Challenge and Achievement

 

A DECADE OF CHALLENGE AND ACHIEVEMENT

THE STORY BEHIND THE

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

SECTION (WOMEN)

OF THE

MINISTRY OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS

OF RHODESIA

 

CHALLENGE

Tribal women smoking calabashes

Educated Africans in bookstall

ACHIEVEMENT

These are the aims of the African Women Advisers and the Women Community Development Officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs:

To NURTURE latent talent, goodwill and a burning desire to learn.

To FOSTER self-reliance and the confidence to initiate action.

To DEVELOP the ability to define problems and find solutions.

To ENCOURAGE a sense of community service and individual respon­sibility to pass on knowledge.

To REAP a rich harvest-health, progress, a happy family and community life among the rural people of Rhodesia.

In 1964 there were 805 000 African women over the age of 15 years in the Tribal Trust Lands of Rhodesia - a great and powerful potential force waiting to be channelled.

 

One woman was given this brief:

TO ASSESS THE WORK ALREADY BEING DONE INDEPENDENTLY AND BY VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS AMONG TRIBAL WOMEN - TO DECIDE ON THE GREATEST NEED FOR HELP - AND TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

                                  

                           Winifred Wilson >

Winifred Wilson - Community Development Officer

The woman, Miss Winifred Wilson, was appointed Community Development Officer (Women) with the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 1964. She had come from Ireland to Africa in 1950 and her first experience of the problems of this continent. before coming up to Rhodesia, had been in the notorious District Six, Cape Town.

In 1965 she set out from headquarters in Salisbury, travelling alone in her car thousands of miles along bush roads to meet the African women of Rhodesia, working through established organisations and District Commissioners, learning, assessing and slowly making the decision which has so vitally affected tribal women over the past 10 years.

She realised help could not be handed out on a plate, for resources would never be sufficient, nor would it be wise. Help must come from within the women themselves, by the development of their own talents for leadership. Only among the women themselves could the necessary vast resources of human skill, ability and leadership be found.

The great need was to organize training for women and Mrs. Betty Mtero, a teacher and social worker, was appointed training assistant. Together the two women set out to formulate the best way in which to utilize the country's human resources, seeking a way to motivate and guide women into a new role - the givers rather than the takers, the makers rather than the watchers - African women moving spontaneously to improve their own lives and those of their families.

Win Wilson put forward a plan to form a Community Development section for women which would promote the advancement of women's work throughout the country, encourage the participation of women in community and civic affairs and advise on local programmes to meet local needs in consultation with District and Provincial Commissioners.

The section would co-ordinate the activity of Government and voluntary community development for rural women, avoiding overlap and giving assistance where possible. The needs and priorities of rural women would be assessed and training courses organized when required.

The plan included a countrywide network of African Women Advisers. It was felt that the most effective worker would be a mature married women of standing in her community, working from her own home.

Women Advisers would be the catalysts, the activators. They would not teach handicrafts or hand out money - they would help to find the best teachers and advise on ways of raising money. They would not form and run clubs but they would help the women to do this themselves. They would show the way into a new era, work with interest groups, liaise and make introductions between the experts already in the field and the women who needed assistance. The Women Advisers would help the tribal women assess their own needs and find ways to meet them.

In 1967 the first group to be trained as Women Advisers, a group of carefully selected women attended the first training course for Women Advisers. Fifteen African women met at Fort Victoria to study project planning, how to work with people, tribal structure, outline of Government, communication, community development, club management, nutrition, skills and other related subjects.

First women advisers 1967

A distinctive uniform of green and white checked dresses and hats was chosen, a uniform which over the following years  has become asymbol of women's progress. Where you find the uniform you will find understanding of problems, help, enthusiasm and hope for better things.

 

Mabel Makwati of Gwanda

Mrs Mabel Makwati of Gwanda

Margaret Chitumba of Wedza

Mrs Margret Chitumba of Wedza

Emily Moyo of Essexvale

Mrs Emily  Moyo of Essexvale

 

So those first women went out into the tribal areas, back to their homes and villages, filled with confidence in their new-found ability, the nucleus of a movement which has grown and divided into provinces, grown and spread through most of the country.

 

Norah Chitekwe of Mtoko

Mrs Norah Chitekwe of Mtoko

Idah Gurupira of Mtoko

Mrs Idah Gurupira of Mtoko

As the work expanded it was realised that additional qualified staff were needed to supervise and support the Women Advisers and to initiate programmes in response to problems which could not be handled locally. They would liaise with Government and other development agencies and undertake specialised training where required.

 

Ivy Ntabeni of Filabusi

Mrs Ivy Ntabeni of Filabusi

Sarah Ncube of Plumtree

Mrs Sarah Ncube of Plumtree

 

In 1970 the first Provincial Community Development Officers (Women) were appointed. Today there is a Provincial Officer from the section on the staff of each Provincial Commissioner of the Ministry and 148 Women Advisers throughout the country who are members of staff of District Commissioners.

Provincial officers

Above:

Mrs Penny Ross, Head Office; Mrs Ruth Baker, Matabeleland South and Miss Brigitte de Chalain, Victoria

Below:

Mrs Alison Stewart, Manicaland; Mrs Maia ChenauxRepond, Mashonaland East and Mrs Doienne Graham-Jolly, Mashonaland West

 

Provincial officers

The Community Development Section (Women) is headed by the Senior Community Development Officer (Women) who formulates policy. Miss Wilson still holds this position.

IN THE EARLY DAYS

 

In the early days there were no club-houses, no facilities of any kind. Women gathered together in the traditional place - sitting on the ground in the shade of a tree. Here on the soil of Rhodesia the idea of self-help took root among the women.

Alice Mafkidze, Woman Adviser at Karoi

Mrs Alice Mafkidze, Woman Adviser at Karoi, talks to a group of young women.

Mlava Mholpe Club, Lower Gwelo

The women's club movement had already been well established by voluntary organizations and was proving a good vehicle for educa­tion, but the Women Advisers did not undertake to organize clubs. They explained the concept of club work, but it was for the tribal women themselves to choose chair­women, secretaries and treasurers, to learn the duties involved and carry them out. Nor were clubhouses to be built for them - the bricks would have to be moulded by their own hands.

Above: The Mlava Mholpe Club with 37 members is in Lower Gwelo, Woman Adviser Mrs. Sarah Mwenje's region, situated in the area of Chief Sogwala and Headman Nkawana. The women themselves burnt bricks and hired a builder for their clubhouse.

The doors and windows were supplied by the District Commissioner.

 

 

Women pile bricks ready to build a club house in the Magombedze area, Gutu.

The Woman Adviser is Mrs. B. Shabie
Building a club-house at Magombedze, Gutu

 

 

 

 

Building a new bridge

Nine kraalheads under Headman Chipfatsura have embarked on a much needed community bridge building project in the Marange tribal trust land, to provide a safe crossing for school children and an access route for buses. The women have been collecting huge piles of stones and working alongside them are Women Advisers Mrs. N. Mbanje and Mrs. A. Shiridzinomwa.

 

ACHIEVEMENT

What has the Community Development Section (Women) achieved?

Perhaps the greatest achievement is the acceptance of what it stands for -

SELF-HELP

ALL OVER THE COUNTRY SELF-HELP PROJECTS HAVE COME INTO BEING AS RURAL COMMUNITIES BEGIN TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN DEVELOPMENT AND THE INDIVIDUAL ACCEPTS HER RESPONSIBILITY TO PASS ON NEWLY AQUIRED KNOWLEDGE AND TO WORK FOR THE COMMUNITY AS A WHOLE

At one time it was thought that pre-school groups were something to be organised by that remote body, the Government. Now rural women are learning that mothers can themselves organize the groups as has been done by the women of the Chinamora tribal trust land, Goromonzi.

 

Woman adviser visits pre-school group

 

 

Woman Adviser Mrs L Mukombiwa drops in to visit a pre-school group and chat with two teachers.

 

 

 

A teacher plays games with pre-school children.

Teacher with pre-school children

The need to keep school leavers profitably occupied is becoming increasingly recognised by rural communities.

The women of Wedza, worried by the need to find meaningful occupations for their daughter school­leavers, have organised a group of girls to make school uniforms. With help from the local Council, for outlay on material, over $1 000 has been earned so far.

Making uniforms

WORKING TOGETHER

The part played by the Women Advisers is that of liaison - to help women decide in which direction needs lie, perhaps health or educa­tion, and then to indicate the experts from whom advice may be sought. Thus their strength lies partly in the variety of specialists who are readily to hand.

 

The Women Advisers work closely with educators and demonstrators in a number of different fields including the many voluntary organizations whose work is much appreciated.

 

But the one person in an area who has most influence on the rural women is undoubtedly the Chief and his help and co-operation is sought at all times. With the support of an understanding, intelligent and far-seeing Chief the work of the women always prospers.

Chief Charumbira discussing prrogress with Miss De Chalain

Chief Charumbira and Miss Brigette de Chalain, Provincial Officer for Victoria discuss progress in the Chief's area.

Zimunya Womens Club

Lowveld Young Farmers Club, Muusha & Mutambara TTLs

ABOVE:

A Women's Group Liaison instructor, Mrs. K. Sithole, gives instructions on sew­ing to members of the Zimunya area womens' clubs at the Chinyauwhura council hall. The child standing near his mother (area chairwoman Mrs. L. Chitauro) is modelling a waistcoat which the women had been learning to make.

 

LEFT:

The Lowveld Young Farmers' Club area committee members from the Muusha and Mutambara tribal trust lands watch loom-work being demonstrated at Nyanyadzi training centre.

 

RIGHT:

Gwese Women's Club members pictured at a meeting in the Umtali district while in the background are (left to right) three members of the school board, Woman Adviser Mrs. Chitaka and Headmaster Chitenderu.

Gwese Women's Club, Umtali district

STRENGTH FROM CO-OPERATION

Adviser Mrs Dube with Chief Sipiso of Tjolotjo

 

 

 

Woman Adviser Mrs. Lady Dube of Tjolotjo is well supported by Chief Sipiso and his wife.

Here she is pictured with (left) the Chief and Mrs. Sipiso.

Shamba clubhouse being rebuilt - Selukwe

Above: Seven local women's clubs will hold area meetings in the new Shamba Clubhouse. All the women had wanted to move their clubhouse to a more central location so the Tribal Land Authority decided to destroy the old clubhouse and transfer the bricks to the new site. The Shamba women moulded more bricks, money was col­lected from 39 kraals and Young Farmers Club boys from eight schools were paid individually to work under builder Wilson Mulhwani - a perfect example of community development. (Selukwe)

 

NEW FRONTIERS, NEW CHALLENGES

And so the work goes on. The network of Women Advisers gradually spreads further,

advancing into the most remote areas and into districts where the work takes courage, perseverance and tact.

Batonka women at Binga

Mrs. Fideliah Njaya, who married a Batonka man, is the first Woman Adviser among these people. Here she is pictured with Miss Wilson (back right) and Provincial Officer Mrs. A. Watson (back left) after her introduction to the people of Binga in May, 1975.

Binga women learning to grow vegetables

Women of Binga are also learning the correct way to grow vegetables and putting their knowledge to practical use.

Batonka women learning to bath their children

The Batonka women, long on the out­skirts of civilization are now learning such things as child-care and

nutrition, and one of the first lessons at Binga was a wet and slippery experience in the bathtub.

From then onwards babies were bathed at every opportunity.

 

"The fuse was lit ten years ago. The mushroom effect is evidence in itself of the hitherto latent aspirations of the African woman, of her desire for progress, both within her family environs and further afield.

The Government's acceptance that women had an important part to play in development meant funds and staff were made available. Community Development Officers (Women) and Women Advisers have given dedicated service and have played a vital role in this progress.

Progress cannot be measured simply in the tangible existence of clubhouses and the like. It is reflected in the changing attitudes of the people themselves, in the acceptance by the community of the emerging woman, and of the contribution she, as a woman, is able to make to the lives of those around her.

It would be impossible to exaggerate the tremendous kindness and courtesy I have received from the African people, at all levels, throughout these years, or the encouragement and support of tribal leaders as they have watched their women develop to take a more active and meaningful place within the community.

Looking back to ten years ago, and to the years in between-the hurdles, the achievements, the setbacks, the recoveries-it is with confidence that we can join the African woman on the platform she has forged for herself and her community, LOOKING FORWARD."

                                                                                    Winifred  D  Wilson

                                                                                                                 1st May 1976

 

 

Carrying

the message of

self-help

Community staff

 

into the

Tribal Trust Lands

Community cyclists

 

 

 

of

Rhodesia

Community driver

 

 

 

This page is not yet complete.

This document was produced by Internal Affairs in 1976 and the original style and typefaces have been preserved as much as possible. It is fairly lengthy but should be placed in the public domain as it well illustrates that the modern approach to tackling poverty in Africa - ie by throwing in vast sums of money - is not the real answer.  Here the Rhodesian approach of encouraging and coordinating self-help using relatively few of the scarce resources available was leading to genuine progress and creating pride of achievement in the process.

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