In rural communities across Zimbabwe, gender roles are traditionally defined and can play a central role in shaping how men and women interact with each other. For example, some communities believe that men are to provide financially while women are expected to raise children and do domestic work.
“In my culture when a man pays lobola (dowry) for his wife, the woman is expected to stay at home, cook for the husband and take care of children,” says Morelight, 36, a father and husband.
In fact, Morelight used to believe if a woman was financially independent, she would become “rebellious” and start losing respect for the man in her life. But these days he’s learning that these beliefs are rooted in negative gender norms, and it’s all thanks to Angelina, his wife.
With the help of Plan International, Angelina, 36, and women in her community have been empowered to realize their potential to become entrepreneurs and pursue their dreams. Through peer-to-peer support groups, men and women are learning that they have more than one role to play when it comes to taking care of a family.
Economic empowerment: Angelina’s story
In rural Zimbabwe, women just like Angelina are achieving financial stability and economic empowerment thanks to microfinance initiatives set up by Plan International. These small loans and savings groups assist marginalized communities, with a special emphasis on improving business skills and increasing financial opportunities for women.
When Angelina joined her local women’s savings group, she was trained to start her own business, and through the group, she was able to take out a loan to start a chicken rearing and piggery business.
Today, her business is thriving and she’s become a financial provider for her family – a reality that’s also changing her relationship with Morelight.
“We now plan and work together,” says Angelina. “Arguments have reduced because my husband is no longer frustrated that I ask him for everything.”
In addition to helping women access business skills training and loans, the savings groups act as a safe space and communal platform where women can discuss domestic and personal issues and address the social norms that contribute to gender inequality. The women also work together to uplift and inspire each other in business or during difficult times.
A changed husband
Today, Morelight believes that Angelina’s participation in the savings groups has helped shift his perception of women’s economic empowerment and financial independence.
“Before, my husband did not allow me to join women’s empowerment groups,” says Angelina, adding that Morelight now sees the importance of Angelina’s prerogative and supports her continuing to attend meetings regularly.
At the same time, changes are happening at home, as Morelight is taking on tasks traditionally assigned to women, such as helping with household chores and taking care of their children.
“My husband never used to help me with household chores but now he is seeing the benefit of working together as a family and the need to help,” she says.
Transforming prevalent attitudes towards gender
Angelina and Morelight’s story is not uncommon – that’s why Plan International is committed to transforming gender power relations by addressing the root causes of gender inequality and promoting the inherent power and value of women and girls.
In addition, we’re working with millions of men and boys, engaging them as agents of change to pave the way for more equitable gender relations.
Our programming goes beyond simply improving living conditions for women and girls – we seek to improve their social standing within their communities too.