Single mothers empowerment through small business development projects in Gweru, Zimbabwe : the case of the GWAPA Poverty Alleviation Programme
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This study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of the GWAPA Single Mothers Poverty alleviation Programme. The study hypothesized that women in Gweru are among the most vulnerable to poverty and disease and GWAPA project may be an effective source to their poverty alleviation. Main objectives of the study were to explain selected development concepts, to explore the relationship between gender and poverty, to investigate the effectiveness of the GWAPA Programme, to outline the challenges faced by GWAPA, and to offer recommendations based on research findings to help improve the effectiveness of the programme. Both theoretical study and empirical research methods were used to ensure a balanced evaluation of the problem. The theoretical study established that the target population for poverty alleviation and development programmes must be fully involved for development to replace poverty. On average women were found to be poorer than men and hence the need for projects that focus on poverty alleviation among women. In the empirical study 375 of the 1756 GWAPA single women members were used as questionnaire respondents, and 3 management employees were sampled for the interviews. Descriptive survey and qualitative participatory approaches were used as the main research methodologies. This hybrid approach was intended to improve the validity and reliability of the outcome of the study by mitigating weaknesses of different individual approaches. This approach would ensure maximum utilization and involvement of subjects and available resources. Questionnaires, interviews and documentary evidence augmented by the researcher's experience with the NGDO were used as research instruments. Of the 375 Questionnaires distributed, 357 (95%) were collected. Various statistical measures were used to summarize and interpret the data, particularly tables, graphs and charts, actual frequencies and percentage rates. Narrative descriptions were also used to explain given scenarios and relationships. The study established that poverty and development are multidimensional concepts, families headed by women are on average poorer than those headed by men, respondents' lives have changed for the better, GWAPA single mothers have work overload especially considering that as women they shoulder the biggest chunk of the family responsibilities, and most of the GWAPA projects which started well were now suffocating under the current economic hardships.. Main challenges faced by GWAPA include the current political and economic environment, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the limited educational levels among its members, members' limited access to resources, community cultural biases and negative attitudes towards single mothers and commercial sex workers, government regulation on financial transactions and the amount of cash one should hold outside the banking system, and work overload among members. The study recommends involvement of GWAPA members' opposite sex partners as affiliates, intensive public campaigns, lobbying and advocacy to remove the stigma and negative attitudes towards single mothers and commercial sex workers, improving infrastructure and the GWAPA Farm operations, engaging long term facilitators, certification after attending training programmes, excelling awards, present manuals in mother languages, and alternative fundraising strategies. The government and municipalities are encouraged to invest more in the small enterprise sector as it has proven to have the capability to create employment and develop communities by mobilizing the grassroots. The study also recommends a more detailed and deeper participatory study, related comparative studies that show differences and similarities between related projects in different areas in Zimbabwe, and similar studies on DNGOs that work with both sexes in different areas in Zimbabwe.