A thin line between women’s economic empowerment and GBV

the case of Dorcus Women’s Savings Group

February 22, 2024
Dorcus Womens Group

Lovenesss, Member of Dorcus Women's Savings Group

UNDP/Mercy Khozi

Although married and seemingly happy for 30 years, Loveness, 62 years old and mother of 5 children recalls how she secretly enrolled in a tailoring school to end the financial challenges she was facing in her home.  Her desire to be a working mother had encountered many obstacles from her husband.

It was in 2018 that her misery and inability to support her children was exacerbated when the love of her life and father to her children secretly retired from his teaching job and began a life of hide-and-seek with his bag of benefits. The situation was despicable – she not only lost faith in her husband’s honesty and transparency on how he spent his loot but her mental and physical health rapidly deteriorated before the eyes of her family.

DPS Undi Phiri

Lovenesss, Member of Dorcus Women's Savings Group

UNDP/Mercy Khozi

The Road to Recovery: Breaking the Silence

As for Loveness, she had heard of this adage of silence and its negative repercussions. It is her knowledge that led her to covertly join the Dorcus Women’s Savings Group which is dominated by female tailors. Joining the Savings Group, in Lusaka’s Kamwala Trading Centre not only assisted her in finding women whose lives and lamentations had been like hers, but she also received business training, which was supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) under the GRZ-UN Joint Programme Against GBV Phase II.

Loveness’s joy is evident as she narrates how she now owns a farm and that this season, she has already prepared her land for ploughing and sowing.

“There are things that a woman needs to buy for herself and her children. I can now afford to cater for myself and my children. I am a happy woman. Because of the empowerment I now have, other women send their children to my house for family counseling. I have learnt that having one’s financial capacity reduces tension in the home. My husband is now home, and our home is at peace finally,” said Loveness. Not sure if this is a positive thing or not as it is not saying what the husband is doing. 

Making a Difference: Joining Dorcus Women’s Savings Group

GBV survivors and those at-risk especially women and young people need to access empowerment services including economic empowerment to increase their sense of independence from harmful relationships.  On 8th December 2023, the UNDP in partnership with ILO under the GRZ-UN Joint Programme Against GBV Phase II witnessed the second sharing-out of over 100,000 Kwacha (US$3,827.32) to 25 women who belong to a tailoring and fashion group. This is part of the broader objective of the Programme to make a difference in the lives of   GBV survivors and those at risk. 

Speaking on behalf of the UNDP Resident Representative, during the group’s second share-out, Ms. Elda Chirwa explained that “Gender-based violence has become one of the most noticeable expressions of unequal power relations between women and men. It reveals the hidden negative cultural practices which permit the subordination of females to males, and culturally embedded violence against women”. 

The Government of the Republic of Zambia through the Gender Division has ensured women are empowered by law, policy and through the many interventions including support to prevent Cyber-Gender-Based Violence and access to justice.

Speaking at the event, on behalf of the Permanent Secretary of Gender Division,  Ms Nchimunya Nkombo, said  “Government is committed to seeing women empowered [to] break the chains of GBV and poverty.”

The sharing-out contributed to empowering and subsequently transforming the lives of many women after they joined the Dorcus Women’s Saving Group, established to empower women who had experienced physical and economic abuse.

With support from the Governments of Ireland and Sweden, the project is implemented by five UN agencies, namely, UNICEF, UNFPA, IOM and ILO that work alongside UNDP to ensure a comprehensive package of prevention and response services through the GRZ-UN Joint Programme Against GBV Phase II. ILO provided capacity building for survivors of GBV through vocational training while UNDP supported the strengthening of access to financial services, ensuring value addition as well as access to markets for their products.

Beatrice Womens Savings Group

Lovenesss, Member of Dorcus Women's Savings Group

UNDP/Mercy Khozi