Gender Action Research Report: Opportunities for Youth Employment

This publication summarizes findings of the gender action research commissioned for the Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) project in Zimbabwe that is implemented by SNV in partnership with Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC) and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).


The gender action research was conducted in Goromonzi district in Mashonaland East Province and Umguza district in Matabeleland North province. The research sought to acquire deeper insights into how young women and young men are experiencing ways of translating their human capital into productive forms of their aspirations and how gender and age relations influence the directions and prospects of these aspirations. This is analysed in the context of agriculture and renewable energy sectors – focus areas in OYE’s market-based approach.


A qualitative methodology was employed in the study because it is especially effective in obtaining culturally specific information about the values, opinions, behaviours, and social contexts of populations. The core of the research was based on key informant interviews and focus group discussions (FGDs).

The FGDs were conducted with young women and men and members of the community in both single sex and mixed groups in the two districts. Participants in the FGDs were asked to focus on issues of agency, gender as well as generational relations and structures. Hence, the research offered scope of diverse perspectives and multiple voices to be heard through participation of different groups of stakeholders, which also allowed for triangulation of data for reliability and validity.


The study confirmed that the harsh reality of under-employment and underemployment is leaving both young men and women particularly vulnerable to risky behaviours such as engaging in transactional sex, drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, and early marriage. Young men were more likely to be subject to unhealthy, precarious, and often dangerous forms of seeking livelihoods. The study noted that while various government departments have gender and youth-sensitive policies in place, there remains an urgent need to support their implementation. Moreover, restrictive cultural practices and social norms remain pervasive and persistent, especially in rural communities, where young married women in particular face barriers of lack of access to land and assets, lack of role models, as well as significantly restricted mobility.

Young women also struggle to develop their business skills due to limited access to training and information, especially due to lack of cultural incentives for young women’s ambitions. This was more apparent in the rural areas.

Moreover, the study revealed that young women were more exposed to sexual abuse and discrimination, and this underscores the need to focus on increasing agency in young women. Limited access to markets was also another factor noted by the research. Consequently, this hurdle often resulted in reduced income and income potential.


  • The gender action research was not only focused on “female exclusion/inclusion” but also on the ways in which young men are facing challenges to translate their human capital in productive forms of “masculinity” allowing them to escape poverty, claim status and provide for (or take part in establishing) their household.
  • The focus of the study was on (self-) employment prospects/ambitions in relation to: Agriculture /agribusiness along wider value chains (service/input supply, production, processing, marketing, sales and retail); agriculture related (renewable) energy and existing or perceived innovations in these sectors.
  • As regards age-gender relationships, the study aimed at acquiring solid understanding of how young women and young men are influencing each other (same age level gender relations/interactions) as well as how they are part of age-gender hierarchies in social-cultural contexts being influenced by parents (M/F) and male and female age domination/subordination.

Conclusion and recommendations

While several opportunities exist for (self-) employment for young women in green enterprise in Goromonzi and Umguza districts, several factors prevent them from fully accessing and capitalising on identified opportunities. These include unsupportive family environments, heavy reproductive and traditional gender-related responsibilities, sexual discrimination, lack of access to capital, land, equipment, markets, technical skills, and role models.

In spite of this, however, as part of their gender roles, young women engage in productive roles such as horticulture, cooking and vending which has equipped them with the necessary skills to take up these roles as employment opportunities and enhance their agency.

With further support in the form of technical training and business coaching in those skills that they already have, they can be empowered to move from subsistence mode to viable (self-) employment and commercial entrepreneurship.

The study recommended the following:

  1. Targeted knowledge and skill building for young women.
  2. Addressing systemic cultural biases and constraints.
  3. Creating safe spaces for women to be able to speak freely, on their own, as well as in the presence of men and community elders.
  4. Promoting and co-creating gender sensitive financing mechanisms
  5. Engagement of policymakers, pursuing strategic partnerships for the empowerment of young women.

Download full report here (1.4MB PDF)

Source: SNV

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