Economic Empowerment Key to Women’s Active, Effective and Full Participation in Leadership

Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) in collaboration with African Women’s Initiative for Developing Economies (AWIDE) hosted multiple focus group consultative discussions with 94 young women leaders in Manicaland province on 26 and 27 August 2019. The meetings were held in Mutasa ward 4 and 7 and Nyanga ward 5 and 18. The targeted women intend to contest as Councillors, Members of Parliament, Presidents, School Development Committee (SDC) members, Health Centre Committee (HCC) members, Student Representative Council (SRC) leaders during by-elections, tertiary elections, the 2023 elections and beyond.

These focus group discussions are part of a project that is being jointly run by WALPE and AWIDE titled ‘Women Leadership and Economic Connect’. The project aims to link young women’s participation in leadership to their economic functions. It is premised on a supposition that if women acquire adequate technical and practical skills; and receive relevant information on their rights and opportunities available to them; and also receive adequate support to boost their economic function, then they will confidently compete for elected positions and increase their precedence and impact in leadership positions and democratic governance processes in their target districts.

Limited financial opportunities, lack of financial resources for campaigning and unfriendly policies are some of the challenges affecting the ascendancy of women to leadership positions. By boosting the economic function of aspiring women leaders, it helps them balance the economic needs at home and also the financial pressure that comes with campaigning. Most women in the areas are involved in smallholder farming producing a wide array of horticultural produce which they sell in local shopping centres, growth points and towns. Some of the women are also vendors who sell a wide range of wares in local shopping centres and along the highway.

During the consultative discussions, WALPE and AWIDE identified critical actions which need to be implemented in the target areas to improve the economic function and leadership capacity of the targeted women. Firstly, there is need to enhance their economic function through building their capacity to utilize locally available resources and work on value addition, branding, packaging and market linkages for their post-harvest produce to give longer shelf life and fetch more monetary returns. Secondly, women also need to be trained in basic financial management skills which will allow their businesses to be more profitable. Lastly, there is need to strengthen their capacities to take up leadership roles and responsibilities through an intensive series of trainings, coaching and intergenerational mentorship programmes.

The women also bemoaned the need for 50-50 gender representation at all levels of leadership. They emphasised the urgent need for the Parliament of Zimbabwe to fulfil section 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution which guarantees gender equality at all levels.

Going forward, the two organisations shall carry out robust economic empowerment and leadership trainings with the aspiring women leaders. More importantly, dedicated aspiring leaders shall be provided with small rotational income-generating projects to boost their economic function. They will also use the returns to assist them in running successful campaigns.

Source: Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)