To what extent does Zimbabwe Open University as an ODL institution give access to education and empowerment to women who have been marginalised?

Constance Kadada


Education is one of the key components used to improve and empower an individual’s social,
political and economic well-being. UNESCO cites Zimbabwe as having 17% of the adult
population being illiterate with 2/3 being women. This is due to the fact that education is
costly, thus, parents tend to favour sending boys to school than girls. Women are also affected
by cultural factors. Some women, due to cultural factors do not own property, are given menial
tasks meant to be specifically for women and occupy lower positions in the home. Some, due to
early marriages are not able to pursue “formal schooling” (
In Zimbabwe, some illiterate women are involved in subsistence farming and other menial
jobs. There is also low meaningful participation of women in politics and decision-making
positions in all spheres of development, limited access and to ownership of productive resources
and increases in gender based violence. The main mandate of Open and Distance
Learning is to give access to education to those who have been disadvantaged and are not able
to study with conventional universities. The purpose of this study was to find out the extent to
which Zimbabwe Open University, as an ODL institution, has given access to education to
marginalised women in Zimbabwe and to what extent these women have been empowered. The
researcher used the mixed research design that is, questionnaires and interviews to collect
data from women who have and are studying for a Bachelor’s degree with ZOU. She also used
secondary data from the registry. It was noted that quite a number of ZOU women employees
had obtained Bachelors’ degrees and some were still studying. The fact that they were able to
answer effectively questions affecting women in general was evidence of empowerment through
education. From documentation from the Academic Registry, the number of women studying
with ZOU had increased tremendously from 32% in 2003 to 51% in 2014.

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