Social Capital has become a concept of growing interest in the past two decades. The presence of a high degree of social capital is argued to be one of the strong underpinnings of democracy, and the presence of varieties of civic and social associations is assumed to contribute to more active citizenship. In the West at least, there is increasing concern about the declining participation of citizens in elections, together with concern that citizens are also less interested in participating in social and civic networks and associations. This is interpreted as the effect of declining social capital.

Very little study of social capital has been carried in Zimbabwe, although it is implicit in the many and wide-ranging studies and discussions about the role of communities in Zimbabwean civic life. It also is worth stressing the very important role played by women in community life, especially in the rural areas of Zimbabwe which can be argued to be the basis of strong social capital in the rural areas.

A previous examination of social capital as one aspect of active citizenship suggested that the component of social capital, trust, operated differently between rural and urban citizens (RAU. 2015). Trust was defined as either intimate, about relationships with other citizens, or institutional, about relationships between citizens and duty bearers. Returning to the point about women, community life and possibly the major creators of social capital, it is worth noting that studies of women’s participation suggest that the rural-urban divide is highly relevant. Studies of middle class women indicate a strong disconnection for this group from community life, apart from attending church (RAU. 2017; RAU. 2016 (b)); RAU. 2016(a).

A companion research study to the present report attempted a more detailed examination of social capital (RAU. 2018). A measure of social capital was constructed using six questions common to all three rounds, and tested this against seven measures of public interest and participation, as well as four demographic variables (age, residence, employment and education). This study showed good relationships between social capital and measures of political interest and participation, but there were marked difference between rural and urban women. Social capital, as we have defined this, is a property of rural rather than urban women. However, social capital is not a static property of individuals and communities and clearly varies both over time and due to socio-political events.

Thus, we examined the stability of this previous finding, looking to see whether the rural-urban differences were stable over time, particularly since the changes over the five-year period, 2012 to 2017, were marked.

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