HomeLocal NewsA revolution to enhance women’s political participation

A revolution to enhance women’s political participation

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Zimbabwe, like many other countries, has more women than men.

BY TAPIWA ZIVIRA/ TARIRO GOMWE

Above 52 percent of the country’s population are women and it is these same women that make most of the country’s social structure.

Zimbabwe has signed and ratified a number of regional and international instruments that call for gender equality in various spheres of life.

Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) in conjunction with African Women’s Initiative in Developing Economies (AWIDE) has commenced classes for leadership trainings targeting women seeking election into public office.
Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) in conjunction with African Women’s Initiative in Developing Economies (AWIDE) has commenced classes for leadership trainings targeting women seeking election into public office.

However, in spite of the existence of these supportive instruments, the country has not fared well in advancing the participation of women in politics.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender and Development barometer reveals that whilst women participation in politics is still below agreed benchmarks, Zimbabwe’s citizens seem to believe the country is doing well in that regard.

Zimbabwe has signed and ratified a number of regional and international instruments that call for gender equality in various spheres of life.

However, despite of the existence of these supportive instruments, the country has not fared well in advancing the participation of women in politics.

While there still remain huge gaps owing to Zimbabwe’s grossly unequal economic and social dynamics, the country has made considerable gains in advancing education and equal employment opportunities for girls.

One of the major gaps that has stalled more progress in the advancement of the women empowerment, it seems, is the political environment, which has remained largely dominated by men.

Characterised by intense insalubrity and often violent brannigans, the political environment naturally eliminates women and keeps them from participating.

Women are relegated to being cheerleaders to male politicians, and even when they make it into politics and they contest, it is at the benevolence of men, and is perceived to be a favour.

Tradition also perpetuates the notion that the woman’s place is in the kitchen and this is so deep-seated, even amongst the women themselves, who end up not having enough confidence to participate in politics.

It is this background that informed the women’s movement in Zimbabwe to advocate for a constitution that provides for equal opportunities for men and women across all spheres including political leadership.

Sections 17, 56 and 80 of the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe provide for gender parity and equality.

Section 124b was further added to provide 60 proportional representation seats in parliament for women, and this is expiring in 2023.

The provision was meant to bridge the gap between men and women in leadership.

It was envisaged that after 10 years, modalities to guarantee gender equality at all levels of leadership would have been put in place.

It is against this background that the Women’s Academy for Political and Leadership Excellency, (Walpe), in partnership with African Women’s Initiative in Developing Economies (Awide), is training women in communities to enhance their participation in all leadership positions, local and national.

The organisation held its debut training sessions for 50 aspiring women leaders in Mutasa District in Manicaland.

About 100 young women between the ages of 18 – 35, drawn from diverse political, religious and social backgrounds were capacitated in transformative leadership.

Said Walpe Director, Sitabile Dewa, “As a consortium, we are excited to present this first of its kind programme targeting aspiring women leaders which is part of an ongoing process to prepare them to contest for elected positions. The women were first trained in transformational leadership and awarded certificates.”

Women’s Academy for Political and Leadership Excellency, (Walpe), in partnership with African Women’s Initiative in Developing Economies (Awide), is training women in communities to enhance their participation in all leadership positions, local and national.

“These further trainings are designed to enhance their economic function to participate in the democratic processes and also take up leadership positions. A Walpe baseline on the needs of women aspiring leaders did in 2018, identified lack of resources as one major hindrance inhibiting women’s full participation in leadership.”

According to Dewa, the trainings are tailor-made to equip women with skills to add value to their products and link them to lucrative markets to increase profitability, which in turn, allows them to be financially independent, and subsequently able to make their own decisions.

“This increased income will enable women to start participating in local leadership structures such as School Development Committees and Health Centre Committees,” said Dewa.

The trainings equipped participants with skills and knowledge in; leadership, political career development, building and managing a campaign, non-violent campaign strategies, introduction to public service and volunteerism, negotiation and consensus building, constituency outreach and voter mobilization strategies, resilience building and social accountability, public speaking, feminism, etiquette and confidence building.

Participants were awarded with certificates of accomplishment after the trainings and having passed post training tests which assessed their levels of knowledge after trainings.

In addition to the trainings, Walpe, in partnership with Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST), recently conducted a research on the efficacy of the parliamentary women’s quota system, and the result are due to be released next week.

The hope, for Dewa, is that all these initiaves are a revolution to genuinely and overally enhance the participation of women in leadership positions, with the long term goal to establish social and political structures were women’s issues are effectively articulated.

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