Investing in the future: How cash is transforming the lives of women in rural Zimbabwe

Cash is transforming lives in rural Zimbabwe, particularly for women.

Southern Africa has been experiencing its worst drought in 35 years, and Zimbabwe’s arid south is particularly prone. Heavy rains in February, off the back of Cyclone Dineo, have helped but an estimated four million Zimbabweans do not have enough food to eat.

In partnership with the UK Department of International Development, CARE began its cash transfer project in 2015. The project works with women, men, girls and boys, and is currently reaching around 400,000 people in the country’s south.

The concept is simple: each month, households receive a cash payment into a virtual wallet on their mobile phone. They can either “cash out” (exchange their wallet for cash) with a cash agent or spend the money directly (known as “wallet to wallet” – or phone to phone – transfers) at local stores, schools, clinics and other businesses.

Injecting cash into the community enables households to determine their own food and nutritional needs, benefits local shopkeepers and businesses, builds local markets, and reaches vulnerable communities before irreversible hunger becomes a reality.

CARE met some of the women benefiting both directly and indirectly from the project.

The mother

Mother of two, Letwin Chisorochengwe uses cash from CARE to buy food for her family in rural Zimbabwe

“With the cash I receive, I buy food for my family. I was also able to use some of the money to pay the remaining USD5 that was outstanding for my children’s school fees.” – Letwin Chisorochengwe, mother of two.

The student

Student Shuvai Mashiri uses cash from CARE to buy goats to feed her family in rural Zimbabwe

“The cash helped me when there was severe hunger in my household. I also used some of the money to buy two goats because there was nothing here – no livestock, no chickens – and I had nothing to feed my family. I was also studying for ordinary levels but without enough food, I was finding it difficult to concentrate. With the remaining cash, I studied here in my home. I was able to sit my exams and I passed. With my education I can get a job so that during the times when the rains are not good, I can look after my children.”– Shuvai Mashiri, with her academic results.

The elderly

Susan and her mother Mazvipesa use cash from CARE to buy food, soap, seeds and to complete home repairs.

“I buy mealie [maize] meal because sadza is our traditional food. I also buy some soap so I can bathe and stay clean. We've also used some of the money to repair our home and to buy seeds and tools for our crops.” – Susan Zidyauswa (right), who lives with her mother, Mazvipesa Mapingure (left).

The disabled

Francesca Gwara (left) and her aunt, also Francesca Gwara (right) use cash from CARE to buy food and repair their home in rural Zimbabwe

“My aunt and her son are disabled. If it wasn’t for the cash transfers they would have to go to the mission and get food. Now they can look after their own nutrition. They have also used some of the cash to repair their home.” – Francesca Gwara (left) and her aunt, also Francesca Gwara (right). Francesca acts as proxy for her aunt who has a simcard but no mobile phone. Francesca helps her aunt access her wallet by using her simcard in Francesca’s phone.

The shopkeeper

Clara Makasi is a shopkeeper in rural Zimbabwe. The goods she sells move faster since CARE has facilitated cash distribution in her community.

“Before the cash transfer project started, I would buy a case of sugar and it would sit in my store for a month but now goods move faster because people have money to buy.” – Clara Makasi, shopkeeper.

The businesswoman

Dorothy Shumba (right), photographed with Fungai Hove started a cash agency businesses after CARE began distributing cash in rural Zimbabwe

“I’m a cash agent. When people receive cash, they come to me to ‘cash out.’ I started my business with one booth. Now I have four and employ three people. I have enough money to educate my children and I’ve even bought a car so I don’t have to travel to my booths by public means.” – Dorothy Shumba (right), photographed with Fungai Hove, who works at one of Dorothy’s booths.

Patricia Mucheche (left), CARE’s Accountability Officer for the Cash Transfer Project in rural Zimbabwe with recipient Susan Zidayauswa

“The CTP (cash transfer project) has been helping in so many ways. We thank God for CARE and the CTP”–Susan Zidyauswa with Patricia Mucheche (left), CARE’s Accountability Officer for the Cash Transfer Project.

PartnershipLearn more about CARE's emergency relief work.

Learn more about CARE's work to financially empower women and girls, as well as men and boys.