The Power of Participatory Education: Social Capital in Zimbabwe

Rosenfeld, J.A. (2007). The Power of Participatory Education: Social Capital in Zimbabwe. Unpublished.


“Woman’s place is in the Home, but Home is not contained within the four walls of an individual home. Home is the community.” – Rhetta Childe Dorr, 1910

Zimbabwe is a country in crisis. This is what the international news agencies tell you, and for the most part they are correct. As one moves around the country the signs that things are not well are everywhere: shops with little to nothing on their shelves or that have simply closed; long queues outside of supermarkets as shoppers hope to purchase half a loaf of bread; power fluctuations in Harare; no fuel available at the gas stations; and an inflation rate that has at last estimate surpassed 7,000%. However, not all is as it appears at first glance.

In fact, despite this apparent economic collapse, there are portions of Zimbabwean society that have thrived and increased their capital over the years. In the urban centers like Harare and Makoni, the amazing number of brand new luxury cars and SUVs show that the middle and upper class are thriving off of the black market that has supplanted the regular economy and now supports all life and commerce. In this Zimbabwe, people have clearly increased their access to financial, and in turn physical, capital. On the other hand, in some of the rural areas, even those considered to be the poorest and most vulnerable in all of Zimbabwe, communities are increasing their capital of another sort; social capital. Generally, social capital refers to the connections among individuals, including the social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them.

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