Adopting an economic empowerment approach to reducing violence and harassment in Zimbabwe

Sexual harassment and several other forms of violence and harassment across different sectors were found prevalent in a rapid assessment conducted by the ILO in 2017 in workplaces in Zimbabwe. Poverty was recognized as a key driver of gender-based discrimination and violence in both rural and urban areas. It was realized that an economic empowerment approach would help women and girls realize their full potential and will also contribute to reducing violence and harassment. 

The ILO’s contribution in the global Spotlight Initiative, being implemented through the UN system in Zimbabwe from 2019-2022 has two main objectives:

Objective 1:     Strengthen the capacity of employers’ and workers’ organizations to develop and implement sector-specific and enterprise level policies and programs to address violence and harassment in the world of work.

Objective 2:     Strengthen the capacity of women and girls to participate in productive economic sectors.
Guided by the ILO Convention on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work (No. 190) and its accompanying Recommendation (No. 206), the ILO project is taking up a series of awareness, training and advocacy approaches aimed at reducing sexual and gender based violence in workplaces. The project is attempting to strengthen workplace policy and reporting mechanisms at workplaces engaging with employers and workers as change agents. The strategy is to create a conducive environment through social dialogue. Strengthening and supporting women trade unionists in their advocacy work against sexual and gender based violence is a key strategy of the project.

The ILO is  implementing economic empowerment activities as a longer-term recovery methodology for survivors of harmful practices, and other women in conditions of vulnerability. The project has started to show that financial freedom can foster a culture of being in control, being able to make decisions, better negotiate gender power relations and leave a violent relationship, if need be.  The project is particularly targeting the women who are survivors of gender based violence, women living with HIV, women with disability, and women living in extreme poverty.

The economic empowerment program, using the ILO’s tried and tested tools, is imparting entrepreneurship training and business development skills to women. This training also covers gender equality, sexual and gender-based violence as well as sexual and reproductive health, including HIV and AIDS.

The project involving a wide range of partners, is contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 3 (health for all) and SDG 5 (employment and decent work for all) in Zimbabwe.