IQFA has acted as a channel of support from the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland for Christian Aid Ireland – an international aid and development agency of the Protestant Churches of Great Britain and Ireland. Christian Aid’s aim is to end poverty and injustice worldwide with the help of their supporters and partners. Christian Aids work across 14 countries and 2 regional programmes to support poor and marginalised people, whatever their beliefs, sexuality, gender or ethnicity, to lift themselves out of poverty.
One of the Christian Aid partner organisations is the Apostolic Women Empowerment Trust (AWET), which advocates for ending child marriage (when the bride is less than 18 years old) in apostolic churches. The organisation seeks to empower women and adolescents so that they can actively participate in social and economic development processes that will enable them to advance their rights and those of others.
In 2020, IQFA provided support to a Christian Aid–AWET project aimed at improving the quality of life of the rural population in Zimbabwe, particularly for women and young people in the drought-prone district of Shurugwi, by strengthening rural markets, stimulating local economic development, and diversifying opportunities for sustainable income-generating activities and improving livelihoods.
Poverty has become a systemic problem in Zimbabwe, with limited opportunities for employment, especially for women and young people. The Apostolic community makes up 38% of the Zimbabwean population and is one of the poorest and most economically marginalised in the country. The socio-economic status of this community in Shurugwi is exacerbated by high levels of unemployment. The lack of opportunities can then often lead many young women and men to being forced to work in illegal gold panning or even prostitution to provide for their basic needs, which then increases their exposure to violence, sexual exploitation and drug abuse.
The project supports two income-generating activities: beekeeping and mobile technology enterprises. Both parts of the project will see the formation of 10 groups of 10 people (200 in total). One set of groups will be supported to set up their own beekeeping businesses, a practice that has emerged as a very successful activity for people in rural areas of less developed countries. This part of the process will involve planting 1,000 trees to ensure the beekeeping activities are sustainable and drilling of two boreholes to provide irrigation. The tree planting will benefit the local environment by helping to re-introduce natural carbon sinks. It will also benefit local agriculture and provide an additional source of healthy and nutritious food. An additional benefit of the introduction of new water sources from the boreholes is that women and children will not have to walk long distances to fetch water, increasing their security and freeing up much of their time to focus on important activities such as education.
The other set of groups of young women and men will be supported to set up and develop their own businesses through the trade, maintenance and repair of mobile phones, tablets, solar lighting kits and radios. The beneficiaries will be trained in business management to ensure their enterprises are profitable and sustainable. These services are in demand, particularly amongst young people, and will help to offer gateways to connectivity and innovation.