Engendering the Paravet model: Women challenge gender stereotypes

The dry climate in Mwenezi, Masvingo region in Zimbabwe is not particularly suitable for crop production, hence farmers in these districts rely on livestock production for their livelihoods. Due to the high prevalence of livestock in the area, they highly depend on veterinarians’ expertise to manage their livestock.

To access services such as dehorning, castration, vaccination, dosing and other livestock treatments, rural farmers struggled to get in touch with veterinary services due to long distances, time, and the low number of trained veterinary stuff against the population ratio.

In addressing the gap, Nutrition Action Zimbabwe (NAZ) in partnership with Action Contre LaFaim (ACF) trained 10 paravets in Mwenezi under the ‘Strengthening Indigenous poultry value chain’ project, to provide much needed veterinary services to local communities and to increase knowledge about effective livestock management practice.

Among the 10 trained paravets, six were women. Veterinarians provide treatment for animals, they manage a wide range of health conditions and injuries in animals, while paravets are more like village health workers, after they receive local training, they assist veterinarians at village level.

Francisca Chakavata, is one of the trained paravets in Mwenezi district Sagwari who is taking the bull by its horns in the community. She is actively involved in paravet work, and totally defying odds in a community where women are confined to household chores while issues to do with livestock are regarded as men’s responsibility.

“The project opened a new door of opportunity for me. Being trained as a paravet gave me purpose and new enthusiasm to do more outside taking care of the home and farming. Doing something that helps the community at large is a great achievement for me, and an advantage to my community,” Francisca said.

“So far, I have dehorned more than 25 cattle, branded close to 100 and done home visits to more than 25 households. I have administered medicines to various livestock that needed my attention, and managed to get R3 240 from the services I have been offering since last year July.”

While gender stereotypes entrenched in the cultural norms and beliefs has been limiting women’s participation in paravet operations in Mwenezi, Francisca is slowly changing the narrative in her community. She is often called for work at the diptank to conduct de-horning and branding services.

“In most cases, as women, we need to work twice as hard as our male counterparts to prove ourselves because our mistakes are scrutinized more and commonly attributed to the fact that we are women. I am glad thou because the Livestock Development Committee in Sagwari is getting more enlightened and embracing women empowerment and inclusion,” she added.

“Growing up I longed to be a teacher; however, I didn’t do very well at school to purse that profession, so I then got content in being a housewife and working the land with my family as a way of life. This opportunity and challenge came as a bonus to my life.”

According to experts, the success of livestock projects is hinged on farmers having sufficient knowledge to be able to deal with challenges like healthcare as they arise. Thus, hands-on community training has played a very important role to ensure that livestock health disorders are prevented and stopped from spreading like wildfire.

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