Spreading hope, feeding souls is Savadye’s mission
AS the effects of Covid-19 pandemic ravages the globe leaving most corporates on their knees, the less privileged are feeling the intensity of the lockdown as their sources of livelihoods have been shuttered with most vending stalls facing demolition in a country where 90 percent of the populace is in the informal sector.
According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a multi-partner initiative which determines the severity and magnitude of acute food insecurity and malnutrition situations in a country, 45 percent of Zimbabwe’s rural population will be food insecure until June 2020 due to the worsening economic conditions and the impact of the deadly coronavirus.
Urban communities are also wallowing in abject poverty as their revenue sources run dry following a ban on cross border trading and restrictions on vending.
Despite the chaos, there is one Beatrice Savadye, who is the director of Real Open Opportunities for Transformation Support (Roots), an organisation working to promote social and economic justice for young people in Zimbabwe, who has been distributing food and health packs to the less privileged across Zimbabwe.
The 33-year-old has made waves on Facebook for her philanthropic work to serve the community and assist the vulnerable survive lockdown.
“I knew that there are groups in our society who will be gravely affected by the lockdown, especially women and children. Now because of Covid-19 and the lockdown, a lot of people are no longer able to fend for themselves or to go kumaricho as they popularly refer to,” Beatrice told the Daily News on Sunday.
“As Roots we are working with social services departments in identifying needy families in the communities and other various platforms.
“The groups that are mostly affected in this Covid-19 pandemic are sex workers and single mothers who were depending on vending; and the elderly who were left behind with a lot of grandchildren, and people living with disabilities, especially the visually impaired and depend on other people to assist.”
Beatrice said in order to assist the needy, they have been collecting food packs, including cooking oil, maize-meal, beans, flour, salt and sugar to make food hampers and distribute to the poor.
She added that they are currently getting support from big organisations.
“This campaign is a citizen initiative so that those with more can share with those who do not have, and as activists or organisations who continue to hold the government accountable, we cannot let our colleagues die of hunger when we can do something,” Beatrice said.
“The moment that we are in right now is not for finger pointing, but requires us to do something as a collective and do something beautiful together, both the government and the people.
“To date we have supported 351 households with an average of three people and we are continuing with the campaign. We also supported a group of 42 visually impaired women who reached out to us for help after hearing me talking on radio.”
As the director for Roots, Savadye has been working in the field of women’s rights for the past 13 years, focusing on promoting dignified futures for young women and girls through advocacy, lobbying and capacity building.
Sprouting from a humble background where she had to be a street vendor as a child and later on pan for gold at Kitsiyatota to raise school fees, her compassion for the less privileged stems from her experience and is deep rooted in her heart.
“I grew up in Bindura, Mashonaland central, and most of the times I survived on hand-me-downs materials (second hand clothes) from my sister or brothers,” she said.
“During school days I was always sent back home for not paying fees, but because I was very sharp and brilliant in school, my teachers and headmaster took pity on me and would ask me to come back into class and ask my parents to make a payment plan.
“After school or during the weekend l would partake in street vending and when I was around 10 to 11 years l started doing gold panning with my mother and my maternal uncle. We used to go to Kitsiyatota and do gold panning. It was a pretty hard childhood.”
Savadye added that some days they would skip breakfast and eat twice a day or just once a day as a family and that is how she learnt to share the little things she had.
Like many young women who come from poor backgrounds, she had no access to safe sanitary wear during her teenage years, this led her to start a campaign to promote readily accessible and affordable sanitary towels for young women in Zimbabwe while she was working at Students and Youth Working on Sexual and Reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT)
The campaign was dubbed The Deliver Delayed Dignity campaign. Her advocacy work with parliamentarians led the government of Zimbabwe to suspend the 15 percent tax charged on raw materials for sanitary towels.
“Some of the work that I do is actually informed by my realities. When I started my menstrual flows, I used a cloth because that was the knowledge my mother passed down to me. That is why when I grew up I started advocating for sexual rights,” she said.
Her background spurred her to leave a well-paying job with SAYWHAT in June 2012 to start her own organisation that economically empowers marginalised young people.
So far the organisation has been able to reach out to more than 2 300 young people with mentorship programmes, leadership incubation, and sexual and reproductive health information.
She also initiated the Not Ripe for Marriage Campaign on Ending Child Marriages in Zimbabwe and livelihood support for young women, including those living with HIV.
“Having escaped from everything that was happening at home in the small town of Bindura, I ventured into advocacy after seeing a lot of men, especially those with better source of income, preying on young underprivileged girls,” Savadye said.
“Bindura being a mining town was a hive of activity and I had friends who died of HIV and other girls who ended up getting into child marriages due to poverty.
“I chose a career where I told myself that I wanted to make the journey easier for the next girl child and to just make the livelihood of people better. For example, Mashonaland Central is endowed in terms of minerals and farming land, but you will find out that it is in the hands of few people and there is a lot of deprivation when it comes to women and girls having access to such resources.”
Starting Roots at the age of 26, she had a goal of bettering lives and creating jobs for many young people, and today in the face of a global crisis, she is spreading hope and feeding souls.
She expressed gratitude to her parents who believed in education for everyone and made her a better and successful human being.