By Mariam Mathew, ActionAid Zimbabwe Inspirator
Vivian Sanyamahwe (37) is a wife to Pios Nyamaropa (42) and a mother of 6 children that is 3 boys aged 14, 11 and 1 and 3 girls aged 18, 8 and 4. They live in Mandipaka village, Ward 22 of Nyanga District which is in Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe. Today in 2014 unlike just two years ago, Vivian and her husband can comfortably afford to have all their children in school thanks to the additional income that Vivian gets from taking part in a women’s sewing project.
Narrating her story, Vivian recalls that in the past, life for her family was a real struggle. Pios’ income from his job as a cleaner at a school for soldiers was barely enough to provide for the essentials at home such as food let alone school fees and uniforms for the children. The financial troubles often resulted in quarrels between Vivian and her husband.
In March of 2012, Vivian was invited to attend a ward meeting where she was elected to be the Secretary for the newly formed Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA). RWA is a women’s group formed to improve the lives of rural women by providing them with a platform to share ideas and develop skills to fight poverty, gender based violence and fight for women’s rights. After a training provided by Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) Nyanya on leadership and livelihood skills, the RWA set out to start up various small scale income generation projects such as sewing, agriculture, cooking, poultry and buying and selling of clothes.
FACT Nyanga is a community based organisation which works in partnership with ActionAid Zimbabwe to fight for women’s rights. ActionAid Zimbabwe provides capacity strengthening to local partners such as FACT Nyanga to implement quality programmes addressing key women’s rights violations.
While the other projects didn’t require much capital, the women faced a challenge with the sewing project. They lacked capital to purchase equipment and rent premises where they could sew clothes. They were getting a lot of orders from schools nearby for uniforms but hand stitching them was slow and they couldn’t meet the demand. They then decided to request FACT for support and within months, they were given 5 machines and materials.
Two years since the establishment of RWA Vivian has come a long way. She earns $100 – $200 in profit per month by taking part in the sewing project. She also has a sewing machine at home and with her monthly income, she manages to buy material and stitch uniforms for her children as well.
I am really thankful to FACT Nyanga and RWA because I can now sleep well and even my marriage has improved. My husband is very proud of me because of the money that I am able to bring home monthly. I couldn’t sleep before because of money problems.said Vivian.
When asked what her dreams were for the future she said, “I am hoping that in the future I will be able to at least send one of my children if not more to university. We want to expand the business by buying more sewing machines because we get a lot of uniform orders from schools.”
Vivian’s family is just one of the many in the community that faces financial difficulties. Members of the RWA believe that one of the leading causes of poverty is lack of education as most households in this community are of the apostolic sect which often doesn’t promote education.
Additionally, many women in the community do not have control over finances at home. Men are said to be the head of the homes and believe they have control over finances. In cases where women do not subject themselves to men, they are often beaten. Thanks to the interventions by RWA and other similar groups, women in such circumstances are given a new beginning. Since its formation in Ward 22 in Nyanga District, the RWA was able to help seven women who were victims of domestic violence by working together with local authorities to counsel the abusers.