Poverty wrecks havoc in Manicaland peri urban communities as women and youths resort to gold panning

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by Lloyd Sesemani

Residents of Penhalonga are struggling to raise house hold income and are reeling in poverty due to high unemployment of women and youths coupled with a lack of land for agricultural production. Most of the people within the community held high expectations that the 2022 National Budget would provide safety nets to cushion them from the current economic hardships. With the latest statistics released by the Zimbabwe national statistics agency revealing that a family of six now requires a total of $42708 to meet monthly expenses the cost of living has sustained an upward trajectory in the previous months. Social and Economic Justice Ambassadors (SEJAs) appealed to the budget committee during the 2022 budget consultations that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development must consider to put in place safety nets to cater for the poor and vulnerable groups.

With no jobs several youths in Penhalonga have resorted to gold panning ,stone and sand poaching including tree felling for firewood in order to eke a living. Most of the house holds are relying on firewood and charcoal as alternative source of energy since they can not afford the cost of electricity. In the process several women and girls have turned into firewood poaching as an income generating occupation. This is despite the vices it leaves behind which include lots of environmental hazards and ⁹ land degradation. Numerous unclaimed pits that pose a danger to human beings and livestock remain after sand poachers and gold panners desert the sites. According to some concerned residents the lack of empowerment projects and employment leave no option to the women and youths but for them to delve in illegal activities for survival.

Despite the existence of progressive laws, cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) continue to increase within the community especially violence against women and girls. Poverty has been cited as one of the major causes of this scourge and many other social ills affecting women development. GBV is also a threat to the attainment of sustainable development goals. Poverty reduction is a key milestone in realizing an Upper Middle Income class by 2030. In view of the challenges of Covid-19 and the economic hardships being experienced by the poor and vulnerable groups the 2% of the total national budget allocated to the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare falls far short of meeting the expectations of these communities.