For a long time, men have sidelined women from the development process, in the belief that they knew what was needed. Such prejudices have been hard to overcome.
Despite these setbacks over the decades, agricultural and environmental entrepreneur, Diana Sedze has not been daunted. As a Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme and Norwegian People’s Aid grantee, she has proved that it is now widely accepted that women’s participation and leadership is a critical prerequisite to poverty alleviation.
In the case of water harvesting for irrigation and fish farming, Sedze and group of hard-working women are meeting a large portion of the nutritional requirements of many households in the community.
In the semi-arid Nyanga District, in Manicaland Province, the women of Wards 19 and 22 have formed the Chitsanza Development Association and have set up water harvesting, fish farming, wetland conservation and protection and agro-forestry projects to create food security and alleviate poverty.
“The semi-arid nature of the district sparked the idea of harvesting water from the numerous streams and springs. Small dams and reservoirs have been built to capture this natural water for irrigation and domestic purposes. Women with babies on their backs helped to build these dams and reservoirs, bringing the materials up the mountain range between 2004 – 2007,” said Sedze.
Their tremendous work provides plenty of inspiration. Women on the font lines have found courage from Sedze to shape their own destinies in a range of development and environment arenas. With her encouragement, women now spearhead decision-making in many initiatives.
In every village within CHIDA, women have planted lines of fruit trees mixed with crops such as tomatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, vegetables and onions. They have also introduced paprika and jatropha which they intend to market to Mutare and beyond.
“In addition, there have been successful campaigns by women here to address issues of economic empowerment and human rights, with emphasis on strengthening household economies, the girl child, HIV/Aids and the right to and control of natural resources,” Caroline Chigwanda, the project finance manager.
Sedze believes that programmes aimed at strengthening communities will have little impact unless the structures that uphold gender inequality continue to change.
Despite many challenges, she and the women she leads have refused to give in. “Our gender experience in perseverance has strengthened us to greater heights” she said.
Born in 1961 in Rusape, Sedze has four children. She is married to a Parks and Wildlife Officer and holds many leadership positions in local politics, farmers’ associations. She is a member of the outgoing Chief Hata’s Advisory Council and sits on the Manicaland Agricultural Show Organizing Committee.Post published in: Politics