Bulemu Mutale reports on women Jatropha soap producers during the pandemic

Social impacts of the pandemic
for women in rural Zimbabwe

An English translation of a German article published in FUgE News 01/22

Hi. I am Bulemu Mutale; born in Binga, a small town, in northern Zimbabwe. Until January 2019, I lived there with my father and brothers, working in a wholesale shop and, when there was time, helping at the women’s organisation Zubo Trust. This volunteer work brings me 2019 to Germany as participant in a South-North volunteering programme at Welthaus Bielefeld and the first ever participant from Zimbabwe. Today, I can speak German and am training as a nurse.

I have not been back since. I am often homesick, honestly. Of course, we are in contact, with my family and with the Zubo women. It is something close to my heart to tell you now how things have been going for Zubo Trust, even under lockdown conditions. And since our Jatropha soap is sold in Germany, I’d also would like to tell you about the women who produce your soap and how they’ve been coping during the pandemic.

Zubo’s mission is all about economic participation of the rural women and about representing their rights. Very often this is done in self-organised, collective work. “Zubo brings women together for self-empowerment” is the motto of the organisation. In soap production, for example, two teams of six women each take turns; from mixing the oil to packaging, they do everything in teamwork. For this, the women leave their villages and families for three weeks. Yes, it works! Because with Zubo’s mediation, the husbands and the village communities are backing it.

Lockdown makes life difficult for the women. This is actually true for everyone, everywhere in the country. The majority of the population in Zimbabwe lives from informal trade. Curfews mean goods cannot be delivered to customers, no income! and hunger! In the lockdown, only one of the women who lives nearby comes to the soap manufactory and works alone with the production manager. The trade fair in the capital had been postponed for a month anyway because of high infection rates in the cold season. Zubo takes care of the marketing and shipping of the handmade soap.

Fear of the unknown virus is high. Security forces in the streets are another factor. At the beginning of the pandemic, life stood still. No one knew what to do. The terrible perplexity lasts for two to three months until enlightening information reaches Binga. The Zubo office team cannot get together, tries to keep up the work in home office. Everything moves very slowly. When the lockdown is eased, the Zubo team is able to build valuable bridges into the remote communities and, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, helps bring up-to-date information and much-needed basic medical supplies to these communities.

When the soap cannot be shipped to Germany as planned, partners such as Welthaus Bielefeld succeed in redirecting funding so that the soap can now be distributed as donations to Zubo’s home communities, thus supporting hygiene conditions locally.

The loss of income in the lockdown has meant that the women have literally eaten up all their capital since the beginning of the pandemic, including seeds for the next season. There are hardly any reserves left; the population is dependent on food handouts from the government. How can Zubo’s work continue in this situation? – that is the organisation’s biggest concern.

At the beginning of the year, it’s been possible again for soap being delivered to Germany. You can now buy the unscented, natural soap in fair-trade shops like the FUgE Weltladen and in the shop at Welthaus Bielefeld.

Thank you for listening to me. I look forward to you reading our detailed report about the impact of the pandemic on Zubo’s women here (in English translation) or, the original German article in “Graswurzel Revolution”, GWR465

Bulemu Mutale


We would like to call for support for Zubo Trust in the pandemic

We are collecting on the following account of the Baobab Verein in Kassel; keyword: “Zubo”. Donation receipts will be sent for donations of 20 Euro or more. Please indicate your address and email on the transfer form. IBAN: DE67 4306 0967 4103 8566 00; BIC: GENODEM1GLS; GLS Bank; https://www.baobab-ev.org/de-de/


Zubo Trust https://www.zubowomen.org/



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