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Integrating women empowerment as a key dimension of project design

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Integrating women empowerment as a key dimension of project design Integrating women empowerment as a key dimension of project design

In Zimbabwe, the World Bank is the single largest donor response to Cyclone Idai recovery. Through a multi-faceted approach, the Bank is assisting affected communities to restore livelihoods, rehabilitate critical infrastructure, and build resilience by building back better.

After a recent field visit, my first as Country Manager for Zimbabwe, I have been reflecting on how vital it is for issues of women’s empowerment, including responding to Gender-Based Violence (GBV) redress, be built into project design, rather than being co-opted in reaction to issues emanating from the context.

In focusing on the gendered response to the impact of Cyclone Idai—more so in the aftermath and early project implementation—the need for provision of relief and pathways for persons affected by GBV or sexual exploitation became apparent.

For example, when internally displaced individuals reside together in temporary shelters, as was the case after Cyclone Idai, the incidence of GBV is higher , owing to a myriad of issues that can include overcrowding, inadequate facilities and inadequate security. Thus, unavailability of effective GBV referral systems exacerbates the risks of recurrent violence.  

Cognizant of this, we expanded the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) to deliver GBV essential services. Through technical assistance, work is ongoing to strengthen resilient systems and structures such as monitoring and referral to avert and respond to GBV while increasing availability of multi-sectoral services for GBV response.

GBV services are also being delivered through mobile outreach clinics in hard-to-reach places . These outreach teams include specialized counselors and paralegals working in close coordination with nurses, and police victim-friendly units. This allows the clinic to provide a range of curative, health promotion, referrals, screenings, and preventive care. Among other issues, mobile clinic medical staff have been trained on clinical management of rape to ensure continuous provision of timely services. Teams are also trained on the principles of respect, confidentiality, privacy, and non-discrimination, all skills critical to using the survivor-centered approach of prioritizing survivors’ needs and desires.

The project has also co-opted community health workers known as Behavior Change Facilitators (BCFs) to work closely with direct service providers on the ground, to ensure timely referrals and access to life-saving services for survivors. BFCs are trained in integrated Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights/HIV/GBV prevention. To date, the project has assisted more than 3,500 GBV survivors and all technical agencies supporting the project have received training on GBV referral pathways. 

During my visit to a Derera-Mheuka piped-water community project, a male beneficiary remarked on how the project was contributing to a decline in GBV cases. This is because access to water not only provides sanitation relief, but can be a means of economic empowerment in society. Additionally fewer people at collection points also means that it takes less time to fetch water.

This was reinforced by Granny D, as she is affectionately called. She was vocal about the project’s contribution to her livelihood. With just $200, she grew potatoes and made $600 in her first harvest. From that, she invested $200 into a poultry project, and now she can afford to feed her family beef and buttered bread, something she was never able to do before improvements to the water supply.  Farmers in the area are growing potatoes and producing beans, while women’s involvement has included representation at committee level, identification of water collection sites and participation in trenching and ferrying of construction material.

About 870 people are benefitting from the project, which is located 200 meters from the village. Its source is a free aquifer 40 meters higher than the tank site, ensuring that its gravity-fed, and therefore more sustainable. The tank feeds into 11 water collection points. Beneficiaries are encouraged to contribute a levy towards operations and maintenance.

Upstream inclusion of women

The field visit also included two construction site visits led by two young women. One site is for a solar powered irrigation scheme and another for road construction. Notably, the project is deliberate in ensuring greater participation by women at all levels of decision making. This has a ripple effect of exposing girls in these communities to different career paths. Labor on these sites also consists of women working different shifts to ensure that there is always someone to look after children.

The 10km Matezwa-Gumira road construction, led by 29-year-old civil engineer Michelle Maphosa, will improve access in the community where flash floods are normally a risk. This road construction will connect communities to schools, the business center, clinic, community gardens and the irrigation scheme, which is important as the lack of access caused farmers’ produce to rot. Now, the road access will link famers directly to their markets she said.


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