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LAWS ON BIRTH REGISTRATION IN ZIMBABWE

Hannah O’Riordan Site Visit 2019 Blog

I was lucky enough to visit Zimbabwe for the second time at the end of 2019, to visit our partners and see some of the amazing work they are doing to support young people in their communities.

After twenty-seven hours and several airport lounges, our leadership team touched down in Bulawayo and drove back through the beautiful surroundings to get started.

When I first visited Zimbabwe eighteen months before, the country had erupted with hope for the future and all our partners had big plans. It was fantastic to be back and see these plans in action and to get to meet some of the young women and men that ZET has been supporting, which kicked off with our visit to Trinity Project.

Trinity Project is a Bulawayo-based organisation which champions child rights and child protection, best known for its ground-breaking work on birth registration locally and nationally. Our trip began working on upcoming fundraising, project management and other administration. We were able to find out about their successes, such as lobbying the First Lady on birth registration and passing a parliamentary motion.

The Kids Club

After struggling through power cuts and lack of water and electricity for the first couple of days in the office, we spent the rest of our time in Bulawayo out in the field meeting local communities. We visited some girlchild empowerment organisations, called ‘kids clubs’, where we heard first-hand the impact Trinity had in teaching these young girls and women about their rights and transforming their circumstances.

No one exemplified this better than Brenda, a teenage girl who was kind enough to share her story. Brenda was born HIV+, due to her single mother’s positive status. She grew up very poor, unable to go to school or afford proper medication. She resented her mother for her situation and ran away from home when she was very young. Life on the streets was tough and left her vulnerable, so fearing for her safety she returned home. This is when she was introduced to the Trinity Project Kids Clubs. She began to attend these and was taught various sports, games and arts and crafts to participate in.

Brenda outside her home

This became her lifeline – she had other children to socialise with who understood, an incredible support-network of adults around her to counsel her, and new creative outlets. Brenda now writes beautiful and impactful poetry, which we were lucky enough to hear her perform. Brenda is an inspiring person, but she represents dozens of young people who Trinity has empowered in this way, and it was a privilege to meet these young girls and boys, learn from them, and continue to support them.

The next stop on our visit was Rafiki Girls Centre, an education and vocational training centre for vulnerable young women in Harare. This visit began with working through the project management and logistics of our ongoing project funded with UK aid from the British people, and it was wonderful to hear that this year’s programme was going well and the rapid expansion of students had been a success.

During our time at the centre, we met many students during various classes. The director, Hildah, has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of her students past and present; their backgrounds, their work, and what they went on to do; so it has always been so inspiring to hear what a life-changing difference the centre makes in the lives of these women, and it was a blessing to get to see this first-hand.

We saw students working on their new UK Aid Direct funded laptops and sewing machines and were treated to a delicious three-course lunch from the hotel and catering students. I was gifted a gorgeous kitchen set from the design students, which now sits proudly next to the wall-hanging I was given at my last visit, back here in the UK.

We also travelled round Harare in torrential rain to see students at their vocational trainings, including tutorials at a hair salon and Nurse Aid students learning CPR at a Red Cross centre. The young women on this course are a testament to the project – Rafiki provides first-class training to its students and is vital in boosting their confidence, social skills and employability; forging a lifeline for marginalised young women in Zimbabwe.

I flew home alone as the rest of our team travelled onto our final wonderful partner, Foundations for farming, and was able to reflect on our visit. It feels like the start of an exciting new period for ZET and our partners, with a new leadership team in place at home, stronger than ever organisations in Zimbabwe, and fantastic plans for the next couple of years. All of our partners are doing incredible work supporting the most vulnerable in society and have a transformational effect on those they reach. We have strong projects in place to champion our existing work and are expanding into new areas – I really look forward to seeing what we can do next.

Hannah O’Riordan

ZET Trustee


Rafiki get the go-ahead from DFID and the Jo Cox Memorial Fund

Rafiki Girls have always been incredible at what they do and now this project will be funded with UK aid from the UK government. Utilising funds from the Jo Cox Memorial we’re delighted that between 2019-2022 we will be supporting 240 girls (including 40 single mums) to break the cycle of deprivation which has so negatively impacted their lives so far.

ZET staff meet the first intake of students

With their amazing programme of confidence building, life skills and personal independence the first three months will see the girls come together as a group and start to change the way they see themselves and their life opportunities.

In the months that follow the girls go on to specialise in areas such as Pre-School, Nurse Aid, Hotel & Catering and more. This specialist training is combined with a work placement to ensure that by the time they are finished they’re ready to enter the workplace.

From here it’s just a short hop to understand how an empowered woman, with skills and earning potential can change her own life and contribute to the lives of those around her.

The proof is evidenced as 85% of graduates go on to employment or further training within 6 months of graduating. Way ahead of the national average.

The Event Decor class show their work

This inspiring work is the reason Rafiki and ZET have partnered for so many years.


Zet Blog: Rafiki Site Visit November 2019

If you are a girl born in Zimbabwe, the opportunities available to you in life can be very limited. Faced with a long history of gender inequality grounded in cultural and religious attitudes, boy children are given preferential treatment over girl children in terms of education. Girls comprise just 35% of the pupils in secondary education. This barrier to education, coupled with hostile economic conditions and a high unemployment rate results in girls often being ill-equipped to enter the workforce. Young girls in Zimbabwe are vulnerable to a host of challenges in securing themselves a bright and happy future. Our partners at the Rafiki Girls Centre aim to provide girls with a way out of poverty, empowering the most disadvantaged young women to take their futures into their own hands. 

Providing specialist training in a range of career paths, Rafiki opens up a world of opportunities to young girls. From interior design to pre-school teaching, girls who apply to Rafiki can explore their potential through a series of courses designed to equip and empower them with the skills they need to advance in life. During the site visit in November 2019, our Chairman/co-founder Derrick, Operations Manager Andy and Trustee Hannah were able to see these courses in action, experiencing first-hand the ways in which Rafiki is improving the lives of young girls in Zimbabwe. 

Derrick, Andy and Hannah had the privilege of observing a whole range of classes, which gave them an insight into the quality and standards of teaching provided by the amazing staff at Rafiki. They got their hair done at a cosmetology class, brushed up on their anatomy in Nurses’ Aid training, and even enjoyed a hotel-standard meal prepared by the Hotel and Catering students in the centre.  

The purpose of the visit was to strengthen our relationship with our partners, as well as placing on-going scrutiny on their practices. By challenging existing safeguarding standards and monitoring everything from applications to teaching to book-keeping, ZET made sure that every part of Rafiki’s processes were up to scratch, in order to deliver the best experience possible to the girls. Perhaps the most important part of the visit was ensuring the sustainability of the project, through thorough analysis and evaluation of its effectiveness and impact. Finally, the site visit presented us with an opportunity to learn, enabling us to plan for the years ahead.

 


ZET Blog: Child Marriage and the Girls Summit

Please note, this articularly originally appeared on the DFID website, and was written by Lakshmi Sundaram, the director of Girls Not Brides.

Working on a taboo subject can be isolating and demoralising and, as evidenced by the experience of some Girls Not Brides members focused on ending child marriage within their communities, even life-threatening. Until a few years ago, child marriage was such a taboo: it was definitely not considered to be a suitable topic for international summits, hosted by Prime Ministers and heads of UN agencies!

2014’s Girl Summit showed us just how far we have come, in a very short time. By focusing on child marriage, the Summit brought global attention to this once ignored issue, which can have a devastating impact on the lives of girls.

We know that child marriage has already hindered the achievement of six of the eight Millennium Development Goals and continues to trap 15 million girls a year in a cycle of poverty, ill health and inequality. Tackling child marriage has been identified as a smart investment, which is likely to lead to “improved educational attainment, higher earnings and greater health-seeking behaviour”. This is a target which not only empowers girls and women, but the knock-on effects would mean we stand a better chance of achieving other important development goals.

The Girl Summit highlighted the growing global commitment to child marriage, bringing together government ministers, community leaders, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector. Importantly, the Summit saw a high level of participation from many of the countries most affected by child marriage.

The message from Girls Not Brides members attending the Girl Summit – and those following it from afar – was clear: political leaders need to back up their words and commitments with long-term funding and comprehensive, integrated strategies and programmes.

But has anything changed since the Summit?

Have we made progress?

There are certainly successes that we can celebrate: the Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution recognising child marriage as a violation of human rights, which was co-sponsored by more than 85 countries from every region of the world.

At the regional level, both the African Union and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation have taken on the issue. Several countries are making progress in developing their own strategies to end child marriage. And, all over the world, we continue to see brave individuals and civil society organisations taking a stand against child marriage and working tirelessly to support the girls affected.

But there is still so much to do. At Girls Not Brideswe would like to mark this anniversary by renewing our call to political leaders to create a lasting legacy of the Girl Summit, and continue to turn your words into actions. You can start by ensuring that the proposed target on ending child, early and forced marriage is included in the final Sustainable Development Goal framework, to be adopted in September.

Of course, a target on paper by itself will not change the lives of girls. Change will only happen when governments make ending child marriage a political priority, when they work with civil society to develop and implement comprehensive, cross-sectoral national action plans, and when these plans are fully resourced. Change will only happen if we measure progress effectively, and are willing to learn from our mistakes and adapt course if needed. Change will only happen if we continue to remember that we are ultimately accountable to the girls whose very lives are at stake.

Those who work on child marriage know that this is a complex issue that will not be ‘solved’ within a tidy 12-month period.

But we also know that if we can collectively harness the growing global momentum on ending child marriage – and follow through on all of our pledges and commitments – we can make ending child married within a generation a shared reality, not just an aspiration.

Original article: https://dfid.blog.gov.uk/2015/07/22/one-year-on-from-the-girl-summit-are-we-any-closer-to-ending-child-marriage/

Written by Lakshmi Sundaram, Girls Not Brides

Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, Zimbabwe Educational Trust


ZET Blog: Zimbabwe Election Predictions

Please note: this article was originally written by Kurt Davis Jr, an investment banker working in economies across Africa, for the website Moguldom. The sharing of this article is not an endorsement of his views or a comment on the political situation in Zimbabwe.

The peaceful military coup on the evening of Nov. 14, 2017 culminated in the resignation of President Robert Mugabe on Nov. 21 and the installation of ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa, a longtime ally of Mugabe, was sacked by Mugabe reportedly at the favor of Grace Mugabe, wife of Robert, who had expressed interest in taking up the position.

The removal of President Mugabe effectively eliminates the potential presidential rise of Grace Mugabe, consequently opening the door in 2018 for Mnangagwa, also a member of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZAN-PF) party.

All that said, the removal of the Mugabes from the presidential palace after nearly 20 years opens the door for speculation on potential contestants for the higher office.

The main opposition will come from the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai (MDC-T), led by Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tsvangirai has been the key opposition figure against Mugabe, contesting in the 2002 presidential election (which Mugabe won with 56 percent) and the 2008 presidential election (which Mugabe won with 86 percent in the runoff).

Although the Organisation of African Unity concluded that the 2002 elections were “transparent, credible, free and fair”, the Commonwealth of Nations, Western governments, and Norwegian observers challenged that assessment with the Commonwealth of Nations also suspending Zimbabwe for a year.

The 2008 elections began with Tsvangirai winning about 48 percent in the first round to Mugabe’s 43 percent, but Tsvangirai dropped out before the 2nd round, blaming widespread violence and risks to voters as the primary reasons that the runoff would be a “sham.”

Having served as prime minister nevertheless from 2009 to 2013 after the 2008 election, Tsvangirai’s political craftiness should not be underestimated. The main deterring factor may be his health and his ability to overcome colon cancer. Much speculation suggests that he will sit out the 2018 election which would essentially hamstring the MDC-T party.

Beyond ZANU-PF and MDC-T, there is Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (now the National Alliance for Democracy) led by Simba Makoni, a former minister of finance and economic development in Mugabe’s cabinet from 2000 to 2002.

His history with Mugabe is as colorful and contentious as Tsvangirai. Maybe Makoni runs in 2018. Or academic Ibbo Mandaza may run, but he will have to overcome a poor track record as editor-in-chief of the defunct publication, “The Sunday Mirror”.

Jonathan Moyo, former minister of higher education (2015-2017) and former minister of information (2000-2005, 2013-2015), will be lurking after being expelled from the government and the ZANU-PF…he left the party in 2005 and returned in 2011 (so not unfamiliar ground to be on the outside).

Who will win? Zimbabweans win if the election still happens in 2018. If the election happens, transitional President Mnangagwa likely wins with Tsvangirai likely not representing MDC-T due to health (or not having the full energy to launch an energetic campaign).

The remaining opposition has a lot of question marks. But you can expect someone (after the dust settles) to launch a serious campaign to at least force a public discussion on economic growth, jobs, and the future of Zimbabwe (Zimbabweans are excited for a conversation on the future of the country).

You can see the original article at: https://moguldom.com/141483/top-election-predictions-for-africa-in-2018/

Written by: Kurt Davis Junior
Edited by: Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager

 


ZET Blog: UNICEF Zimbabwe Education Plans

Zimbabwe’s education system, once arguably the best on the continent, has been deteriorating over the past 10 years and has been seriously affected by the declining financial assistance to the sector. In the absence of significant national government financing, which is a result of massive hyperinflation, economic restrictive constraints, and political instability, a complex system of fees, levies and ‘incentives’ has evolved that has significantly disadvantaged the poorest. Further, some thirty two per cent of learners no longer continue their school beyond grade seven. This consistent decline in public expenditures on non-salary costs has had a significant impact on school and learning supervision, availability of information for planning and policy and the relations of school governance, which has in turn led to a significant decline in the quality of school environments, the relevance of the education system and the placement of skilled teaching personnel.

In response to the challenges in the education sector, the Education Transition Fund (ETF) was launched in September 2009 by the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture (MoESAC), and was aimed at improving the quality of education for children through the provision of essential teaching and learning materials for primary schools, and high level technical assistance to MoESAC.

The ETF, in addition to assuring consistency in funding levels during the transition period, has found that a pooled fund mechanism has helped to increase alignment with Government priorities, promoting ownership, coordination and reducing fragmentation. As such, despite the fragile nature of the recovering education sector, new opportunities exist providing a ripe environment for the rapid consolidation and improvement of the education system.
improving.

As the education sector transitions into a phase of long term recovery, the overall goal of the second phase of the ETF will be to support the continued revitalization of the education sector by assisting the Government of Zimbabwe to realize its objectives of achieving universal and equitable access to quality and relevant basic education for all Zimbabwean children. ETF II is outlined in three key thematic areas which are guided by MoESAC’s Strategic Investment Plan (2011). These areas are outlined below:
The first phase of ETF focused on the emergency revitalisation of the education sector, and on the distribution of essential school stationery and core textbooks for primary and secondary schools. However, the transitionary nature of the second phase of ETF will see the programme, under the direction of MoESAC, and in line with its Strategic Plan, focus more on the systems and structures that provide education, in turn building the capacity of MoESAC, including Zimbabwe’s teachers to deliver quality and relevant education for all. The programme will focus on investing resources at the school level across the country through the development of a block grants initiative with the aim of reducing user fee costs for all learners. These grants will allow schools to reconstruct WASH facilities, repair school infrastructure (including teacher houses), purchase essential teaching and learning materials and procure teacher and student furniture, allowing for rapid scale up if future funding permits.

The second phase of the ETF will support the following key activities:

● The finalisation of a national sector planning framework for education, with corresponding provincial and district level plans, directed by the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture;
● The development of a national school grants initiative, delivering critical investment (including WASH) at school level, to assist in the reduction of financial barriers to education for both boys and girls;
● In-service training of at least 100,000 teachers in modern pedagogical and subject based skills, with a focus on improving the basic teaching skills of at least 10,000 unqualified teachers;
● Training of at least 300 key Ministry personnel at the national, provincial and district level, as well as some 8,000 school heads to strengthen their system management capacities related to planning, implementation, supervision and monitoring, linked to priorities outlined in the emerging 5 Year Strategic Plan;
● The development of a fully revised, modern, market oriented and culturally appropriate curriculum framework, with corresponding tested syllabi for all ECD, primary and secondary levels;
● Development of a second chance education

 


ZET Blog: A History of Rafiki Girls Centre

Rafiki means friend in Swahili, and that’s exactly what Rafiki Girls Centre is. A friend to disadvantaged girls, offering empowerment and opportunity through education and training. Throughout Zimabwe’s history, the girlchild has been the most vulnerable – under pressure to take on the majority of domestic work and care, often forced into child marriage, pregnancy or labour, and excluded from education.

Due to the economic troubles of the last twenty years, their situation has exacerbated – with girls often dropping out of school, engaging in risky sexual and employment practices, and exposing themselves to HIV and other disease.

Rafiki stood as a friend for these girls, offering support and education that they could use to build and change their lives. Today we have more than 600 graduates, with 85% going onto access further education or training.

 

For example, Rafiki was a friend to Tinotenda. When she joined the centre, she was a struggling orphan who could not afford her HIV medication. Now she has started her own business to fund her studies.

 

Rafiki was a friend to Michelle, who used her nursing training at Rafiki to go on and qualify as an ambulance driver and paramedic for Harare Hospital.

 

 

It is unclear what the future holds for Zimbabwe, with elections coming up and the economy remaining turbulent. It is clear though, that girls are all too often left behind in development, and for as long as it is needed, Rafiki will be there to be a friend to girls in need.


ZET Blog: Child Abuse and Child Protection in Zimbabwe

Our longest-standing partner, Trinity Project, has recently expanded their work to focus on all aspects of child rights and child protection, beyond just access to legal identity documents. This involves a number of new exciting projects aimed at: improving and increasing children’s services and programmes in Zimbabwe; improving children and their families’ awareness of children’s rights and needs; and supporting children through individual legal, practical or emotional challenges.

This change arose from project officers seeing the need on the ground and being compelled to do more to support children in need. Common challenges for children included a lack of access to healthcare, education or social services – leaving them vulnerable to disease, abuse, malnutrition and often unable to complete education, raise an income or escape the traps of poverty.

A recent study, funded by UNICEF and run by the University of Edinburgh, looked into the prevalence of child abuse in Zimbabwe. The study (Fry, 2016), found that physical, emotional and sexual abuse were extremely common among young people in Zimbabwe and recommended that child protection was put at the forefront of government policy and civil society priorities. Some of the findings are listed below:

• “Physical violence is the most common type of violence experienced during childhood among respondents aged 18-24. About two thirds of females and three quarters of males had experienced physical violence by a parent or adult relative before the age of 18 (63.9 per cent and 76 per cent, respectively). Respondents also reported experiencing different forms of emotional violence as children. A total of 12.6 per cent of females and 26.4 per cent of males had been humiliated in front of others before the age of 18, and 17.3 per cent of females and 17.5 per cent of males had been made to feel unwanted” (Fry, 2016)

• “Sexual violence during childhood was more common among girls than among boys. One in five girls aged 18-24 had experienced unwanted sexual touching before the age of 18 (20.2 per cent) compared to 5.6 per cent of boys. A total of 15 per cent of girls had experienced attempted sex (3.8 per cent for boys), 9 per cent experienced physically forced sex (0.4 per cent for boys) and 7.4 per cent had experienced pressured sex (1.4 per cent for boys)” (Fry, 2016)

• “After controlling for age and socio-economic status in the regression models, the significant risk factors for experiencing violence varied for boys and girls depending on the type of abuse they experienced. One risk factor that was common for both boys and girls across all types of violence was having early childhood experiences (before the age of 13 years old) of abuse, thus highlighting the importance of early intervention” (Fry, 2016)

• “There are very few national studies on emotional, sexual or physical violence against children in sub-Saharan Africa, and there are no empirical studies published in Zimbabwe on emotional violence. Nurturing environments that foster successful development are critical to children’s well-being. Understanding what creates negative interactions within the peer or family context is essential for violence prevention. This secondary analysis provides, for the first time, comparable national population-based estimates that describe the nature and magnitude of violence against children in Zimbabwe” (Fry, 2016)

• “All forms of violence against children place a significant burden on children and young adult’s health and well-being. Emotional abuse is associated with increased suicide attempts for both boys and girls, and sexual violence was associated with reported lifetime experiences of suicide ideation, unwanted pregnancy and alcohol use among both girls and boys and smoking among boys, and other health outcomes” (Fry, 2016)

Unsurprisingly, the study concluded that increased levels of early abuse would hamper a child’s development, causing them mental and emotional harm and often leading them to display unusual behaviours in adulthood – either replicating abusive behaviours or exhibiting deviant beliefs and behaviours towards themselves and others.

Trinity Project now works to provide emotional and practical support for children through weekly workshops, teaching them about child abuse, their rights, and how to get help. It also works directly with parents and communities about types of abuse, how to recognise abuse, and the importance of not practicing abusive behaviours.
By creating early warning systems, safe spaces and awareness, Trinity helps the children of Bulawayo and Matabeleland to identify and protect against child abuse and other child protection issues. This makes us a pioneer of UNICEF’s recommended best practice in Zimbabwe, mainstreaming child protection as a means to empower and support children.

Written by Hannah O’Riordan, ZET Operations Manager


ZET Blog: Diaspora as Dilemma

Please note: this article originally appeared on The Global Native’s website, and was kindly shared with us by the organisation’s director, Na Ncube.

In June 2013, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, delivered a lecture in London hosted by the Royal African Society. I noted with interest that within the first seven minutes of her 50-minute speech, she made mention of the important contribution(s) by the African diaspora in Africa’s development under the rubric of Domestic Resource Mobilization; this is in keeping with the recent stance of the African Union towards what is now its Sixth Developmental Region. To paraphrase Her Excellency, she made note on how investment in Africa by Africans has doubled, currently making up 17% of all foreign direct investment projects on the continent. She further cited a quote from the International Business Herald of 8 May 2013 which read ‘Surprise! Africa’s fastest growing Foreign Direct Investor is now Africa.’

Indeed, the contribution(s) of Africans in diaspora have become a catch phrase in today’s development jargon. Countless articles by both Africans and other scholars advocate for Africa’s diaspora as the next panacea, or ‘magic bullet’, for solving the development quagmire. More so in the advent of the African Union’s Golden Jubilee, various articles have rehashed the same information in perhaps a slightly different order but mostly outlining what is perhaps already known or even taken for granted. I take no issue with these publications and indeed their information is valuable, however, what has since taken my attention is that many such claims seem to conclude pretty much the same way. Typically they outline the advantages of the African diaspora over donor agencies and conclude by saying that African governments, or the AU or some other supranational body should ensure that the diaspora are taken into account in moving African development into a bright future.

However, none of these have given any real analytical thought to the nuts and bolts of this engagement, nor do they offer any concrete way forward, they seem to chant a nice slogan and leave the reader hanging. For example such claims that ‘the AU’s ‘Sixth Zone’ policy cannot just be something on paper alone… [but the AU must]… rely more on diaspora African remittances to speed up African development in the 21st century.’ No further information is given regarding what steps the AU is expected to take or, more importantly how such remittances are to be accessed. Nor does it elucidate what an African in diaspora should do next once they get all charged up and passionate about African development.

This paper attempts to open up this subject which is a continuation of an older debate by coming to grips with, and trying to understand the details of what the AU is dealing with in its ‘Sixth Region’. My aim here is not to be prescriptive, exhaustive or overly informative, rather I wish to push forward a debate that, to me, seems to have come to an impasse; what I will call here, ‘the diaspora as dilemma’. The article will attempt to understand this dilemma by first understanding the nature of this Sixth Region; then the internal problems which I believe are at the root of engaging the diaspora, and which perhaps have a far more reaching consequence than the magnitude of the sums of remittance flows that are sent to Africa; followed finally by a discussion of two ways of addressing this issue, primarily as a way to hopefully start a deeper debate concerning the “how” aspect of the diaspora / institutional engagement.

WHAT DEBATE?

To most professionals in the development field, 2009 was a watershed year for not only African, but ‘Southern’ development when Dambisa Moyo published her highly influential book, Dead Aid (Moyo, 2009). She was further named one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine that same year, so she obviously struck a nerve. What was striking about Dead Aid is that many aspects of the argument were actually not new, but they had simply not be put together in a way that simplified and basically ‘undressed’ the development industry and offered a way forward. Alternative approaches to development have since become a preoccupation of many Africans who become vocal in the debate because they could finally give words to their discomfort and frustrations. This understanding gave a clear framework by which the African diaspora can engage development. However, since then, while the message has gone viral, it has also found itself in a cul-de-sac as Africans seem to simply chant how much better the diaspora are at development than foreign agents, so let us begin there.

The diaspora have become a new fad in development since the turn of the millennium, though they existed for ages and remittances have always been channelled to Africa and other developing countries such as Mexico, (where remittances make up the highest contribution to the country’s GDP); yet the diaspora had no real ‘presence’. Meanwhile, in 2002, the World Bank released a report outlining that remittances from relatively poor migrant workers in rich countries (the diaspora) were much higher than the combined total of government aid, private bank lending and International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank aid and assistance (World Bank, 2002). Since then, there has been much interest in the diaspora due to the high figures they remit even in the face of the global economic and financial crisis; in fact, it has been observed that remittances are even higher in the context of crises. The following year, 2003, the African Union (AU) amended Article 3 of their constitution and essentially identified the African diaspora as its sixth regional block (Davies, 2007). The African Union recently held their ‘first ever Global African Diaspora Summit…in South Africa…attended by the Heads of State and representatives from 54 African nations’ (AU, 2012) as an official bid to engage the African diaspora as highlighted in Dr Zuma’s recent lecture in London. These progressions of euphoric institutional interest to capture the diaspora for development have provided ‘visibility’ for the diaspora, many of whom have responded by ‘getting organised’ to take advantage of this limelight. Yet there has been no clear path from the diaspora regarding what concrete partnership they want, beyond chanting mantras and slogans, and perhaps this is a telling point. While there is a clear willingness by both parties to engage, the devil seems to lie in the details; how does this engagement take place and in what form? To get to grips with this, it is helpful to understand first of all who the diaspora is (are).

DIASPORA AS DILEMMA

‘Diaspora’ was originally used to denote populations that were forcibly removed from a homeland and though they settled elsewhere, still orientate their lives, and plans to returning to such a homeland as in the case of the Jews and recently the Palestinians. It then made its way into public discourse by including any group that either moves across national borders yet retains strong ties to their homeland, or in some cases, national borders move over people producing the same effect. In its current use it also includes a means to evoke, mobilise, or create support for a project (political or otherwise) in the service of a homeland (Faist, 2010). Without going into detail, there is a raging debate underway regarding the use of the word and its recent ‘expansion’ which some thinkers believe dilutes its meaning. Here, I argue that this is not so relevant, what is important is that the word has been captured by institutions, people with a historic heritage in Africa, as well as recent migrants to create a sense of homogeneity, or construct a constituency through which they are able to make collective social claims. For example, migrants (as diaspora) now advocate for better incorporation in their host countries, though ironically, if they were to assimilate to their hosts, they would stop being ‘diaspora’. It is for this reason that to remain relevant, the ‘diaspora’ must remain a ‘dilemma’ with both feet placed firmly across two borders or continents as the case may be. Therefore, what matters most is not what the word ‘means’ but what it ‘does’, the proverbial rose by any other name.

In other words, by successfully fusing various forms of migration and cross boarder processes (or transnational processes), ‘diaspora’ has effectively ‘brought migrants ‘back in’ as important social agents’ (Faist, 2010). Effectively, the diaspora can be defined as ‘the exemplary communities of the transnational moment’ (Tölölyan, 1991). So, all this means that ‘diaspora’ has become a confusing term which can mean very different groups of people, for example, ‘expatriates’, ‘migrants’, ‘ exiles’, ‘historic communities’ and ‘refugees’ even and in fact it forms this unruly collection with many groups jostling for very different agendas under the same heading. This is a large component of why diaspora engagement is such a difficult undertaking for any institution on a practical level, because to engage this group, one has to effectively ‘invent’ it from above. The AU for examples has done this by defining African diaspora as ‘peoples of African origin living outside the continent [of Africa], irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the Continent and the building of the African Union’.

Immediately one can question if ‘inactive’ migrants or others are not diaspora, or what of ‘national diasporas’, those who move within Africa itself, and want to support their country of origin while living in another, and so forth. While ‘diaspora is a necessary way to ‘group’ a constituency, its inclusiveness makes it equally unworkable, taken practically, if the AU wishes to sign an agreement with the diaspora, for example, whose signature would be on the agreement? This practicality infuses every engagement, bearing in mind that the primary reason for institutional euphoria in the diaspora is financial, in the form of remittances, investment and other financial flows. Quantifying these amounts effectively made the diaspora visible, yet there aren’t too many practical ways to ‘operationalise’ that money institutionally. Yet in reality, it doesn’t matter if remittances or other investments can be captured or not, their presence has opened up a space for those outside Africa to reengage with institutions, politically, or for development or any other cause. It can be argued that due to its lack of homogeneity, the Sixth Region is only useful as an ‘instrument’, where institutions can only speak and act on its behalf without any scope for the diaspora to meaningfully engage, simply on practical considerations alone. So, in light of this, and instead of voicing what the AU hasn’t done, or ought to do, let’s consider what options exist for creating a meaningful engagement with its Sixth Region.

THE DILEMMA OF LEADERSHIP

I would like to take a practical example to portray this aspect of my monologue. There are two diaspora organisations in the UK that I am involved with, since I don’t have their permission, I will name them Organisation ‘A’ and ‘B’. The first has been in operation for many years and is considered a leading authority on African diaspora and development issues and is currently recognised by both diaspora and institutions alike. The second is fairly new and was formed by various individual organisations to engage government institutions in the UK as a way of providing a platform for a ‘single voice’ for its constituency in the diaspora.

Organisation ‘B’ has experienced a myriad of problems in trying to consolidate and represent its constituency in the diaspora, effectively for the reasons highlighted above. Due to acute heterogeneity, as soon as anyone stands up to say they are taking leadership of the diaspora, they are attacked almost immediately…By the diaspora themselves. Questions run along their source of legitimacy to lead over others. A spokesperson of the group was cited saying ‘we represent our constituency even if they are not aware of it’. Most complain that there has not been any consultation and no one has voted in this group or that individual and so forth.

Therefore as an institution such as the AU, engaging those who claim such leadership lands the AU in the middle of a mine field. In this case, the crisis of representation (the democratic approach) has created more splinters than unions. Therefore if this constituency called the Sixth Region be formally grouped together, organised, led or governed, what hope is there for the African Union and indeed any other institution to engage meaningfully with these diaspora? These groups who seem to have no agenda of their own and only scuffle and fight for relevance in this newly created visible space for engagement?

A second approach, something I have called elsewhere, ‘Beyond the Engagement Impasse, Leadership without Representation’, is exemplified here by organisation ‘A’. Let’s first consider how this attention on the diaspora is mirrored in examples like the NGO experience. In the early 1980s, the developing states had been the main driver of development and the primary recipients of donor aid. At that time, donors underwent serious fatigue and blamed state corruption for the failure of development. NGOs then stepped in as a means to sidestep state corruption, but for all their advantages of being flexible, on the ground and ‘uncorrupt’, NGOs have come to resemble the very same states they had replaced. Currently, the NGOs are viewed as the problem in development and the diaspora are in pole position to occupy that space. However, with the problems above, it appears that to remain relevant and effective, the diaspora must work within their strength and learn from the NGO experience. They must remain a ‘dilemma’ and operate in a ‘different’ way from all other actors in the development field. As in the case where leadership in the diaspora cannot be by ‘representation’ rather, it must be by example. The effectiveness of simply doing the job without making claims has been the basis of power for organisation ‘A’, ironically, no one challenges that legitimacy in the diaspora nor in any institution. It may seem ironic that though operating in the West within the ‘confines’ of democracy, this organisation has emerged through; let’s call it an African form of leadership – by strength and good example, not by rhetoric. I argue here that perhaps this formation is a clue that the AU can take forward to policy implementation.

CONCLUSION: A NEW APPROACH?

As highlighted above, since diaspora now includes just about anyone outside their national border, it now includes migrants and historic populations who circulate back and forth and not simply people who are “stuck” in place and long for home. As a result, those mobile agents (who weren’t previously included in the diaspora definition) have emerged as the most effective members, though they make up the elite portion of the diaspora. These elites (as well as institutions) actually ‘negotiate and constitute what one may call disaporaness’. This means that not only are these groups acutely heterogeneous and difficult to engage, they are also a moving target which are ‘formed’ and ‘unformed’ rather rapidly. Yet even in the face of these challenges, there are already various formations in place through which the diaspora can engage with the AU such as: the African Diaspora Investment Fund for channelling remittances, African Diaspora Volunteers Corps, as through African Parliamentarians in the Diaspora who could hold annual parliamentary meetings, AU-Diaspora Foundation/Trust to support the AU-Diaspora Initiative to name a few initiatives.

While this article does not seek to answer every question, it aimed to bring to light the different difficulties that may be faced by the AU in its diasporic engagement and seeks to suggest a direction for such engagement. In our work at The Global Native, for instance, we have approached remittances as a form of alternative development finance which I will provisionally name ‘Diaspora Direct Investment’ not to be ‘accessed’ or ‘captured’ by institutions, rather to be ‘partnered’ with. This conclusion developed from questioning that since remittances were there all along (in addition to development aid), why then does everyone seem to think remittances alone can now solve the problem which both forms of finance did not? In other words, this ‘visibility’ on its own does not turn remittances by magic into the panacea that is longed for by every development practitioner. However, by thinking practically through a simple form of community shares, remittances can be turned from consumption to investment and remain essentially ‘informal” flexible funds that the everyday migrant is familiar with. Such practical approaches must form the cornerstone for the AU’s future effort to ‘developmentalise’ its Sixth Region.

Written by Na Ncube, Director of The Global Native


ZET Blog: Moringa – The Miracle Tree

Foundations for Farming have recently been developing a plot of moringa plants, a very cheap and easy to grow crop that has many nutritional and medicinal benefits and can be produced in high yield for high profit. In this article, staff from Foundations explain more about the crop and how it can be replicated by people all over Zimbabwe and sub-Saharan Africa – no matter what land or resources you have!

Moringa is native to northern India but has become naturalised across most parts of Zimbabwe and in tropic and sub-tropic parts of Africa. Amazingly, it naturally grows in most of the regions where people suffer most from poor nutrition and food insecurity. Moringa trees grow easily even in marginal soils with very little care and minimal water requirements. The tree can be grown from seeds or cuttings and the leaves can be harvested just eight months after planting. Some people allow it to grow into a large tree – it can grow up to ten metres tall – while other people cut it back and encourage it to grow into a more bulky shrub, or even a hedge, which makes harvesting the leaves and seeds easier. The trees can also be grown in pots, bags or even the smallest yards, if they are kept pruned and controlled. This makes them ideal to grow in high density urban-areas, or even in a large pot on an apartment balcony, as well as in rural areas, particularly those areas which receive minimal rainfall.

Not only is moringa extremely easy to source and grow, but it has loads of fantastic benefits for nourishment and medicine. According to WebMD, “moringa is used for ‘tired blood’ (anaemia); arthritis and other joint pain (rheumatism); asthma; cancer; constipation; diabetes; diarrhoea; epilepsy; stomach pain; stomach and intestinal ulcers; intestinal spasms; headache; heart problems; high blood pressure; kidney stones; fluid retention; thyroid disorders; and bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infection.” Researchers in Senegal also found that it also helped pregnant women to meet their daily intake requirements and to produce more milk, due to its high levels of calcium, iron, protein and vitamins.

Moringa has gained popularity more broadly because it is highly nutritious, making it a popular supplement to meet deficiencies in diet. This is particularly helped in malnourished communities. The leaves and pods of the Moringa tree play a significant role in the nourishment of people of all ages. A 100g serving of fresh leaves is enough to meet the daily requirements of a child aged between 1-3 years for calcium, 75% iron, and 50% of the protein requirement as well as other essential nutrients.  However moringa is also more versatile than this, and can be consumed as raw leaves, uncooked leaves, powder, roasted seeds, boiled pods and beans, and the flowers can also be eaten and added to dishes.

Moringa could be transformational for villages or deprived urban areas across Zimbabwe, providing nutrition and medicine for communities who cannot afford traditional sources. It is easy to find, grow and use – and due to its many benefits, it also sells for a fair profit too. If you have any more questions about moringa crops, please do get in touch with the team at ZET/Foundations for Farming and we would be happy to help.

Written by Kuda Kutesera, Project Officer, Foundations for Farming
Edited by Hannah O’Riordan, Operations Manager, Zimbabwe Educational Trust