Women's agro-scholarship Initiative

The Problem

The term “feminization of poverty” expresses the continuity and prevalence of poverty among women. Women make up the majority of the poor and as a result, gender and poverty are intertwined. In Zimbabwe, 68% of female heads of households are poorer and living under the poverty line as compared to their male counterparts (FAO, 2017). When women are poor, they are deprived of their position as agents in development, within their society and economy.

Although there is a world-wide trend towards women emerging from their isolation to establish their own self-help and rights groups, the situation in developing countries remains quite different. In the available literature on women in developing nations, it is often stated that these women face a double-handicap due to their gender and developing world status.

In the Zimbabwean context, gender equity is an issue for the large majority of women, given the socio-cultural practices and traditional attitudes of society. Therefore, many of the issues that are faced by women in general in a male-dominated society include having limited access to education and employment, as well as problems arising from traditional cultural practices that tend to seclude women from public life. Although poverty leads to inequality and marginalization of both men and women, this group is not homogenous. Women from developing countries face unique disadvantages compared to men, such as difficulties in fulfilling traditionally expected gender roles, or difficulties in accessing rehabilitation services which tend to be dominated by male professionals. In many developing countries, poverty can exacerbate these disadvantages, limiting access to resources and rehabilitation services.

In the Zimbabwean education arena, women and girls fare less well than their male counterparts. There is a lack of public awareness among families that women need education on equal terms with their male siblings. The gov. of Zimbabwe ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and legal framework exists to support education programming geared towards women, but little is done to enforce this legislation.

Economic independence of women is instrumental to transformative empowerment. However, women are systematically excluded from the mainstream workforce, due to the misleading information being projected that they are incapable of productive work. Sexual and intellectual stereotyping further hampers opportunity and growth in the work market. Women are seriously under-represented in vocational training (World Bank, 2009: 104) and are often allowed to pursue homemaking and handcraft training that is often prescribed to women.

Our Response

Food scarcity, the unemployment crisis, and data on gender-based violence may not initially seem to go hand in hand, but our methodology understands the deep connections within these issues of poverty and offers a solution to help eradicate these challenges simultaneously.  The Women’s AgroScholarship Initiative is aimed at strengthening future agricultural entrepreneurs who are women from disadvantaged and marginalized backgrounds, and who have a desire to serve their greater communities. The ultimate goal following the steps below is to see women bring food security to their homes, and then branch out and give opportunities for employment and food security to the community at large.

How it works

  1. Women submit applications to Harambe Trust, detailing projects they’ve already begun in their communities that need a boost. Women can apply as individuals or groups, but are encouraged to apply as collectives to encourage community building. 
  2. Harambe Trust, a board of local experts, and Team 2SOL review the applications and choose a diverse group of women for the yearly cohort. These women will receive a scholarship for a 3 day training designed to meet their specific needs.
  3. Experts from the Harare Technical and Agricultural Academy travel into the field where the chosen recipients are grouped based on location. They participate in this multi-day training that covers best agricultural practices, resilience building, and business/entrepreneurial techniques (scaling, piloting, finances, marketing, etc.). The training is specifically curated for what each group of women need to turn their projects into small businesses.
  4. Our cohort puts their new education into practice, with field officers from Harambe Trust and 2SOL checking in on them a few times a month for data reporting. The field officer collects data on what is going well, what the major struggles are, and success metrics. They bring these reports back to the organizations, which result in the women receiving further mentorship based on their needs and the needs of their businesses.
  5. Our cohort is then able to apply for specific grants (between $25-$250) that will further their businesses, although they are encouraged to use their current resources to adapt to the environment around them. Women are more likely to receive these grants if they have a project that has clear scaling potential, or if they have a project that is already serving the community past their own household.
  6. Harambe Trust and 2SOL maintain relationships with each of these cohorts for four years, ensuring sustainability and support during difficult times. Data reporting for each project/business is completed every month. The ultimate goal is to work with 1000 women each year, thus 250 new recruits will be accepted each quarter.
  7. Students from the United States visit multiple project sites in their sixth month of operation. The cohorts show the students what they’ve been working on, as well as teach them the lessons they’ve gained from being small business entrepreneurs. Students have the opportunity to learn about successful projects, as well as projects that have experienced large challenges in order to get a fuller scope of this initiative. Students will get a mix of hands-on training and formal classroom education that has been designed to empower them to become more thoughtful and innovative world changers in their own spaces.

Success Metrics

Coming soon
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