Women applaud WALPE on leadership school initiative

Women applaud WALPE on leadership school initiative

Women leaders drawn from all the wards of the farming town of Banket in Mashonaland West applauded the Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) for launching a leadership school initiative. The women leaders were participants at a consultative outreach meeting organised by WALPE on Friday, 7 June 2019, which drew together 24 participants from all the wards of Banket town representing diverse political parties and interests. “This leadership school initiative is very important. As women we have been side lined from the political processes because men have better experience than us and when we learn from this school it will make us better equipped to campaign and win against men,” said one of the participants on behalf of the group.

The consultative outreach meetings are designed to achieve the twin objectives of firstly, providing raw data to feed into the ongoing research by WALPE into the future of the proportional representation (PR) system which expires in 2023. The key question which WALPE seeks to have women answer is that: should the 60 PR seats continue beyond 2023 or should the provisions of section 56 of the Constitution on equal representation (50/50) between men and women be applied to the existing 210 seats, all the wards and at presidium level?. Secondly the meetings also seek to enrich the content of the training curriculum of the leadership school which WALPE will be commencing classes soon.

On the question of proportional representation, the women overwhelmingly called for 50/50 representation ahead of the 60 PR seats which they felt were abused by political parties to provide ‘safe’ seats for a few elite women and did not apply to local authorities and the presidium. “We don’t want these 60 seats. They have not been of any help to us. They have been used to reward only the women in top leadership. We therefore want 50% of the seats from the 210,” declared a women leader who is current the chairperson of the local school and has ambitions to contest for parliament in 2023.

The women leaders also identified a number of challenges inhibiting them from participating in political processes. Top among these were lack of resources, violence and intimidation, lack of unity among women as a group, patriarchal stereotypes and manipulation of candidate selection processes within the parties and at national level. “The whole system is rigged against women,” concluded one of the participants who lost the heavily contested 2018 ward election by 3 votes to a male candidate.

Meanwhile this consultative outreach meeting came at a time when WALPE Director Miss Sitabile Dewa in unjustly incarcerated at Chikurubi maximum prison on dubious charges of subverting a constitutionally elected government. Five other human rights defenders facing similar charges have been released on bail while Miss Dewa and Rita Nyamupinga remain in custody as their bail application is scheduled to be heard on Monday, 10 June 2019.

As WALPE we continue to call on the immediate and unconditional release of Miss Dewa and Rita Nyamupinga. We contend that civil society work should not be criminalised and the government should uphold the rule of law.

Released by;

WALPE Information Department