Posted by Tammy Heckenberg
Rotary International has a different theme for each month of the Rotary year.  In October the theme is Economic and Community Development.  One of the global drivers of economic development is the fact that women throughout the world are increasingly becoming entrepreneurs.  This is especially critical in developing countries, where women frequently are not allowed to work anywhere outside of the home.  Rotary and Rotary Clubs have long engaged in efforts to overcome these barriers, and in addition Rotary Clubs increasingly are encouraging women to join Rotary.  In fact, District 7190 recently received a regional award for growth in membership by women! 
 
The excerpted article below was posted on the Rotary International website and showcases the efforts of clubs in the Denver CO area to work with women's empowerment in Zimbabwe.
 
WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT THROUGH ECONOMIC & COMPUTER TRAINING
Posted by Carolyn Schrader (Denver Mile High) schrader407@gmail.com
 
Rotary Grants developed by the Rotary Clubs of Denver Mile High and Highlands in Zimbabwe have been delivering economic and computer trainings to high-density communities in Harare Zimbabwe since 2009. Almost 100 Rotarians have contributed their time and expertise to develop and deliver the training and oversight for these grants.  Over 6,000 women and youth have learned to save money and use their own savings to start and manage small businesses. 
 
With their newly acquired computer skills, they track their finances and stay in touch with their families around the world.  Over 250,000 people have benefited by these projects.
 
2016-17 Training Grant
The local government has been highly supportive of the trainings, since there is nothing similar being offered to the women in the Harare area.  They asked that the training be expanded to other communities where women had no way to acquire skills to support themselves.  Working with the office of the mayor of Harare, local Rotarians identified three new communities for the training: Glen Norah, Highfield, and Dzivarasekwa (DZ).  We hired a training organization that was started by some of our participants in our first Rotary Grant in 2009.  Training started in September 2016.
 
There are four blocks of training under the Grant; the third round was completed in June 2017.  Women receive a week-long intensive training in economic skills, followed by a similar training in computer skills.  The participants form themselves into 12-13 member Self Help Groups.  The women create their individual businesses as well as a group business.  This gives them a chance to learn from each other to successfully run their own business. After the intensive trainings, there are 7 weeks of follow-up trainings.  At the end of the 9-10 week training block, there is a graduation celebration.
 
 
Computer Training and Equipment
 One of the most popular aspects of the grant is the computer training.  Women rarely get a chance to learn this skill, and most who do have limited opportunities to use a computer.  The grant has funded 5 computers and printers that have been placed in the community centers. The participants have priority access to these computers to use with their businesses; they carry flash drives with their information that they access when they visit the community centers.  All participants have an email account; many also use Facebook.  For some participants, the computer training has lead directly to a job. 
 
Women’s Businesses
Our participants are only limited by their imaginations.  Businesses include:
  • Catering, cake making and decoration
  • Sewing uniforms and specialty kitchen items
  • Making soap and detergents
  • Jewelry and basket making
  • Purifying water to sell
  • Buying and selling goods 
Rotarian Involvement
Host Rotarians visit the opening of each training and participate in the graduation ceremonies.  They visit throughout the 10 week period, offering advice and sometimes presenting focused trainings.  The head of training organization provides monthly reports and meets frequently with the Grant Committee to discuss progress and identify improvements.  This shows up in the performance of the groups, which seem to be getting stronger with each training block.  Colorado Rotarians will join the Host Rotarians in the closing celebration in September 2017 and interview participants to compile a series of their stories. 
 
Rotarians in District 7190 engage in service projects which promote economic and community development throughout the world.  If this or similar service projects are of interest to you, please contact me directly at tammyheckenberg@yahoo.com.  I look forward to speaking with you.
 
Be the Inspiration!
DG Tammy