The Changing Face of Women’s Activism – A Hivos Zimbabwe Knowledge Programme


HIVOS wanted to reflect on the state of women’s activism and organizing in Zimbabwe, to document trends and emerging knowledge, and have a basis for a future research and knowledge programme.

Researching the current state of events

Hivos contracted KIT to prepare an overview of the scope and quality of the body of knowledge and research on women’s mobilization, activism and agency in contemporary Zimbabwe in the context of the Hivos Knowledge Programme ‘The Changing Face of Women’s Activism in Zimbabwe’. A scouting mission was carried out that a scan of the field, interviews with a 35 key stakeholders, a review of existing academic and grey literature, and a discussion of the findings with Hivos Harare in October 2013.

The scouting mission resulted in a final report analyzing knowledge gaps and identifying niches and opportunities for academic-practitioner knowledge generation on women’s mobilisation, activism and agency in Zimbabwe. It also recommended where Hivos’ knowledge programme could make a unique contribution. Based on the mission KIT prepared a comprehensive catalogue of existing literature of published and unpublished research and studies from 2000 onwards. Also, a detailed list of major parties active in the promotion of gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment was produced.

A knowledge paper was produced based on the findings of the scan of the field and literature review of the scouting mission. This paper Resilience in Adversity presented emergent insights on women’s activism and organizing in Zimbabwe. It includes a timeline on women’s organizing since independence with specific emphasis on the period since 2000,  and an overview of key legal developments since that time.


  • a catalogue of published and unpublished research and studies from 2000 onwards, complemented with a list of major parties in the promotion of gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment.
  • A scouting mission report, presented at HIVOS office in Harare (Zimbabwe)
  • A knowledge paper Resilience in Adversity: The changing face of women’s activism in Zimbabwe, 2000-2014.


The political and economic context of crisis and collapse had large effects on the shape, form and effectiveness of the women’s movement. The status of this movement in the early 2000s have to be ‘understood within the context of an “increasingly shrinking space” for the civil society in general’ 

Masvaure & Wamwanduka 2008, p. 34. knowledge paper, p. 35

New opportunities for the women’s movement require more than the resumption of strategies that have worked in earlier decades: it is not just a matter of reviving organizations with new resources, and continuing with business as usual. Instead, [we need] to find out what reinventing and redefining the women’s movement implies.

Van Eerdewijk & Mugadza 2014, knowledge paper, p. 8