Economic justice is key to achieving gender equality

Economic justice is key to achieving gender equality

Date: September 5, 2017
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By Sikhangele Moyo

Over the past two years, I have had the privilege to work with young women under the Zimbabwe Works enterprise business development program which targets young women between the ages of 20-35years.The main objective of the program is to empower young women economically through the business management training and linking the beneficiaries to micro finance institutions for cash reinjection.

My role in this project gave me an opportunity to get a first-hand experience of the challenges faced by young women in Zimbabwe. I observed that many young women had lost hope in themselves and were engaged in small to medium business as a means of survival and had no aspirations to do better in their life.

One could easily assume that this may be due to the national economic meltdown and no access to productive resources. The Zimbabwe Works (ZW) program gave the young women an opportunity to be exposed and the courage to stand on their own and impact their communities.

One of the major successes under the ZW project is that the young women under the economic empowerment program created internal savings and lending clubs and stokvels as a sustainability strategy to ensure cash flows and access for their capital reinjection into their businesses.

Working with these young women made me realise that they have the potential to achieve more for themselves and their families if they receive enough support in skills development and mentorship. Our project evaluation report revealed that 30% of women trained under the ZW program has created employment for other youths residing in their communities.

Although the young women’s businesses are excelling. The same cannot be said about their marriages. One of the key objectives of the project was to mainstream gender.  Our organisation had focus group discussions with the beneficiaries in an effort to find out what were the issues that were affecting the beneficiaries.

The young women spoke about their challenges, including their concerns about how their economic freedom was slowly becoming the source of gender based violence at the household level. One beneficiary burst into tears during the meeting as she explained how she was being abused by her husband since she began saving her money. She shared that her husband continuously harasses her for her money and when she gives him the money he uses for his personal uses.

Some women highlighted that their husband’s always want to make business decisions on their behalf and demanding them to imply or pull out which they felt it is unfair for their growth.

I have mobilised young women through WhatsApp groups and face book to attend a meeting which will be held by our Bulawayo Chapter Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe. The purpose of this meeting is to form a Young Women’s Forum. My recent experience with the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance in South Africa helped me realise that young women need to be in a free space that allows them to speak about issues that affect them. The meeting will discuss the terms of reference of the Young Women’s Forum.

The Young Women’s Forum will help us identify the various gender related challenges that various young women face. This will further help identify the areas for intervention and issues for advocacy to the policy makers.

This article is part of series of voices from the recently launched SADC Gender Protocol Alliance Young Women’s Alliance.

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