Giving young women power against poverty

An emerging organisation, committed to helping young women, has embarked on an initiative to empower female students as a way of reducing the spread of HIV. Sofia Mapuranga found out more.

Gamuchirai Kujeke of ROOTS.
Gamuchirai Kujeke of ROOTS.

Real Opportunities for Transformation Support (ROOTS) aims to help young women and girls towards greater control over their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Young women, especially those in tertiary institutions, are vulnerable to HIV infection due to poverty and lack of information. Taboos around opening discussing issues around sexual health add to the problem.

Gamuchirai Kujeke is the communications manager of ROOTS. “We believe that the starting point is economically empowering the young women because poverty drives them to engage in behaviour that places them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.”

She said the initiative would see more than a thousand young women benefit from the organisation’s interventions.

Said Kujeke: “Starting next week, we are going to start training some of the young women on how they can make money through initiatives that are not capital intensive.”

She revealed that the organisation would start training sessions in the Midlands province first.

“Young women should be educated on how they can engage in income generating projects for improved livelihoods even at tertiary institutions,” she said, adding that the organisation had targeted Midlands because of reports of an increasing number of cases of students engaging in risky sexual behaviour.

She explained that because some of the students couldn’t properly manage their finances, they used up their finances at school and then ended up dating older men for money.

ROOTS would provide young women with the support they needed to set up small business clusters, under the guidance of experienced mentors.

“So far, we have managed to establish two clusters: one in Chitungwiza and another one in Murehwa, but we are optimistic that, by the end of the year, we will have established at least three clusters in each province to ensure that we cater for all young women regardless of their geographical location or educational background,” said Kujeke, adding that the initiative was not restricted to tertiary institutions.

The organisation takes a leading role in market surveys and project development, and the young women are supported with management, accounting and leadership skills.

“Individuals with thriving projects undergo a three-month incubation phase. After that, they are monitored for a year and continue to get technical support from their cluster mentor,” said Kujeke. She said the organisation had trained 100 young women who were now eligible to get their initial capital injection to kickstart their business projects.

Said Kujeke: “Each person will be eligible to the loan, which we hope will see them become successful young entrepreneurs. The idea is not to give them money, but the skills and expertise to properly manage and generate wealth.”

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