Addressing violence against women through economic opportunity

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A common thread of anticipation and hope on the women’s faces, runs through all the communities we have engaged with, as we have done our rounds in some of the Spotlight Initiative’s selected districts, including Muzarabani, Umzingwane, and Chipinge. The main purpose of the meetings was to share information about the Spotlight Initiative in general, and the Women Economic Empowerment component in particular. We also defined the target group for the programme: Survivors of GBV; Women living with HIV; Women with Disabilities; and Women in extreme poverty.

Poverty is a recognised driver of gender-based discrimination and violence that has led to an increase in the feminization of poverty in both rural and urban areas. Evidence from studies by the ILO and other organizations show that investment in economic empowerment is a prerequisite for sustainable development, pro-poor growth and the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Data from the targeted Spotlight Initiative districts reflect high levels of poverty rates, even higher than the National Poverty Rate of 72.3%.

The community engagement efforts at this stage strategically involved all members of the community, such as traditional and political leaders, spouses, the women, and other influential people in the community like teachers, headmasters, business owner and retired workers. We have to orient and negotiate for the women participation in the economic empowerment programmes, otherwise masculinity and some ‘cultural’ barriers can potentially stand in the way, including lack of self-confidence in the women themselves. Hence, Gender Transformation becomes an essential gateway to rural women economic empowerment programmes.

The communities have to to open up to the reality of women being economically empowered and to provide the needed support in the process, for the success of the programme. In addition, the women themselves will need to be equipped to balance their reproductive roles and the newly acquired productive role.

Sadly, from the discussions in the three districts visited so far, it was validated that Gender-Based Violence is a reality in the selected communities, fueled by different factors, but communities identified poverty as the key driver. A mapping of the potential economic activities per district was also done, together with the District Coordination Committees – comprised of all line ministries and civil society organisations and chaired by the District Coordinator (former District Administrator – DA).

The communities were left to identify the potential beneficiaries informed by the set criteria, under the guidance of the Ministry of Women Affairs. However, a thorough validation process will pursue to ensure that we have the correct beneficiaries for the project.