Women leading the way

MASVINGO - Women in rural Masvingo have taken the bull by the horns and are leading the way in fighting poverty.

With their men out in the towns or having crossed into South Africa in search of elusive employment, women here have been forced not only to put food on the table, but to take over physical community work.

The construction of a community dip tank in Mushandike village is illustrative.

Dozens of women leave their homestead early in the morning, trooping to the site where the dip tank is being constructed.

Donors have provided materials and the community members chip in with labour.

A few men are present but it is the women who are in charge.

Task-sharing is simple. The elderly sit under the trees minding the children while the able-bodied sweat it out with shovels and wheelbarrows.

“As mothers we come here with our children to help with work.

‘‘We have our mothers here too, who look after children too young to join in,” says Pauline Musinda.

“This dip tank will help us with our riches. If you have cows you are rich,” says the mother of two.

“The dip tank project is truly a blessing because we have to walk long distances to access the closest dip tank which is about 10 kilometres away,” she says.

Muchaseka Rovazuwa, 80, is seated in the blazing sun attending to her two-year-old grandson as her daughter and other women work.

She tells the Daily News on Sunday that although she had problems with her legs, she did not mind coming out to the diptank and watch women work.

“Zvinofadza kuona vana vasikana vachitungamira, isu tichichengeta vazukuru kudai. Kushaikirwa nemurume handi nyore. (It is gratifying to see young women take charge while we look after the grandchildren. It is not easy losing a husband,” she said.

Close to 200 households will benefit from the dip tank and 65 of these households are headed by women.

The dip tank project is part of the Cash/Food for Assets (C/FFA) programme introduced by donors and government.

More than 130 000 households are expected to benefit from the programme in 21 districts this year, as government and donors move to combat hunger and poverty, according to the World Food Programme (WFP) public information office.

WFP’s information officer Victoria Cavanagh says 218 Cash/Food for Assets projects are planned in the 21 districts countrywide.

She says the projects are already in full swing in areas like Binga, Hwange, Zaka, Chirumanzu, Chiredzi, Bikita, Gutu, Mbire, Mwenezi, Mutare, Mutasa, Buhera, Centenary, Mt Darwin and Rushinga.

The programme was initiated as a pilot project in nine districts- Tsholotsho, Insiza, Nkayi, Binga, Mutare, Mutasa, Zaka, Chipinge and Mt Darwin — between August and November last year.

This was in response to food insecurity stalking Zimbabwe and vulnerable rural communities in areas affected by recurrent extreme weather events such as droughts or floods are targeted.

"About 125 productive livelihood assets were created or rehabilitated and benefited about 9 960 households while a further 38 805 households benefited from the completed assets created.

In these projects, we had more than 1 375 villages in 138 wards participating," says Cavanagh.

She said C/FFA activities include construction and rehabilitation of water sources, improving crop productivity and improving livestock production.

"Types of assets are water source developments like dams, weirs, wells and boreholes, improving crop productivity and income, including dietary diversity, community gardens, conservation agriculture and income-generating initiatives.

“Some involve improving livestock productivity through rehabilitating dip tanks, protection of grazing areas and improved access to markets," she says.

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