the topic easily becomes very political, but a new labour force survey suggests that the sector in Zimbabwe is huge, and growing very rapidly as retrenchments mount and formal employment slides. According to a report by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Office (Zimstat), 94.5% of the 6.3m people defined as employed in Zimbabwe are working in the informal sector. The largest number (4.16m) is made up of smallholder farmers in communal agriculture, followed by 615,000 in trade and commerce. Some 210,000 are said to have informal jobs in manufacturing, 70,000 in mining, 118,000 in education and 92,000 in transport (The Economist, 23 June 2015). To this end, Rafiki’s economic empowerment programs have made it possible for graduates to establish themselves in the informal sector and contribute meaningfully to the economy.

The story of Patricia Kabike is a beautiful and inspiring one. Patricia is a young woman who graduated from Rafiki in November 2010 with a certificate in Interior Designing. In the first three months of training, Patricia took all the twelve compulsory Rafiki Program Modules which included Basic Cookery, Basic Sewing, Machine Knitting, Cake Making and Flower Arrangement. In her own words, Patricia “took every module very seriously” and ensured that she perfected every skill, and to this day she is using all these skills to earn a living.

Soon after graduating, Patricia immediately started using her newly acquired skills to earn a living, including catering and decorating for parties and events. She also competed in a cooking competition, and used her prize money to purchase a sewing machine. She continued to use her skills and initiative to move from strength to strength, working from home with her sewing machine to make a living.

Patricia was one of the pioneers at the establishment of the Rafiki Sewing Centre in 2013, where she worked for four years until June 2017. The Sewing Centre was established as a way of fundraising for the sustainability of the Rafiki Project, but due to economic challenges the Centre was temporarily closed in June 2017. During her stint at the Sewing Centre, Patricia gained a lot of experience in designing and sewing different items which included kitchen sets (placemats, aprons), bags, clothing, curtains and bedding (duvet sets, comforter sets, pillow cases, runners and bedding hollow fibres). The closure of the Rafiki Sewing Centre did not pose a big challenge to Patricia, as she quickly returned to her survival skills – that of self-employment and working from home.

She continues working from home to this day, has managed to build a good clientele base and looks forward to growing bigger. All of her clients praise her creativity and ingenuity, both in her sewing designs and in her work ethic. She is well-known for taking risks and creating intricate designs just from one brief description or picture as inspiration. One of her clients was so pleased with her work that she presented her with a brand new industrial sewing machine to expand her work.

Patricia’s parents live in a rural area and every month she sends them money for food and their general upkeep. She was quick to mention that in the past, her family members never used to celebrate special occasions like birthdays and Christmas, but because of the skills she acquired from Rafiki she was able to encourage them to make such occasions special. She has been doing this by making cakes and preparing special food to celebrate such events in the company of her family and friends. People from her village now know about her skills and every time she visits home they come and place their orders for garments, curtains, bedding and other interior design products.

However, Patricia resides in a one room property which doubles as a workspace, which can make working on larger orders or multiple clients challenging. Renting an office is not an option for her as many landlords do not accommodate the needs of informal sector start-ups and would not permit clients to visit. The current economic situation in Zimbabwe has also impacted on her business negatively, in that for example fabric suppliers do not accept bank/money transfer payment methods but cash only, yet most of her clients pay using bank transfers. With the current cash shortages prevailing in the country it makes it difficult for her to re-stock in terms of fabric and other necessary supplies. Lastly, access to finance is a big challenge. Patricia believes that if she were to obtain capital or a cheap loan to finance her capital expenditure she would grow her business, register as a formal company, and even employ a few of Rafiki former girls who were trained in cutting and designing and interior designing to work with her.

Patricia’s story shows how Rafiki Girls Centre is making impact and transforming girls as well as the community where the girls come from. It shows how, when given opportunities and support, young women can use their skills and enterprise to build a successful life for themselves and those around them. Patricia and Rafiki Girls Centre would like to thank all our donors who have made a difference and hope that many more will assist financially so that more girls can receive hope just like Patricia has.

Written by Hildah Mahachi, Director at Rafiki Girls Centre
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, Operations Manager at Zimbabwe Educational Trust


ZET Blog: Farming Practice Crisis

My people perish for lack of knowledge!

An ever-widening knowledge gap in the unsustainable farming practices of most Zimbabwean farmers, who are mainly small-scale, has not only left the stewards of the land bound in shackles of poverty, but also in its wake ugly wounds which resonate deep into Mother Nature’s core. As a consequence of oblivion, emphasis has been placed on crop performance with a disregard to the holistic farming principles which fairly encompass the entire agro-ecosystem. The substandard yields over the past years have been exacerbated by significant postharvest losses and chemical giants whose hands only extend beyond the counter, leaving the illiterate farmer to fend for themselves with a cocktail of poisons and a shrunken wallet. This only highlights the redundancy of an approach to a livelihood of nearly three quarters of the populace.

Tradition and culture have been a major driving force of the farming practices implemented. Growing up with ties to a rural farming background, it was and regrettably still is common doctrine that, “the deeper the plough the more bounteous the harvest”, or “the burning of savannah and crop residues are the best form of land preparation. It was only through the lens of education that I saw the deleterious effects of ploughing, overgrazing and deforestation, the agents of erosion, as they peeled the land bare layer by layer, while the erratic rains swept away the remnants of soil structure and integrity, leaving more rocks to harvest than food. Through the same lens I saw that in the heat of a losing battle with pests, weeds and diseases, the unmindful mass destruction of the defenceless soil biota through both the judicious and negligent toxic chemical applications which accumulate, not only left some the field’s barren but also incapacitated to sustain life. They don’t know any better, but what are those of us who have been enlightened doing about it?

According to statistics, 68% of the Zimbabwean population live in rural areas, while 70% of the rural population is reliant on agriculture for food and income. More than a third of the national population is undernourished! Let’s momentarily forget the potential profitability of farming as a business and look at these producers who can’t feed themselves and their families, how then can we expect them to feed a growing nation? When traced back to the root of the problem, it all leads to knowledge deficiency. If the critical questions of: what to grow, when to grow it, how to profitably grow it, have been asked then they have evidently gone unanswered. Whose responsibility is it to answer these questions? What is your trade dear sir/madam? What part are you playing in society, and are you giving back or you are just taking?

It comes as no surprise that 72% of the nation is subject to a life under the dark cloud of the poverty datum line. A widespread pandemic of the crippling dependency syndrome has swept through the country and corrupted the mind-sets of many. The longer people spend on their knees with palms open for donations, the more intimately they will know poverty as a loyal companion. When aid becomes a lifeline, its demerits are apparent when it arrives untimely or if at all. I am an advocate of charitable work, but only in the right context. Is it out of love or convenience when you give away those faded second hand clothes? Does anyone think about the vendor trying to make an honest living when containers of free food are donated to a village?

When I close my eyes I picture poverty as a mountainous mound of interlocked padlocks. One man cannot untangle it. Each lock represents the individual member of the community. I strongly believe the way to tackle poverty is by equipping the people down to community level with the right key. Ultimately it is up to the discretion of the individual to free themselves or to remain shackled, but no one can do it for them. Donations kill desire. Teach a man a skill instead, something he can bequeath to his children. That is charity in action, it is sustainable, it requires effort and interaction, and it shows love!

Climate-conscious agriculture is that key and it has never been more relevant for an agrarian people living in times of threatening climate shifts. To lead the poor out of poverty, it is necessary to meet them where they are. Imagine an all-inclusive, low-input, harmonious and forgiving farming system that not only heals the land with every season, but produces healthy, chemical-free and nutrient dense food in abundance, creates sustainable employment, self-worth and purpose. That almost takes us back to the Garden of Eden where there was oneness between man and all creation, and it was good! We ought to discard our habits for a moment and learn something from this model of farming void of any disc harrows or boom sprayers. Conservation agriculture and organic farming are systems that come close to that picture. They can be tailor-made to synergise the successful indigenous practices with the latest scientific advances to create specific systems that optimally leverage the available resources in almost any environment. I believe more of our efforts and resources should be in support of entities that teach this way of farming and more research should be done to improve on what we already know. That sounds like a legacy worthy to be passed on to the future generation.

While the United Nations are encouraging the development of small-scale organic farm, a mere 56% of the total arable land in Zimbabwe is in use, predominantly under conventional farming. The silver lining is that nearly half of the land in the country has had a chance to heal and restore. As an optimist I see this as a unique opportunity for us to rebrand and elevate ourselves as an organic nation, where farming is a noble profession and farmers not only grow enough for themselves, but have enough left over to sell and make a living. This is very possible, but it requires enlightenment and a willingness to change among the Zimbabwean community and the policy makers.

Written by Moses Mhindurwa, Foundations for Farming Volunteers
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: Rafiki Stories

ZET and Rafiki Girls Centre help around 60 girls each year, providing intensive support and training to offer each and every graduate a second chance into education, employment and opportunity; empowering them to live independently and successfully.

The invaluable support ZET donors have provided to hundreds of women in recent years can be difficult to truly comprehend. Together with Hildah, the director over at Rafiki Girls Centre in Harare, we have collated a few personal stories of ZET supported beneficiaries, and how the training they received thanks to your support and donations transformed their lives.

  1. Everjoy

One such beneficiary is Everyjoy, who has come from great personal difficulty and tragedy, and empowered herself. She has asked us to share her story, so we have done just that.

Everjoy and her brother became orphans at a young age, as both her parents unfortunately died from AIDS. They then moved in with their uncle, but were forced to leave when Everjoy bravely reported him for regularly raping his wife and infecting her with HIV, and he was arrested. She then moved in with an aunt, who sent her brother away to work. Everjoy has not seen him since and was heartbroken by his absence.

This aunt asked Everjoy to get an HIV test, and her life became very difficult when she tested positive. Her aunt did not allow her to sleep in a bed or use the furniture, cook or share utensils with the rest of the family – including a plate, cup, and bath. Not being able to cook made it difficult for her to take her ART medication. Her aunt also stopped paying for her school fees, as she believed Everjoy would die soon and education was a wasted investment. This forced Everjoy to drop out of school and instead, she worked as a maid round the house and for her aunt at the market, told this is how she would pay her way. None of the family respected or cared for her, and she was regularly abused and neglected.

Desperate, she called into a radio show to ask for advice. She was then referred to Rafiki Girls Centre, and lived with the radio show presenter, Dr Makoni, whilst she completed her training. During this time, she slept on a bed for the first time in 8 years and was able to take her medication properly and effectively. Whilst at Rafiki, she received advice and counselling for her positive status and gained the life skills she needed to live independently of her relatives. She worked extremely hard to get onto the exclusive Nurse Aide course, and relished her education in this field.

She finished her training at Rafiki with a qualification in nursing in 2013. Her aunt called her at her graduation, to tell her that now her training was finished, she should come back and work at the market to pay her way. Determined to not return to her former life, Everjoy was helped to find a job by Rafiki and Dr Makoni, who allowed her to stay on at his house until she finds employment and can afford her own place.

Everjoy was so happy to have found a family that accepted her, and looks forward to future where she will be self-reliant. She plans to earn an income so she can pay to sit her O Levels, and then continue her training to become a doctor. She also wishes to track down her brother as soon as she can afford to. She is confident the support and training she received at Rafiki will enable her to transform her life, and is so passionate about this that she wishes to open her own charitable home to help others like Rafiki helped her.

  1. Loveness

Another beneficiary of the important work at Rafiki is Loveness. Loveness comes from a large, polygamous family. However, her mother and sisters are not loved or respected by the rest of the family, as the mother gave birth to girl children only and so are not as desirable or useful to the patriarch, her father. Her father refused to fund her or her sisters’ education and told them they would never make it in life, encouraging them to marry young instead. Loveness wanted to choose education and employment rather than early marriage, but struggled without the funds or support to do so.

When Loveness heard of Rafiki Girls Centre, she seized the opportunity to prove her father wrong and realise her dreams. She was a dedicated student, and excelled in her sewing skills training. Loveness is now training to be an interior designer, and loves education. She has also started a small business using the skills she learnt at Rafiki, sewing items such as aprons and hats, to raise money for her mother and sisters – particularly their school fees. She hopes to show her father, and men like him, that when girls are given the chance they can be the source of change in their families and communities.

 

The following three beneficiaries are new students who joined the centre this summer, so although we are yet to see all the incredible things they will be able to achieve when equipped with second chance education, they do each demonstrate the difficult circumstances many of the students face.

 

  1. Alice

When Alice was only a year old, her father died and her mother ran away. She then lived with her grandparents, until they too passed on, and she was forced to live with relatives she hardly knew. Alice struggled to meet school fees and the relatives she now lived with were also unable to cover these. So, although she took her O Levels, her results were withheld because of her debts to the school. Alice went on to take a job as a housemaid, so she could support herself and gain skills.

Through this role she learnt about Rafiki Girls Centre, who could provide her with the training she needs to empower herself, and gain skills, employment and go onto live independently and successfully. At Rafiki, she plans to specialize in tailoring and go onto work in this area in Harare.

  1. Christwishes

Christwishes is an orphan, who lives with her siblings after both her parents died from AIDS. Her and her oldest sister were forced to drop out of school and sell fruit to raise money for the food and rent for the family. She told staff at Rafiki Girls Centre that her life changed completely and became very difficult once her parents had died.

Christwishes wants to come to Rafiki Girls Centre so that she can learn employable skills, and wishes to specialize in sewing. This will enable her to gain an income-generating job, to not only support her family, but to pay for school fees so they can all go back to schools and complete their O Levels. This is her main wish, and learning skills to live independently and gain employability will enable her to complete her education and empower herself.

  1. Vanessa

Vanessa is an orphan who lives with her siblings and extended family. Tragically, after the death of her parents, her house was attacked by a petrol bomb and some of her siblings and relatives were killed. Vanessa survived, with severe burns.

After this heartbreaking incident, she was forced to miss school for a year while she recovered. Without parents to pay her school fees, and having fallen a year behind, Vanessa was forced to drop out of school. Her greatest desire is to break the cycle of poverty her family is trapped in due to low-paid, low-quality employment, by receiving training in a range of skills and going on to obtain a professional job. She would use the income from this to support her relatives and siblings, after all they have done for her.

It can be difficult to recognize what difference your donations and support are making. It is only by digging a little deeper, and asking these truly inspirational women about their stories and their aspirations, that we can begin to recognize how the opportunities provided at Rafiki Girls Centre really can prove transformational, offering women – and often their families – the opportunity to pursue their dreams and prosper.
Written by Hildah Mahachi and Hannah O’Riordan


ZET 30th Anniversary Event

Zimbabwe Educational Trust turned thirty this year!

We commemorated thirty years of advancing educational opportunities in Zimbabwe with an evening of celebration with our loyal friends and supporters from throughout the years. Many of the guests had known of Vuli and the Trust since its founding in 1987, but the evening was also an opportunity to welcome new friends and spread the word.

For those of you who came, thank you so much for your support! Together we raised an incredible £818!

For those of you who unfortunately weren’t able to make it this time, you missed a fantastic evening…

The night kicked off at St Chad’s with a performance by Harmony Choir, a wonderful community choir who aim to bring together people from all different cultures and walks of life, who regaled the audience with interactive songs and dances from Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

   

We also had engaging talks from esteemed colleagues, including author John Farndon who spoke on the education sector in Zimbabwe and teacher Philip Weiss who spoke on the importance of diaspora links.

Several members of the Zimbabwean diaspora rallied together to cook a gorgeous authentic Zimbabwean meal for the occasion, including stews, sadza and caterpillars – topped off with ZET-decorated cupcakes!

Our long-term goodwill ambassador, Dumi Senda, performed a collection of his wonderful poetry, including the ever popular ‘I am an African’, and sold copies of his book at the event to raise money for ZET.

Finally, the night finished off with traditional African dancers – who absolutely raised the roof! – and a world music disco. We do hope all our guests enjoyed the event as much as we did!

ZET would like to say a big thank you to all involved for making it such a fun and memorable evening, and thank you so much to those of who you attended or donated to support our vital work advancing education in marginalised Zimbabwean communities.

If you would like to give ZET a 30th birthday present, you can donate at http://www.zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk/support-us

Written by Hannah O’Riordan


ZET Blog: Learning from Zimbabwe

Which country has the highest literacy rate in Africa? South Africa? Nigeria? Egypt? Well, actually none of these. According to some sources the answer is, perhaps surprisingly, Zimbabwe. Yes, Zimbabwe has a literacy rate of 92 % (or 87% according to UNESCO), which compares favourably with the USA, where more than 1 in 7 people cannot read!

In the UK, there is an image of Zimbabwe of a country in trouble. What outsiders often remember about the country, beyond the longevity of its leader Robert Mugabe – now an astonishing 93 years-old – is that it is something of an economic basket case.

An image looms large in the standard outsiders’ view of the country of the terrible time in 2008 when the economy nosedived, and Zimbabwe was sucked into the worst period of hyperinflation of any country – ever. At this time, prices in shops were changing several times a day. A simple loaf of bread cost tens of thousands of dollars and notes became so devalued that people resorted to taking huge wads of cash to market in wheelbarrows. In November 2008 inflation peaked at 79.6 billion per cent!

But to focus on the troubles of the economy – now at least partly receded – is to entirely miss the achievements of Zimbabwe’s education drive, and just what is possible. When the country became independent back in 1980, the new government was determined that education should be at the heart of their country’s goals. Mugabe’s new constitution identified education to secondary level as free and compulsory for all.

Factoid: Zimbabwe spends 8.5% of its GDP on education – that compares with 5.7% in the UK and just 4.9% in the USA (World Bank)

In the first 20 years of independence, reading rates accelerated from well under 80% under white rule to well over 90% – a remarkable achievement in any country, especially in comparison to other African nations.

Sadly, though, the education drive has faltered the wake of the economic crisis, and the dream is in danger of fading. Many schools are in physically poor condition. There are too few textbooks, and there is a severe shortage of teachers because poor pay has driven them to leave the profession.

Thanks to the drive for education, there is a yearning to learn among the young, but the school system is now letting many of them down. Many children are denied places at schools, and it may not be until well after 2030 that education becomes universal. Girls in particular have been excluded, and less than half receive secondary education.

When western commentators and development agencies look at the developing world, they tend to focus on economic resources. But education may actually the best gift for the future that the children of Zimbabwe and other developing countries can be given. Education helps give them the power to build their own futures.

As the extraordinary young Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai said, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” I, for one hope, that Zimbabwe can get that educational dream back on track and give every Zimbabwean child that chance.

Written by John Farndon, Author
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager

John Farndon will be speaking at our event next weekend, to celebrate Zimbabwe and 30 years of ZET. You can buy tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/zet-30th-anniversary-discover-zimbabwe-tickets-36953536021#/ 

If you would like to write for ZET Blog, please contact our Operations Manager on contact@zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk


ZET Blog: Government Action on the Environment

The government of Zimbabwe has recently been very aware of the need to protect the environment and minimise the severity of the carbon footprint indented by the country’s populous, and has taken various steps to enshrine environmental protections in law. Environmental reform is essential, not just in supporting national and international sustainable development plans, but also in leading to a wave of socioeconomic reforms which create an opportunity to considerably reduce poverty.

Zimbabwe underwent a constitutional reform process which allowed environmental issues to be included into the country’s supreme law. Before this reform, the constitution lacked any clear articulation on how the country was to conserve, use and share the benefits of natural resources. Now, the National Environmental Policy and Environmental Management Act have been introduced to facilitate the sustainable management of natural resources at both local and national levels.

The Environmental Management Act aims to: facilitate sustainable management of natural resources, protect the environment from pollution or degradation, and initiate future plans for the management and protection of the environment. These objectives align with the constitution, creating an environment in which future generations can enjoy their right to a clean, healthy, safe environment. This policy also creates a platform for sustainable national development, whilst reducing climate change.

The mainstreaming of biodiversity into regional, national and international development frameworks has proved complex, as it involves finding strategies to maximise the benefits of biodiversity and minimise its loss through all productive sectors – including agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism and mining.

The Wildlife Act is one of many legislations which have lobbied for and made moves towards outlawing the consumptive use of wildlife in Zimbabwe, and protecting biodiversity. There have been efforts to protect endangered elephants and rhinos for decades, indicating the massive divide in perceptions between the government and the people when it comes to the value of natural resources and wildlife in local communities. Governments need to support rural people to connect with natural resources in their area, and foster a sense of stewardship for these resources on the basis of genuine local ownership. In time, this stewardship must translate into institution-building, for a more comprehensive protection and management structure of the environment, wildlife and natural resources.

The need for a global water management review has gathered momentum since the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Water sector reforms in Zimbabwean law have been initiated to respond to the increasingly complex and unsustainable current water management structure. As global momentum on this issue increases, sub-Saharan Africa has placed much emphasis on reform to watershed management, and Zimbabwe is no exception. The government have now classified the environment as a legitimate ‘user’ of water supplies in Zimbabwe. This has led to protections on the environment’s water supply – tackling pollution and providing populations with clean and safe water, which has clear and immediate benefits for population health and also benefits agricultural activities.

It seems the government is beginning to take clear and tangible steps towards sustainable development, environmental protection and natural resource management – with immediate and long-term benefits to citizens and to the environment. Of course, more work is needed both from this government and from international actors.

Written by Kudakwashe Kutesera (Foundations for Farming)
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan (Operations Manager – Zimbabwe Educational Trust)

If you would like to write for ZET Blog, please contact Hannah O’Riordan at contact@zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk


ZET Blog: Girl Child Economic Empowerment

Many major obstacles to economic empowerment in the developing world originate from the lack of formal education, patriarchy systems that prioritize the boy child over the girl child, and the devastating effects of HIV & AIDS. The AIDS pandemic has left many households child-headed, with the girl child shouldering most of the work – leaving little opportunity for education or for a girl to choose her own future. The major effect of the patriarchal system in most developing societies is that most parents believe it is not necessary to enroll girls in formal education. This stems from the belief that a girl child’s destiny is marriage – therefore sending her to school is an unnecessary “waste of resources”. Although the government and other organizations have tried to raise awareness on the importance of sending ALL children to school, the enrollment of the girl child remains very low in the most marginalized communities of Zimbabwe. From a very tender age, the girl child is raised to be a mother, to take care of the home and concentrate on household chores.

If, for example, one parent is taken ill, the girl child is expected to miss school to take care of the sick parent. The same is not expected from the boy child. This scenario disadvantages the girl child, who misses school until the parent is better, so then when children are assessed at the end of an academic period, the girls’ grades understandably drop and boys will perform significantly better. Another issue is the lack of proper sanitary ware, for the same reason. Girls are forced to miss school for the duration of their monthly period, and the ultimate result is poorer academic grades. The social environment and harsh conditions under which girls learn makes it difficult for them to succeed academically.

Rafiki Girls Centre was established in 2002 to respond to the challenges young women face which have disadvantaged them from the outset, often leaving them orphaned and vulnerable. Economic empowerment is our main focus. The girls specialize in one of the following courses: hotel & catering, nurse aid (health care assistance) training, cutting & designing, pre-school teacher training, interior design and cosmetology. However, we believe in a holistic approach to a human being’s personal development, hence the inclusion of other life skills such as basic cookery & sewing, grooming & etiquette, First Aid, and lessons in HIV & AIDS. In order to achieve these aims, we run special events to develop these women holistically – such as Careers Days and HIV/AIDS Awareness Workshops.

 

            

Careers Day enlightens students about the many opportunities open to them, including teaching, nursing, health and beauty, hospitality and more. The event addresses negative attitudes held towards certain careers, and encourages the students to be successful in whichever field they choose. This is possible, they learn, as long as they follow their passion and work hard. We often see women who come to Rafiki as timid and apprehensive, leave as confident, competent young women.

The HIV/AIDS Awareness Workshop provides a safe space to share knowledge, provide accurate information, and for people living with a positive status to share their experiences. Following these sessions, our students feel empowered to make wiser choses, negotiate safer sexual practices, and volunteer for HIV testing and corresponding counselling and support.

Rafiki’s aim is to empower girls with the skills needed to alleviate poverty in their homes and the communities where they live. We hope that this training opens opportunities for them, and these girls gain a second chance to enter into education or employment should they so wish. We also hope that by training women to be self-sufficient and confident, they will be less vulnerable to situations which may expose them to HIV or unsafe sex. So far, Rafiki has supported over 700 young women, 85% of which have gone onto further education or employment, and we hope to continue training and tackling gender inequality in the future.

Written by Hildah Mahachi (Director at Rafiki Girls Centre)
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan (Operations Manager at Zimbabwe Educational Trust)

 

If you would like to write for our blog, please contact Hannah O’Riordan on contact@zimbabweeducationaltrust.org.uk

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