By Nancy Likiripa (ZCIEA / StreetNet Youth Reporter)

On June 27, 2024, the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Association (ZCIEA) launched the ground-breaking Paralegal Manual at a significant event in Zimbabwe. The informal economy in the country accounts for approximately 64.1% of the GDP purchasing power parity, amounting to $42 billion. Street vending has become a crucial income source for many Zimbabweans amid high unemployment rates and scarce formal job opportunities. However, street vendors often encounter challenges such as harassment by law enforcement, intense competition for limited spaces, and other obstacles, leading to the development of the Paralegal Manual.

The atmosphere at the launch event was electric, with the National President, Lorraine Sibanda, setting the tone with a revolutionary song and delivering an inspiring keynote address. “This paralegal manual will empower informal workers by equipping them with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate legal challenges effectively,” stated Lorraine, encouraging participants to not just collect copies but to actively engage with the manual.

The highly-anticipated Paralegal Manual, launched by ZCIEA, drew national leadership representing diverse sectors of Zimbabwe, including youth, men, women, people with disabilities, and various informal sector organizations. The production of the ZCIEA Paralegal Handbook was done with the support from Solidarity Center and International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW.

 The handbook is meticulously designed to provide paralegals with practical guidance on legal procedures and advocacy strategies, making it an invaluable resource for those working in the informal economy.

Speaking on the significance of the manual, Jaqueline Wamai from ILAWNetwork remarked, “This manual covers a wide range of topics and offers practical guidance on legal procedures and advocacy strategies, making it truly extraordinary. The manual aims to empower paralegals to understand and apply relevant laws and policies, enabling them to effectively represent other members in legal challenges they may face.”

Members of the ZCIEA National Executive Committee expressed their excitement and pride in the manual’s production. Tinashe Musendami, the National Youth Chair, highlighted the manual as a tool to educate fellow youths on the legitimacy of informal work, emphasizing that being an informal worker is not a crime. The representatives for People with Disabilities (PWDs) suggested the inclusion of Braille and sign language in the manual for accessibility.

The process of creating the manual commenced in May 2022 and spanned two years, ultimately culminating under the guidance of Matika, Gwisai, and Partners who spearheaded the manual production as editors with key input from ZCIEA leaders and members. The initiative began with paralegal training provided to ZCIEA leadership, equipping them with the necessary skills with support from the Solidarity Center and ILAW, which led to the design and eventual production of the manual. Despite facing challenges such as limited access to policies governing the informal economy and difficulties in obtaining city by-laws, the dedication of the ZCIEA leadership and members ensured the successful completion of the manual. Advocate Munya Gwisai underscored the importance of advocating for the rights of the informal economy, emphasizing that the primary focus should be on persistently pushing for our demands.

ZCIEA Secretary General Wisborn Malaya highlighted that a total of 156 members have been trained as Paralegal officers, including 94 women and 62 men. This group comprises 14 People with Disabilities, 37 young women, and 29 young men from various regions such as Banket, Bindura, Chitungwiza, Triangle, Gutu, Hwange, Gwanda, Gokwe Center, Gokwe North, Harare, Marondera, Macheke, Mutare, Chipinge, Kadoma, Sanyati, Beitbridge, Kariba, Victoria Falls, Chivhu, Kwekwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Binga, Plumtree, Lupane, Karoi, Masvingo, Tsholotsho, Chinhoyi, Guruve, Mt Darwin, Rusape, Chimanimani, Mashava, Zvishavane, Zhombe, Chegutu, Caledonia, Norton, Nkayi, Mhondoro, Makado, Nyanyadzi, Chiredzi.

Amidst joyful songs and celebrations, ZCIEA President Lorraine Sibanda wrapped up the event by extending gratitude to the supporting partners – The Solidarity Centre, ILAW, as well as Gwisai, Matika practitioners, for their contributions to the success of the manual production and launch. She acknowledged the relentless efforts of the ZCIEA leadership and secretariat leading up to the launch ceremony. President Sibanda then proceeded to present copies of the manual to the three collaborating partners, and they all signed the manual together, marking a significant milestone in the project.

‘The Chamber That Delivers’