Access to healthcare and gender equality are among the global challenges highlighted by the Sustainable Development Goals. How these two issues can be interrelated is well presented in the change project of Makonde Rural District Council (Makonde RDC) undertaken within the ICLD’s Zimbabwe Leadership Programme.
Makonde is a big agricultural district located in north-central Zimbabwe. The change project managed by the local council is set at constructing a clinic in the Zurungowe Ward 9, an area characterised by the lack of health facilities with the nearest healthcare centre located many kilometres away.
Irene Darare (Accountant for Makonde RDC), a person involved in the project together with the Ward Councillor, Alderman Simbarashe Ziyambi, stresses the importance of the clinic for the local society, not only to increase the availability of health services but also as a vital factor in enhancing gender equality.
We noted that the lack of adequate health facilities was creating unequal gender opportunities with women, girls and children being heavily disadvantaged as they walk long gruesome distances to access health care, sexual health education and immunisation facilities at nearby clinics.– says Irene Darare
In this area with many artisanal mining activities, young girls are falling prey to the predatory artisanal male miners who flaunt their wealth in the area. Moreover, due to strong local social and religious beliefs, the area has become susceptible to child marriages, which prevent adolescent girls from achieving high literacy and limit their access to sexual health education. This leads to losing educational and career opportunities as well as creates difficult livelihoods whilst taking care of large families, which renders unequal gender opportunities. Makonde RDC recognised these challenges and decided to act on them. Irene says:
The project came from the community through the democratic participation of all groups in the community via the Ward Councilor. The immediate need for the construction of a clinic was prioritised based on popular demand. The sense of ownership is very important thus we involved the Zurongowe community in the project by mobilising locally available resources and labour. Also, participation was ensured during budget consultation meetings and community feedback meetings.
Through the organisation of community feedback meetings by the council in cooperation with all local authorities in June-July of 2022, the local community could exercise their rights to informed decision-making. Also, the council offered another opportunity through its WhatsApp group, Facebook page, and Twitter page where the citizens who had grown their interest in the clinic project can ask about the progress reports and possible solutions to speed up the project.
The people of Zurungowe were able to relate to the project thanks to their active participation and sense of ownership of the project. It lifted the burden on the council which is always strained with few resources as the community did not wait for the council and the funding partner to provide for everything, but rather championed community-led initiatives.
Irene is convinced that this project has awarded women and young girls an opportunity to lead, participate, plan and be co-owners of a project which is being implemented to empower them and provide equal chances to pursue future dreams and reduce early child marriages through sexual health education. She adds:
The project is in progress though the construction of the clinic takes time. In cooperation with the national level authorities, we secured the medical stuff for our future clinic. Since everybody is on board, we hope to run the project smoothly and soon see the first patients receiving medical help at the clinic.
Through the ICLD training within the Zimbabwe Leadership Programme the project leaders, including Irene, received support in making their project more inclusive. The participation in workshops and study visits in South Africa, Sweden and Zimbabwe has been aimed at strengthening the leadership skills of local politicians and local authorities based on four core values: equity, participation, transparency and accountability. The empowerment of local leaders in day-to-day work with people in their wards enhances local democracy, which is key to tackling the problems of local communities.
This change project is connected to the Sustainable Development Goals:
- SDG 3 – Good health and well-being,
- SDG 5 – Gender equality,
- SDG 17 – Partnership for the goals.