Gender and Church Partnerships
Funded by The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund (Tearfund) UK, this program is now in its third year of implementation. The programme started in 2012 and ending in 2016. The programme’s main goal is to improve the quality of life of women in Zimbabwe and it is entitled, “Addressing gender based HIV drivers that are promoted and sustained by community systemic structures through the church”. Its major objectives are as follows:
- Raise awareness as well as develop capacity to assess and respond to systemic gender based HIV drivers through targeting denominational heads, church leadership structures, local church leaders and general church members.
- Mentor and support local churches to develop skills to assess, engage and respond to gender based HIV drivers.
- Develop and strengthen capacity of women and other excluded and marginalised people to take responsibility of their lives through life skills, livelihood and entrepreneurship development.
This programme transforms people’s lives through church involvement using a concept called Church and Community Mobilisation Process (CCMP) or Umoja approach. CCMP is a non-specific development approach in which churches and communities are facilitated to address their problems using the Biblical approach. Umoja is a Swahili word meaning oneness and it entails awakening local churches and communities that with their God given available resources they are able to transform their lives and live a holistic life. The Umoja/CCMP approach uses the Bible study approach in empowering people to take charge of their destination by questioning their current situation, examining the root causes of poverty and resources locally available, then implementing relevant activities to achieve their desired future.
To date, 76 most disadvantaged women in 3 groups were supported with livelihoods inputs through which they generated income to buy food, clothes, paying school fees for their children and boosting their financial capital base for other projects such as Income Saving and Lending Scheme. On the other hand, 307 Champions of Change were envisioned about CCMP/Umoja concepts, gender issues, HIV, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) as well as marriage enrichment. The CCMP/Umoja package have been cascaded to 10 816 congregants. Furthermore, 1 469 youths have been reached out during public discussion meetings and outreach programmes focusing on Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), life skills, success motivation, gender issues, project planning and management.
The successful penetration of the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe and Africa (UDACIZA) led churches, which boasts of more than 450 Apostolic and Zionist sects in Zimbabwe, was an intriguing experience as most organisations face challenges to penetrate into these hard to reach churches. The significant engagement and contribution of the Secretary General of UDACIZA was of paramount importance in ushering this project among apostolic sects. The Appreciative Inquiry Methodology used among these sects acted as a springboard for the successful entrance. The methodology is premised on the conception that before looking at the ugly side of a cultural or religious phenomenon, appreciate its benefits and then gradually move to the vices. In a nutshell it is a positive-focused approach, which looks at what is going right in order to solve problems. A religious or cultural practice like virginity testing has its own merits, which is the promotion of moral uprightness and to start by appreciating this act to the apostolic sects is a vantage point. The Mafararikwa area in Mutare Rural district, which is the epi-centre of apostolicism, was not easy as religious rigidity is hard to crack among them. Though workshops were held, arguments against such programmes which were, according to them, believed to corrupt their members, were recurrent. FACT managed to get through these hard to reach apostolic sects as a result of this programme.
Most trained churches portrayed great understanding of the meaning of Umoja. Through CCMP, the United Baptist Church in Mutsongi managed to mobilise its resources and initiated the construction of toilets which were non-existent before the advent of Umoja. The church had also influenced the community to construct houses using baked bricks rather than pole and dagga. The United Baptist Church in Nharira (Mutare rural district) molded 20 000 bricks for their church construction as a result of local resource mobilisation and Bible studies. One of the African Independent Churches in Zimunya (Zviratidzo Zvevapostori) also molded 10 000 bricks for their church construction. The United Apostolic Faith Church in Dora which had its church stand for almost 10 years is now at foundation level due to being envisioned on CCMP. The CCMP approach has improved congregants’ levels of giving, oneness and tithing and has created a sense of ownership for church projects.