Junior Achievement Zimbabwe held a Job Shadow Program targeting female students named “Take 10 000 Girls to Work” in Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, Kwekwe and Zvishavane. JA Zimbabwe partnered with several institutions to allow female students (Form 4-6) to shadow their employees for a day. Some of the students shadowed at Nestle Zimbabwe in the Sales, Marketing, Human Resources, Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, and Supply Chain management departments. In Mutare, the ladies were taken through different departments at Dry Port and in Harare at Radio Zimbabwe. Apart from serving as mentorship, role modelling, career guidance and interpersonal skills development, this was also an opportunity for institutions to volunteer their staff and spaces to build the futures of young females.
Zimbabwe has registered significant strides on gender equality since independence in 1980 but the majority of girls and women still suffer from gender inequality. Zimbabwe has ratified international conventions that promote gender equality. These policies include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), United Nations Resolution 1325, and SADC (2008) protocol on Gender and Development. Furthermore, government policies such as the National Gender Policy, the Labor Act and the Constitution, state the government’s objective to pursue gender equality.
Despite this progress, the barriers to gender equality are low female representation in formal employment and leadership, absence of skills acquisition programs for technical jobs, and sexual harassment at work and in business. There are also career opportunities that have generally been perceived as only suitable for men. According to Dezso (2012), in Africa, inequalities between women and men are among the greatest in the world. African women and girls are among the worlds poorest. This inequality is certainly the case in Zimbabwe where women’s participation in the formal labour sector is low. These challenges have a bearing on youths as they are three times more likely than adults to be unemployed, with even higher unemployment rates amongst girls and young women. Youth make up 59% of the labor force, but account for 80% of the unemployed nationwide. The unemployment rate for youth is 14.5%, slightly higher than the national average. However, unemployment among urban youth is considerably higher at 33.8%. Young women are also more likely to be unemployed with a total unemployment rate of 19.8% nationally, and 43.4% in urban areas (ZIMSTAT, 2011 Labour Force Survey).
The high rate of unemployment amongst women masks major issues. Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (2014) found that 32.9 percent of women aged 20-49 were married before 18. Child marriages make girls vulnerable to death due to child birth, poverty, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and engaging in projects with low capital costs. The Constitution of Zimbabwe prohibits child marriage and it recognises women’s equal status with men (Zimbabwe Constitution Section 80). Further to the provisions of the Constitution, in Mudzuru v Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe affirms that the Constitution prohibits child marriage (Mudzuru v Minister of Justice, 2015 ZWCC 12, 20 January 2016). It is hence imperative to develop interventions that empower the girl child with skills and knowledge in order to reduce barriers of gender inequality and its effects.
The Value of Taking a Girl Child to Work
Based on JAZ’s experience since 2005, through the job shadow girls have had an up-close look at the workplace, appreciated the relevance of education to future success and established a new connection to the business world. It also provides an experience girls can use to make smart career choices. Consequently, companies strengthen and promote businesses’ involvement in education, prepare the future workforce and plough back into their communities. A well designed job shadow program can be a mutually beneficial proposition for all parties involved.