No job is to be labelled ‘male’ or ‘female’

Hopley is a highly populated suburb South of Harare, characterised by poor infrastructure, weak social services, low education and high school dropout rates and unemployment, pushing the majority of this community into informal work. Child marriages and teenage pregnancies are common with rates of 18% and 21% respectively.

News | 18 February 2019
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(ILO News, HARARE) “I grew up thinking that as a woman, with a bleak future because I fell pregnant at 14 and dropped out of school, the only options for me would be to become a housemaid or take some courses in knitting or dressmaking because those were regarded as the suitable jobs for uneducated women. Unfortunately, I never found a sponsor to enable me to do those courses. Some bad friends advised me that the only option I had was to join them in prostitution. I was also doing drugs, because with absolutely no prospects for the future, the next best thing for me was to die’ said Grace Mugweni, one of the beneficiaries of the Tariro (which means ‘hope’) Project.

“At first I thought the idea of becoming an electrician was unattainable and could make me a social misfit because most of the time I would be wearing overalls and working with, and among men. That would make people think that I was a woman of loose morals” shared Grace.

“However, I have since grown to realise that no job should be labelled male or female. As I am speaking, after I qualified as an electrician, I have managed to build a decent family home here in Hopley from the income I have made wiring people’s homes. I am also paying school fees for my child and looking after my sick and elderly mother. I have also started a small grocery market and I expect to do better in life,”

Grace said.

Telling a similar story, Felistas Peter trained as a bricklayer at St Peter’s Vocational Training Centre in Highfield under the ILO Quality Improvement in Informal Apprenticeships programme. She was employed at Tariro Youth Centre as a builder – a trade previously reserved for men in the society in which she grew up. The skill is reaping benefits for her and the family.

“I am now an independent, empowered young woman. To imagine that at one time I wanted to end my life due to the economic hardships I was facing? I envisage a brighter future and I would like to heartily thank the partners at Tariro Youth Centre and Clinic for helping me out of poverty. They have literally picked me from the biblical dust into someone respectable in the community” – this said with a flood of tears streaming down her face.

“I am sometimes contracted to build tuck-shops for some community members here in Hopley. That way, I get extra income, although I have sometimes faced exploitation from men who employ me as an additional skilled worker, but summarily dismiss me as we approach the pay day without paying me my dues. I am learning and I look forward to starting my own construction company in future,” Felistas asserted.

Grace and Felistas shared their stories to the assembled audience in the presence of the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Ms Kirsty Coventry; Swedish Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ms Sophia Calltorp; the City of Harare Director of Health, Dr Clemence Duri; the UNFPA Country Representative, Dr Ester Muia and, the ILO Country Director for Zimbabwe and Namibia, Ms Hopolang Phororo; who had accompanied the Minister on ‘a look and learn’ visit. A good number of the beneficiaries were also present hoping to get an opportunity to tell their own stories of change.

The Tariro Project has employed at least 100 youths, who received technical skills as electricians, brick-layers, plumbers and pavers through ILO technical support. In addition, the youths were also sensitized on SRHR by UNFPA to improve on their health outcomes and were introduced to business development services to attune them to use their skills modelled along business approaches.

In pursuit of bringing hope to the youths of Hopley and with support from the Swedish Embassy, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Lafarge and City of Harare undertook an infrastructure and social development programme by providing technical and vocational training, resulting in the construction of Tariro Youth Centre and Health Services.