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close this bookTraining Human Settlement Workers in Eastern & Southern Africa (AFSC - Mazingira Institute, 1981)
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View the documentWhy self-help projects?
View the documentPolitics & training: Mobilization versus control
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View the documentTraining & the role of women

Training & the role of women

Several of the Southern African countries, particularly Angola, Botswana, Lesotho and Mozambique, have economies that are still largely dependent on South Africa. For example, in Lesotho, 200,000 men out of a total population of 1.2 million are migrant labourers in South Africa; in Mozambique 135,000 men out of a total population of 12 million worked there before independence, but now that is reduced to 35,000. This causes a breakdown in family life and means that the women in rural areas carry the burden of subsistence production. The problem is compounded by South African treatment of migrant labour - the men get housing while the women squat. All the countries noted the tendency for men to be more urbanized, for men to own property and land, but for women to provide the labour. However, there are also large numbers of women in towns, and they are predominantly poor and single with children.

Some countries do not recognize the right of women to own land, and therefore poor women with families cannot participate in settlement improvement projects. Married women whose husbands are absent migrant labourers often can't act until their husbands return. Women in countries such as Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho and Mozambique have the same rights as men, but in Zimbabwe they do not. Even where the law permits women access to land, tradition may prevail. This is a problem in Sudan in particular, but also in countries like Zambia and Lesotho. Women seldom play much of a role in land distribution committees.

Where women are not marginalized by legislation they are often marginalized by social custom or the sheer economic pressure of their dependents and lack of skills. Thus they predominate in the low income groups. The majority of applicants for low income plots in Botswana and Lesotho were single women heads of household, and in Kenya about half were women. However, since women are among the very poorest urban dwellers they may fail to qualify for project plots or loans on the grounds of inadequate income, even though they often participate more in self-help and cooperative activities. In many countries, poverty-stricken women are only catered to by programmes for the very poor such as those of the National Christian Councils of Botswana and Kenya.

The group pooled their leas and experience in suggesting ways of overcoming these problems through training and settlements projects. One of the biggest constraints for women is lack of education, meaning lack of skills and employment. Only in Lesotho are women better educated, because traditionally boys are occupied with herding. Only 2 or 3% of rural women in Mozambique are literate; recent attempts to organize literacy programs on a large scale met with an .enthusiasic response until the timetable clashed with the need to work on the land - classes need to be planned near where women work and at a time they can afford to attend. In Mozambique most men are employed as wage earners whereas 90% of the cooperative farm activity is by women. Botswana takes its literacy programs to where women are; they are often combined with family planning meetings.

A lot of young girls have to stop classes because they are supposed to help older women look after their children, thus creating a vicious circle of unskilled women in low-paid employment. Day-care centres for small children are needed in settlement improvement schemes, and this has been successfully tried by UNICEF in a site and service scheme in Kenya.

Other factors than land title may prevent women having equal access to settlement schemes: in Zimbabwe, only wage employees are eligible for plot allocation, whereas women, as in other places, form a higher proportion of the self-employed. Zoning laws that restrict small-scale businesses in settlement schemes also discriminate against women.

Several members of the workshop noticed that women sometimes hesitate to take leadership roles. Training that focuses on confidence building is being tried in Lesotho: both women and men are helped by guidelines on procedures and construction cost control so that they can supervise building.

In Kenya, all-women groups were formed, as well as some groups with only a few men, so that women didn't hesitate to lead. In Mozambique, the-block committees responsible for managing their own areas have the same number of men and women representatives. In one case, the men were selected by the women and the women by the men. In Zambia, the party is represented at each level, Ward, Branch and Section of 25 houses, by equal numbers of youth, women and the "main" group (which may be men or women).

Sometimes only women are involved in health and nutrition training, whereas men need to take responsibility here as well - in Zambia both male and female grade 7 school-leavers are getting this kind of training. In addition the group thought women as well as men ought to be trained as paramedics and to run small pharmacies.

There is generally a problem of women lacking skills that lead to productive employment. In Sudan, although women build traditionally, the modern sector of construction is for men only. This applies to other skills as well - women are often responsible for heavy work, in farming or in brigade work in Botswana for exarnple, but excluded from technical training or wage-earning activities. The group thought it was not easy to start by trying to change employer's attitudes or to make women compete with men for the few jobs available. Immediate strategies were to encourage women's producer cooperatives in settlement improvement schemes, to encourage all-women production units, and to include women in training on book-keeping, running co-ops and workers' education Women are being trained in technical skills in Lesotho, and to some extent in Zambia and Kenya. In Mozambique women have been trained in plot subdivision and provide a surveying service to others in an upgrading area. Both technical and management training need to be extended to women so that they can establish economic means of livelihood.