Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) took its #LetsGo50/50 Gender Equality in all leadership positions campaign to Manicaland Province in the rural district of Buhera on Thursday, 11 July 2019.
A total of 100 women leaders from Buhera’s Wards 5 and 31 participated in the consultative and sensitization outreach meetings aimed at building grassroots consciousness on the #LetsGo50/50 gender equality campaign. Focus group discussions and interviews were also conducted as part of WALPE’s gender audit aimed at assessing and documenting the status of women at all leadership levels.
In Ward 5, a total of 53 participants were brought together drawn from Chakaitwa, Manjengwa; Mangwayana; Madzivanyika and Makuvise villages and the meeting was convened in Manjegwa village. In Ward 31, a total of 47 participants were brought together from around the ward and convened the meeting in Mukondomi village.
At the meetings, the women aspiring and current leaders took time to reflect on the status of women and leadership at all levels but with a keen focus on the local community based elected structures. At the national level, the women noted the urgent need for the fulfillment of sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution which guarantee gender equality at all levels of leadership. As such, they were concerned about the fact that women are underrepresented at both local authority and Parliament level. The meetings noted that it was worrisome that of the 26 directly elected Parliamentary seats in Manicaland, only three have women parliamentarians thus stifling the voice of women in the development of the province.
At the local level, women noted that community leadership platforms such as School Development Committees (SDCs), Health Centre Committees (HCCs), church administrative organs and local trade union structures were dominated by men. A gender audit of the SDCs in the eight primary schools (namely Buhera, Marume, Makanda, Gosho, Makwiramiti, Makumbe, Gute and Gokoro) and three secondary schools (namely Buhera, Makumbe and Gosho) showed that all the SDCs chairpersons of the schools were men and only 7 women sat in these decisions making platforms across all schools.
Women noted that the major factors limiting their active and effective’s participation in leadership are: Ignorance of the importance of participation in decision-making platforms amongst some rural women; Patriarchal stereotypes and attitudes which confine women to unpaid domestic work and frowns upon their participation in public leadership; Lack of information on the processes that are followed in the selection of leaders for local structures in their communities; Limited leadership experience on how to conduct successful campaigns amongst women; Lack of unity among women as a demographic group; Uneven playing field within which elections for these local leadership structures are held.
As a way forward, women resolved to take up the #LetsGo50/50 campaign beyond just the national top positions but to also focus on local community-based leadership structures. They expect WALPE to capacitate them to start taking up leadership positions in local SDCs, HCCs and trade union structures by providing requisite trainings, coaching and mentorship and also giving them adequate information. Further, WALPE is also engaging local traditional leaders and community influencers among men to be ambassadors of #LetsGo50/50 campaign at the local level so that there is amplifying of support for women who seek elected public offices at lowest levels.
Furthermore, the focus group discussions were also used for data collection as part of WALPE’s ongoing research into the efficacy of the 60 Parliamentary proportional representation seats which were introduced in 2013 for women and are due to expire in 2023. The findings of the research will be used as empirical evidence in policy advocacy initiatives of the organization aimed at attaining 50/50 gender parity in all leadership positions.
Source: Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE)