Celebrating Unsung Heroes- Celebrating International Rural Women 15 October 

SIRP - Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme > News > Celebrating Unsung Heroes- Celebrating International Rural Women 15 October 

Celebrating Unsung Heroes- Celebrating International Rural Women 15 October 

  • Posted by: Precious Nkomo
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Mai Angela a mother of 5 is one of the Unsung Heroes. Mai Angela’s  day starts at 5 every morning, she quickly does her households chores and starts preparing the morning meal with the baby on her back.  She prepares the children for school.  When done she has to go to the fields, collect firewood, carry water, tend for the livestock , go to the  garden and prepare the afternoon and evening meals.   All of this is unpaid and unrecorded work.

In Zimbabwe, 70% of women are estimated to work in agriculture which is characterised by low wages[1] , and only 20% are landowners[2]. Despite the role they play, agriculture is structured in such a way that women are found at the lower end of the spectrum as cheap/unpaid household labour, working 16 to 18 hours a day, spending at least 49 percent of their time on agricultural activities, and about 25 percent on domestic activities and, worse still, with little or no control over resources and decision making powers.[WU1]

Improving the lives of rural women is key to fighting poverty and hunger. Accodring to FAO giving women the same opportunities as men could rise agricultural production by 2.5 to 4 per cent in the poorest regions and the number of malnourished people could be reduced by 12 to 17 percent.

Against this background  investing in gender and youth development in Smallholder irrigation development is critical to achieving self-sufficiency and food surpluses in Zimbabwe. SIRP strategy to achieving inclusive growth and reducing gender inequality that leads to economic empowerment of Zimbabwean rural people and youths is through improving gender mainstreaming- effective engagement and targeting of youths and vulnerable groups within irrigation schemes and in the greater scheme and surrounding areas. SIRP is implementing deliberate/direct targeting of youths, women and other vulnerable groups in its project activities. The main objective is to address gender differences for reasons of equity, effectiveness and impact.

As SIRP we thrive to empower women like Mai Angela through

  • Farmer Training to build their capacity in, production, FaaB, NRM, Post Harvest Management
  • Marketing,
  • Enhancing the capacity of SIRP IPs to mainstream gender and social inclusion Gender Action Learning System (GALS)
  • Promoting labour saving, gender sensitive and social inclusive technology development and adoption
  • Promoting women’s leadership and participation in rural organizations
  • Address underlying  causes of inequality by using the GALS approach

“I am so happy with the garden that we received from SIRP. It has brought a new lease of life for me and my family. From the three beds allocated to me, I have enough vegetables to feed my family. The installation of a solar powered pump has really lightened the burden of watering and getting water for household use. I no longer dread going to the borehole to get water” 

Lessons learnt and opportunities from SIRP Gender mainstreaming

“When a woman thrives all society thrives” (author unknown) )

The main barriers to effective empowerment and leadership identified include

  • Lack of collateral to access financial resources.
  • Limited access and control of resource
  • Early pregnancies and marriages.
  • Fear by women to take up leadership roles.
  • Women have limited education.
  • Cultural and social barriers.
  • Some irrigation technologies are not  “women friendly”
  • Women have dual role of household (caring, cooking and cleaning) and farm management which remain hidden economically.


To be successful SIRP must address the underlying smallholder farmers gender constraints by adopting a step by step community participatory model/s that ensures equal participation in agriculture value chains. Step by step approaches will aid in addressing deep rooted negative social, cultural and religious practice that affect access to nutritious foods, agriculture productivity and participation in marketing value chains and household resilience. Some of the interventions for improving gender equality include

  • Education and awareness campaigns
  • Adopting approaches  such as the Gender action learning system that promote families to work together as a unit, with a shared understanding that they work and succeed as a family and not as individuals.
  • Financing women in agriculture through tailored financial products
  • Access to modern, labour-saving technologies to reduce work load
  • Provision of extension services (private, public or donor) to train women in agriculture
  • Women capacity development programme focusing on income generating activities.
  • Involvement of men and boys
Author: Precious Nkomo

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