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Against All Odds: How WILPF Zimbabwe is Addressing a Historic Food Crisis

Like many nations, Zimbabwe is experiencing a severe food insecurity crisis that has been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19.

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WILPF International Secretariat
25 January 2021

Like many nations, Zimbabwe is experiencing a severe food insecurity crisis that has been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19. 

In a 2020 report released by the Global Network Against Food Crises, the country’s food crisis was rated as being among the most critical in the world. The report estimates that 4.3 million rural Zimbabweans – including many children – are in urgent need of access to safe, nutritious food, and that less than 20 per cent of children between six and 23 months of age receive a minimally adequate diet. 

The crisis is being driven by numerous and complex challenges, including hyperinflation, currency shortages, and widespread poverty exacerbated by the economic crisis as well as crop shortages and drought due to climate change. 

“Millions of Zimbabweans are struggling to put food on the table due to economic hardships,” says Edwick Madzimure of WILPF Zimbabwe. “Teachers, for example, have had their salaries reduced from the equivalent of $540 US dollars to about $100 US dollars per month, and this is reflective of the experiences of most civil servants and private sector workers in the country.” 

Madzimure says that workers demanding fair wages and highlighting poor working conditions have been arrested and jailed for speaking up. 

“Section 65 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution states that every person has the right to fair and safe labour practices and standards, and to be paid a fair and reasonable wage, while Section 59 guarantees the right to demonstrate and petition,” she says. “Yet these rights are not being recognised and workers are being imprisoned for demanding access to living wages so they can feed their families.” 

WILPF Zimbabwe steps in and steps up 

To help address the food crisis, in the summer of 2020 WILPF Zimbabwe distributed food hampers to 100 families with support from WILPF’s Solidarity Care Fund – a short-term funding resource launched to help WILPFers around the world address local challenges that have emerged or deepened as a result of COVID-19. 

“We focused on distributing food to particularly vulnerable homes, such as those headed by elderly individuals or children,” says Madzimure. “We also provided hand sanitisers and masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.” 

WILPF Zimbabwe has also been working to address growing rates of gender-based violence in the country, which are directly linked to the food insecurity crisis. 

“The food crisis has led to greater conflict within homes, resulting in more cases of domestic violence, and victims have been unable to escape their abusers during lockdown,” says Madzimure. “At the same time, in many rural areas parents and guardians are accepting money for the marriage of their young daughters to older men so that they can buy food for the rest of the family. And there have been many instances of young girls exchanging sex for food or money.” 

To help raise awareness of these issues and support victims of gender-based violence, WILPF Zimbabwe created a Facebook group where women can connect with one another and share information and resources. The Section has also been engaging residents and local village leaders in rural communities to educate them about the negative impacts of gender-based violence. 

Persisting against all odds 

Although the Section has been working hard to create impact in Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable communities, Madzimure points out that WILPF Zimbabwe’s own members are not immune to the challenges facing the country. 

“Just like the people we’re helping to support, many of our members are finding it difficult to feed their families,” she says. “One of our executive members has five children and cannot afford to buy basic necessities or essential food items like maize.”

Despite the obstacles they face, the members of WILPF Zimbabwe continue to persist in their efforts to help those hardest hit by the food insecurity crisis in their country. 

“We volunteer our time to do this work because we believe deeply in the rights of women, girls, and other community members facing socioeconomic challenges to access the resources they need to thrive,” says Madzimure. 

WILPF Zimbabwe officially became a WILPF Section in 2018. Learn more about how it all started by reading this interview with WILPF Zimbabwe’s President Edwick Madzimure.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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