Today’s Zimbabwe is characterized by poverty, lack of education and low food security. Widespread poverty is affecting children, especially girls, severely. A report from Plan International shows that the harsh conditions not only affect girls’ health and well-being, it also increases the risk of them being forced to leave school, which in turn exposes them to risks such as getting married and becoming pregnant even though they are children.
The coastal country of Zimbabwe lies between Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. The country became independent in 1980 when a local resistance movement took power and was then counted as one of Africa’s richest countries. But in the 1990s, the country entered an economic crisis that left the Zimbabwean dollar useless, forcing more than three million people in search of income in neighboring countries. The traces of the economic crisis still characterize the country today. Unemployment is high and there is a shortage of healthcare staff and teachers. Only a third of the rural population has access to sanitation.
In recent years, extreme inflation, drought and high food prices have led to increased political tension in the country. When former Vice President Mnangagwa was ousted, a political crisis erupted that led to the resignation of Robert Mugabe, the 37-year-old controversial president who has ruled the country for 37 years. feet again.
Girls are hard hit by the situation in the country. According to the report “Counting the invisible” produced by Plan International, girls from three countries, including Zimbabwe, talk about how poverty makes them need to leave school. This in itself leads to a markedly increased risk that the girls will be forced into child marriage and that they will become pregnant even though they themselves are children, the report shows.
This is what Plan International in Zimbabwe does
Plan International has been in place in Zimbabwe since 1986 to strengthen children and young people’s right to life, development, protection and participation. All our work has a great focus on gender equality to strengthen girls’ rights, which benefits both individuals and entire societies. We work preventively to prevent girls from being exposed to child marriage, among other things by establishing groups that can identify children who are at risk of being married off. We educate about risks and how to prevent HIV and AIDS, build schools and improve the toilets in schools where children from ethnic minorities go. Plan International Sweden is also involved in financing a program to make the availability of information on sexual and reproductive rights more accessible and inclusive for people with different functional variations.
Savings have led to gender equality
When women came together to save, borrow and start their own businesses, gender equality also got a boost. The method gives millions of women the opportunity for their own income and greater freedom.
A year ago, Angelina Bhandera joined the village’s savings group organized by Plan International. The savings loan groups are about obtaining a sustainable income and the idea is that families will have greater resilience if the harvest goes wrong or something else unexpected happens. Through workshops, the group receives training to be able to set up a system for saving together and starting their own companies.
Each group member deposits a small amount of money each month, the members can then borrow the money to finally pay back with a lower interest rate. It gives the group a small profit each year which is distributed to the members.
– I have started chicken and pig farming and paid for my brother’s education. I have also laid out a garden to be able to provide my family with nutritious food, says Angelina.
When Angelina started contributing to the family income, her position in the family improved and the relationship with her husband improved.
– Now we have decided that we will work together and we quarrel less because I no longer have to ask my husband for everything. Before, I had to do it, even to get little things like salt. Savings groups are a powerful tool that gives millions of women access to loans they otherwise would not have been able to take out. Thanks to the loans, they can start small businesses and increase their quality of life. In the long run, it contributes to the large and more complex process of making society more equal.
Angelina’s husband Morelight Munyangani says that the savings group has changed his view of women’s abilities to take care of the economy. In his culture, women should traditionally stay at home, cook and take care of the children, but now he is no longer afraid to let Angelina go to education. Angelina also sees other changes.
– My husband never used to help at home, but now he sees the benefits of working together and that I need help. Now he feeds the pigs and chickens instead of drinking beer with his friends, she says.
Solar-powered water pump makes the vegetables grow
Before the installation of the solar pump, our garden was seasonal, and the shallow well we dug did not provide us with enough water.
Kiyasi Dhiyisia, mother of five
In one of the villages in the Chiredzi district, women used to walk up to 17 kilometers to the next village to buy vegetables. But one day they decided to start their own vegetable farm and gave it the name “Tselane”. It means “do not give up” in the local language. However, due to the bad weather conditions, the area is unsuitable for year-round use. After contacting Plan International, a solar-powered pump was installed that ensures that the vegetable farm receives the right irrigation and thus they can grow vegetables all year round and provide their families with nutritious food.
Award-winning girls’ club
The girls ‘club has helped to increase the girls’ self-esteem. They now tell their stories through various channels and ensure that their voices are heard – even outside their communities.
Danmore Shonhai, Program Manager for Plan International in Zimbabwe
Traditional attitudes among the older generation in Zimbabwe exclude children and young people – especially girls – from participating in decision-making. That is why Plan International has established girls’ clubs in high schools around the country. Here the girls use photo and text as tools to convey different aspects of their lives and the communities in which they live. The stories are published in school newspapers and newspapers. One of the girls’ clubs in Epworth, one of the slum areas on the outskirts of the capital Harare, received an award in 2017 for its efforts for children’s rights.
Facts about Zimbabwe
Population: 16 million
Life expectancy: 60 years
Infant mortality rate: 40 per 1000 births
Proportion of children starting school: 93.9%
Proportion of women in parliament: 32.6%