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Social entrepreneur and development practitioner Nomqhele Siziba is promoting sustainable youth and women socio-political, cultural, economic and environmental development through synergy effort and competent building.

Guided by her name, Nomqhele — a Ndebele word meaning “she who wears a crown” — Siziba is of the notion that her crown comprises the academic, professional and leadership opportunities at her disposal.

With that in mind, in her capacity as the executive director at Youth Invest, she promptly chose to dedicate a chunk of her life in service of the livelihoods of communities hailing from the southern part of Zimbabwe, more often than not in Matabeleland North.

Born in Bulawayo, Siziba studied at Matshayisikhova Primary School and Mtshabezi High School. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree majoring in Criminology and Psychology from Monash University and a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology for Professional Contexts (Honours Degree) from the University of South Africa. The vibrant social entrepreneur and development practitioner is a fellow of the Building Peace from Inside: Support Insider Mediation for Sustainable Transformation of Conflict program under  International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on Women and Entrepreneurship as well as Social and Economic Justice Activism Academy under Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development.

Among her numerous professional qualifications and engagements include being a delegate at the One Young World Summit (United Kingdom) and at the Global Shapers Annual Summit (Switzerland). In 2018, Siziba established Youth Invest — a pro-youth and feminist-oriented organisation centered on synergy effort through collaborating with the public and private sector players and other non-governmental organisations at local, regional and international level.

“I had a very positive childhood and adolescent phase, my father forever encouraged me to be fearless and courageous in the pursuit of my dreams. One thing that stuck with me is his assurance that ‘I am enough’,” she said.

“He instilled a sense of pride in me as a brown skinned girl through a number of ways, chief among them was when he bought my sister and I black dolls.

“Since we also had a few white dolls and teddy bears, playing with the miscellaneous dolls made me understand the different racial identities and appreciate that as humans we are diverse. In addition to the dolls, my father bought us various toys like engineering sets, cars, chalk boards and tea sets.

“This was critical as it assisted me to appreciate that as a girl or young woman, I can be anything I want. Guided by the philosophy that ‘I am enough’, I can pursue a traditionally male dominated career or a female dominated one.”

Siziba said: “As a teenager, television shows that my father used to encourage me to watch assisted me to develop a strong sense of empathy for people and think of ways to assist them.”

“Particularly, a show which aired on ZTV, which was about inheritance laws, revealed how most women and their children are left stranded after the death of their husbands. This made me want to learn more about human rights and different ways to safeguard women, children and youths.

“During my tertiary education, I deepened my understanding of social and personal aspects of deviant behavior. I also developed keen interest in prevention of crime through engaging youths, women and men in productive and gainful activities.”

As a project lead under a United Nations Democracy Fund project titled Amplifying Youth Voices in Democratisation in Zimbabwe, Siziba increased the youths’ participation in civic and electoral processes in 2017.

Under the project the social entrepreneur and her team targeted youths in Bulawayo’s high-density suburbs. They mobilised 120 direct and 240 indirect beneficiaries, and facilitated for the establishment of 12 civic engagement clubs, each comprising of 30 members. The fellows underwent civic engagement capacity building, which saw youths engage with local councillors.

One key meeting was an interface between senator Joshua Malinga and Bulawayo City Council public relations officer, as well as councilors and officials.

Engagement was on advocating for disability friendly public buildings and other challenges faced by youths with disabilities, like access to quality education. Instilling awareness, the Civic Engagement Clubs saw youths gain more understanding on electoral processes and witnessed some of them actively participate in electoral processes as candidates.

Developing and directing organisational strategy, leading and managing the organisation and staff through resource allocation and performance reviews, as well as promoting awareness of the organisation to the target population groups and donor community, sums up Siziba’s pivotal responsibilities as the executive director at Youth Invest.

The organisation conducts community mobilisation and advancement of economic, social and cultural rights of young people and women. This procedure is fulfilled through cognition management and aptitude creation on the thematic areas namely ‘Business Leadership and Entrepreneurship’, Poverty and Sustainable Livelihoods, Gender Equity, Human Rights and Democracy, Technological Innovation as well as Environment, Tourism and Climate Change.

Amplifying Women’s Voices in the Covid-19 Response in Hwange is youth invest’s ongoing project which seeks to cascade values of democratic systems to communities at grassroots level.

Through its thrust on evidence-based advocacy, credible research and use of mainstream and new media platforms, the project tackles the issues of diminishing human rights, increase in gender-based violence and constitutional reversals in dealing with the Covid-19 global pandemic in Zimbabwe.

The project strategically positions Matabeleland North women to speak out against decades of marginalisation and consequent women’s rights abuses. Through advocating for a gendered Covid-19 response, the females are strengthening their voice against corruption.

In efforts to safeguard youths and women’s economic, social and cultural rights which continue to be threatened by the Covid-19 crisis, Siziba’s organisation is leveraging digital media platforms such as GoFundMe and Facebook, to raise funds to support marginalised communities of Chidobe and Sizinda, located under the Hwange Rural Council.

Youth Invest has purchased hygiene kits and food hampers for 30 households with an average of 8 family members each. Among the 240 beneficiaries are people with disabilities (PWDs) who were selected through targeted mobilisation to ensure the promotion of their food security.

Siziba said Promoting Rural Tourism Entrepreneurship in Victoria Falls is a United States embassy-supported project boosting the economic stability for young people and females involved in craft business in rural Victoria Falls, through capacity development, networking and access to markets. The project is tackling the gender gap reflected in Hwange district, whereby the majority of craft operators benefiting from the region’s tourism ecosystem are men.

Not only is Siziba dutifully steering the protection and advancement of social, economic and cultural rights for youths and marginalised communities, the development practitioner is further hyping the effective participation of young people in tourism, environmental conservation and natural resource governance.

 

 

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Youth Invest (YI) calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to prioritize addressing violence against women and girls in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

This call is being made on the occasion of the International campaign of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence which is commemorated annually from 25 November to 10 December with the aim to stop violence against women and girls.

On 25 November, we raise awareness on violence against women through commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The campaign ends on 10 December where we celebrate the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

This year’s 16 Days of Activism against GBV comes at a time where Zimbabwe and particularly Hwange District are battling the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 due to the Covid-19 induced lockdowns.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against women and girls was among the most prevalent violations in the country, including in Hwange District. The public health Covid-19 prevention and containment measures introduced by the government saw men and women spending more time at home due to closure of tourism businesses. This led to an upsurge of physical, economic and emotional violence against women and girls – the shadow pandemic. In Hwange District, the Shadow Pandemic has been manifesting itself through girl-child neglect, physical and sexual assault. The cases have been fluctuating between 40% and 80%.

Women and girls are usually disproportionately affected during humanitarian situations, hence the need to prioritize the rights and needs of women and girls in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Youth Invest, therefore, urges the Government of Zimbabwe to invest in pandemic preparedness through providing clear socio-economic support for women and families in Victoria Falls and Hwange. Such an economic litigation measure will see poverty reduction, improved maternal and child outcomes, as well as, reduction of intimate partner violence.

Youth Invest further reminds the Government of Zimbabwe of its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which provide for the protection of women and girls.  Furthermore, Youth Invest stresses the importance of supporting survivors of GBV in their recovery and the full attainment of their rights as espoused in the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

As we work towards investing in pandemic preparedness, the need for Government of Zimbabwe to employ a multi-stakeholder approach to address the underlying drivers of violence- harmful norms and practices cannot be understated.  A gender-sensitive approach in emergency preparedness is crucial in ensuring that no one is left behind in combating GBV and the spread of COVID-19.

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Youth Invest lobbies for equity between local and Zambian traders

 

Youth lnvest’s is advocating for a level playing field for Victoria Falls based women and youth cross border traders with their Zambian counterparts.

A meeting held at Victoria Falls deLuxe Suites which was facilitated by the youth group and attended by various stakeholders including ZIMRA officials, banks and cross border traders, revealed that locals are disadvantaged in relation to ease of doing business as compared to favorable treatment accorded to Zambian nationals.

The group alleges that there is discrimination that has resulted in Zambian traders being treated with kid gloves at the expense of local youth and women, thereby creating unfair competition.

Attendees were sensitized on Youth lnvest’s new project dubbed: “Strengthening Zambezi women and youth informal cross border cooperation in Victoria Falls and Livingstone” which is aimed at promoting equality between local women and youth involved in cross border trading and those coming from Zambia.

According to Youth Invest, one of the privileges given to Zambians is that law enforcement agents turn a blind eye when Zambian traders engage in door to door selling, which is a liberty not extended to Zimbabwean youths and women who face arbitrary arrests for engaging in door to door selling. Given this prevailing situation, Youth Invest seeks to ensure that both Zimbabwean traders and Livingstone traders adhere to the law in order to curb unfair competition.

Speaking at the occasion, the Youth Invest Programs Director, Mgcini Moyo shed some light on the background of the organization and also took the opportunity to justify the focus on women and youths as vulnerable groups as well as the vested interest in Victoria Falls and Livingstone informal cross border traders.

“We are a youth-led feminist oriented organization that was founded in 2017 in Bulawayo, with a specific focus to develop young people and women in general while encouraging soft skills. These are issues to do with capacity building in four critical areas that we believe must be addressed. The roles are entrepreneurship, business leadership, leadership development and women and girls networking. We believe these contribute to developing a better young person that can stand for their rights.

We focus on women and youths because the majority of our population are women and youth. There is also unfair distribution of resources and that is why we are working on Victoria Falls and Livingstone because there is an unequal scale in terms of equity and access to income between local traders and Zambian traders. ln addition we already have other running initiatives so we are coming in to strengthen the already existing initiatives so as to achieve our goals. We also want to create multi-stakeholder formalized cooperation,” he said.

Nomqhele Siziba, the Youth lnvest Executive Director, unpacked the Zambezi informal cross border traders project, stressing on cross border cooperation as well as  youth invest models.

“Cross border cooperation(CBC) is defined as any act, policy or practice aimed at developing and strengthening good neighboring relations between two or more border communities ,territorial administrations and /or other stakeholders. CBC can compromise various initiatives at local, national and regional levels starting from a policy, a development plan, a joint problem analysis or just arising from local or regional practices or common cultural background.

Looking at the Youth Invest model, the objectives are to create an informal cross border traders association working towards removing barriers to formalization of informal trade and lobbying government and its immigration stakeholders to tackle unfair informal trade competition and to strengthen cross border social cohesion between Livingstone and Victoria falls women and youth informal traders through cultural networking,” she said.

The curtain comes down on the new project on 22 June 2022.

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This documentary narrates the journey of Youth Invest and the communities of Chidobe, Chewumba and Jambezi as they came together to advocate for a gender-responsive Covid-19 response. The villages of Chidobe, Chewumba and Jambezi are located in the rural outskirts of Victoria Falls and they are under Hwange Rural District.

 

 

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Sexual harassment has become so rampant in the workplace and educational institutions – it seems to be a trend. Women have been at the receiving end of sexual harassment for far too long. The narrative is always “she called it on herself”, “she wanted it” or that “she has always been flirty”. But is it the case? For a long time, society has been vocal and participatory in protecting the perpetrator to an extent that survivors start feeling like they called the sexual harassment onto themselves.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cited in United Nations Women Watch defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: a sexual request is made overtly or covertly on condition for an individual’s employment. Accepting or refusing a sexual advance becomes a reason certain decisions are made when it pertains an individual’s employment. The sexual advance is used as an intimidation tool creating a hostile, unfriendly and uncomfortable working environment. According to the definition sexual harassment can range from actual physical touching to just a sexual remark, catcalling, persistency when asking for a date and inappropriate stares.

Majority of perpetrators do not see the above actions as sexual harassment as the discomfort it brings to victims is trivialized. This causes survivors to be reluctant to report sexual harassment incidents. The reluctance is also caused by fear of victim blaming. Bongiorno, Langbroek, Bain, Ting and Ryan’s (2020) study states that men are more likely than women to believe that women fabricate or exaggerate sexual harassment claims, have ulterior motives for filing a complaint, or are to blame for being sexually harassed due to behaving or dressing provocatively or failing to discourage men’s sexual advances.

According to The Herald, sexual harassment in the education sector is a growing fungus. A national baseline survey conducted by Female Student Network revealed that approximately 74% to 98% of female students face sexual harassment daily. The chief perpetrators are male lecturers, non-academic staff and male students. Lecturers are reported to request sexual favours for a student to pass the course or to get an extra credit hence the term “A Thigh for Marks”. In some situations, a student can fail a course for refusing to comply with said requests.

Society can fight this pandemic if cases are reported and the attitude towards survivors’ changes. The blame game creates a boomerang effect on survivors as not reporting the issue could be construed by the perpetrator that the target wants more. The Zimbabwean government should put clearer and stricter policies on sexual harassment in the workplace and educational institutions.

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June 18, 2021

Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Day of the African Child on Friday.

The celebrations peaked under the theme “A Bulawayo fit for children.”

An organisation focusing on issues affecting young people, Youth Invest, hosted a virtual community dialogue on water rights and access to quality education.

Children, the Junior mayor, junior councillors, councillors and activists came together to discuss the nexus between water and children’s rights.

The historical day emanates from June 16, 1976 when nearly ten thousand black students from Soweto, South Africa, marched in the streets to protest the poor quality of their education. They marched to demonstrate their disapproval of the Black Education Act, which segregated students based on their race.

In the two weeks of protest that followed, dubbed the Soweto uprising, more than 100 students were killed and thousands were badly injured by security forces.

Since 1991, the Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 to commemorate those killed during the uprising in South Africa, and to recognise the courage of the students who marched for their right to an education.

The Day of the African Child is also an opportunity to raise awareness for the ongoing need to improve the education of children living across Africa. It’s a need that still very much exists today.

Participants noted that although it’s now 30 years after the adoption of the African Child Charter, children in Bulawayo still have no adequate access to essential services such as water, education, shelter and security. They highlighted that all these are their rights, which they now take for privileges.

They said that children, especially those attending schools in high density suburbs still carry their own water to school.

Participants bewailed the children who became victims of the Luveve diarrhoea outbreak and mourned the life of a Cowdray Park boy who drowned while trying to fetch water in a well.

Miss Sihle Mlauzi, a participant said it was heart-rending to see a child in early childhood development (ECD) level carrying a two-litre bottle full of water to school.

“It so sad that although children have so many rights, they are still denied the basic ones. Water is an essential service and one cannot spend the whole day without it, imagine a child. In Cowdray Park you find a child in ECD carrying a bag with books and two litres of water.

Imagine how heavy it is for them. We need access to water at all schools to achieve a Bulawayo that is fit for children,” said Miss Mlauzi.

Another participant Miss Ayanda Ntuthu said the surge in child headed families is a cause for concern.

“It’s such a privilege to have both parents taking care of you, catering for your needs and taking accountability of your wellbeing, but these days one does not get to enjoy that privilege. You can’t live in luxury knowing that someone of your age next-door is playing the role of a mother and a father to his/her siblings.

“You can’t even for a day have peace of mind knowing that someone of your age out there has taken on adult-size physical and mental tasks.

“These things need to be acted upon because they don’t just affect individuals but the whole community at large, we need to hold hands and build a Bulawayo that is fit for children for it is our entitlement,” said Miss Ntuthu.

Ward 4 and Acting Ward 3 Councillor Silas Chigora said Bulawayo City Council was working on rehabilitation of pumps and piping to improve accessibility of water in the city and ensuring a Bulawayo that is fit for children.

“The city is focusing on the rehabilitation of pumps and piping in order to increase the volume of water from dams to treatment works. The city in partnership with African Development Bank (AfDB) has been replacing pipes in the western areas. Fernhill, Criterion and Ncema pumps are being revamped. Rehabilitation of boreholes at Nyamandlovu and Rochester aquifers.

“A lot will depend on the central government to finish up Gwayi Shangani which is the panacea for Bulawayo water challenges,” said Cllr Chigora.

He said the National Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (NMZWP) of which the Gwayi Shangani Dam is a major component, need to be completed to eliminate water woes in the city.

Cllr Chigora said the water problem in Bulawayo arose after the city grew and new suburbs were established, without building more supply dams.

“We are being supplied by six dams, five of which were built before independence and Mtshabezi which was built after independence. The city has been growing and new suburbs are being built. We now have Cowdray Park which has over 20 000 stands.

“We inherited it from the central government through Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai Project. We inherited quite a number of stands that were never planned by the city in terms of water and sewer and there has always been a gap between demand and supply, on a day we need about 150 million litres of water and yet our supply from dams is on the average of 100-110 megalitres there is a gap of 40 megalitres. Hence, we shed water to try to share what is available to schools, companies, industries and commerce.”

Ms Yollander Millin a Social and Economic Justice Ambassador (SEJA), a Gender, youth and human rights activist said access to clean and safe water is a right that is enshrined in the Constitution.

“We can view water rights as absolute rights under the Constitution. Section 77 of the Constitution provides for the rights in sufficient food and potable water and the State must take reasonable legislative and other measures within the limits of the resources available.

“The water policy of August 2012 amongst other things provides that there should be equity in access to fresh water by all. Water should be available to all people equitably. There should be no compromise or violations as failure to provide for the right may lead to or cause death of nationals,” said Ms Millin.

At the end it was agreed that a Bulawayo fit for children is one where every child can go to school without fear of being turned away for failing to pay fees, where girls do not have to be forced into marriages, one where boys do not have to depend on alcohol for escapism, where girls are not sold to highest older bidders to escape poverty for families, where girls are not prostituting themselves as way to find ends meet and do not have to depend on blessers to live a comfortable life.

A Bulawayo fit for children is that where every child has a voice and every voice is heard.

Article Link: https://www.chronicle.co.zw/a-bulawayo-fit-for-children/

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On Tuesday, 25 May a soccer tournament in celebration of Africa Day was Held at Chidobe Bh34.

The tournament which was hosted by Youth Invest was couple with traditional food expo and African crafts exhibition.

Tournament director Mgcini Moyo said, “It was a good initiative which brought locals to celebrate Africa Day and at the same time brought money to local women.”

 

A league approach was carried out with 4 teams playing namely, Ajax, Power stars, VIP Mosi and Mkanya. A tally of points was made for each game played with the team with most points, Ajax winning the tournament and an African inspired cup.

As part of the stakeholder initiative local Chidobe women prepared African Delicacies to sell at the grounds.

Local Women Venus Ncube says she was very happy the tournament was held in their village as this not only had a monetary benefit but it brought exposure for the Curios they sell as Siyazenzela Arts, Crafts and Village tours hub.

Meanwhile the organization hopes to hold more events like this one in the future.

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