As urban populations are growing rapidly posing an increased pressure on social amenities and natural resources, the plight of urban poverty and its impact on the most vulnerable quota of the population, young women, continues to worsen. The quest for daily survival has exposed many young women to social vices which has increased their vulnerability to abusive sexual relationships, unwanted pregnancies, drugs and prostitution. In its commitment to build better cities as well as better citizens, Lafarge Cement Zimbabwe set out on a transformational programme that benefitted 100 girls in its inaugural run and has recently enrolled another 125 girls for the 2019-2020 programme. As a building materials supplier, Lafarge has a keen interest in the development of communities and acknowledges that communities are not built only by brick and mortar. Rather, communities are also built a strong people foundation and solid social fabric.
Development of communities must be accompanied by empowerment of the citizens, hence Shine:Simuka Upenye.
Over the last few years, Lafarge has moved away from philanthropic programmes into sustainable social investment projects. This has involved aligning social responsibility programmes with the business mission for creating value for stakeholders. It is on this basis that the Shine: Simuka Upenye is structured to ensure gradual empowerment to achieve total independence of the beneficiaries. This has been successfully achieved as proven by the many success stories of the inaugural programme where most of the girls who were beneficiaries have since qualified for formal employment in their respective trades.
The programme targets orphans and vulnerable girls who are identified through the structures of the Social Services Department. Their varied circumstances are underlined by dire social and economic hardships that have engulfed them into a vicious cycle of poverty and further vulnerability. In response to this, the Shine:Simuka Upenye programme offers a carefully selected range of training programmes, period beginning with a three-month lifeskills training and mentorship programme, followed by 12 months of vocational training. The life skills training is structured around the Sister2Sister programme supported by the UNFPA and it will be conducted by ZiChiRe, a community-based organisation operating in Mabvuku and Tafara.
The vocational courses on offer for this incoming intake include brick and block-laying, carpentry, plumbing, electrical wiring, professional cookery, cosmetology as well as clothing construction. These will be offered in partnership with Harare Polytechnic, Msasa Industrial Training college and Danhiko College. Vocational training will start in January 2020 and run over three learning terms. The young women on the programme would also undergo entrepreneurship training and basic computer skills with the Women’s University in Africa.
At the end of the vocational training, some girls are absorbed into the organisations they are attached for work- related learning. Those that do not find employment immediately are given access to the Shine: Simuka Upenye Business Incubation Center established by Lafarge in partnership with City of Harare. Here, the girls have access to space and equipment to establish their small businesses as well as learning other small skills that help them develop multiple streams of income.
Lafarge acknowledges and appreciates the strong partnership support rendered to the Shine: Simuka Upenye programme. Organisations such as Mavambo Trust, UNFPA and Zichire, City of Harare through Mabvuku Social Services, as well as the training institutions mentioned earlier, have all contributed immensely to the integrity and structure of the programme. Their support and expertise plays an instrumental role in the effective execution of the programme. Other partners have also come on board to give material support. Minerva has come through with a consignment of sanitary wear which will go a long way to meet the girls sanitary requirements.
Because partnerships are critical for any programme to thrive, Lafarge has launched a resource mobilisation campaign to support the beneficiaries for the Shine:Simuka Upenye Programme dubbed Lift Her Up. This is a call for individual women as well as women groups to offer material and financial assistance to meet the needs of the girls during the programme.