Mary Taruvinga struggled to make ends meet when her husband died in 2010. Without warning, she was faced with the daunting responsibility of providing for four children, without any external support.
She was not alone.
In her village, others such as Mbuya Matajwa Mwanza, had struggled for a decade, after assuming the responsibility of her two grandchildren following the death of their parents due to HIV/AIDS. Mbuya Mwanza had to take care of Mike, age 16 and Chipo 11.
She was forced to work on other people’s land in order to earn meagre money for medicines and other basic necessities. It was never enough.
A few years later, much has changed. Their lives have taken a turn and they are happy to share their stories with the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare who is also the Senator for Mashonaland West Province, Honourable Prisca Mupfumira.
During a recent visit to Murombedzi District, about 120 km northwest of Harare, Hon. Mupfumira saw the impact of the Harmonized Social Cash Transfers (HSCT) programme in rural Zimbabwe.
Mbuya Matajwa Mwanza told Honourable Mupfumira who was accompanied by the UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe, Mr. Reza Hossaini how enrolling in the programme had, quite literally, changed her family’s life.
“I had nothing. Now I eat better and I am able to buy seed and fertilizer for a small plot of land where I grow maize and groundnuts. One of my grandchildren, Chipo is now back in school and I can even pay school fees for her,” she said.
Mbuya Mwanza has also used the small bi-monthly allowance to buy groceries, uniforms and stationery for Chipo and medicine for her leg. She says the extra cash means she no longer has to ask Mike to work on other families’ land and can devote more of their time to farming their own land.
Under the programme, labour constrained households receive a bi-monthly cash transfer of US$50. This small fee has been transformational.
“The small cash grants are making a substantial difference in the lives of poor female-headed households,” said Hon Mupfumira.
“Thanks to the Harmonised Social Cash Transfer programme, families are able to invest in children and adolescent’s development. People are employing one another. They are empowering one another,” said the Minister.
The Minister said the cash transfer scheme has been introduced to improve the vulnerable people’s lives adding it will be sad to find that some people are not putting it to good use. However, the Minister said she was happy that some beneficiaries have used the money for businesses and are now having more than one meal per day.
The Harmonised Social Cash Transfer programme seeks to ease the harsh impact of poverty, reduce malnutrition and improve school enrolment by delivering regular and reliable cash transfers to very poor households that are also labour constrained. The programme is currently reaching 55,509 extremely poor and labour-constrained households who have 154,008 children.
The Harmonised Social Cash Transfer programme was introduced under the second phase of the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (NAP II) implemented by the government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare with financial and technical support from UNICEF. Funding for NAP II is provided through the Child Protection Fund supported by a pool of donors.
The first transfer was provided in February 2012. The programme aims to enable beneficiary households to increase their consumption to a level above the food poverty line, to reduce the number of ultra-poor households and to help beneficiaries avoid risky coping strategies such as child labour and early marriage.