Aspiring women leaders prepare for 2023 elections amid COVID19

i)  Aspiring women leaders prepare for 2023 elections amid Covid-19.

The advent of Covid-19 has definitely changed the status quo, the upsurge of the virus’ infections and deaths has forced the government to impose a lockdown in a bid to control the spread of the virus. To date (27/02/2021), 36058 infections and 1463 deaths have been recorded.

Some of the participants during the virtual discussions

Due to the lockdown restrictions and with the world migrating to a more digital space, the Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) and its partners have made it part of their mandate to engage aspiring women leaders and capacitate them so that they can embrace technology. WALPE has already started to train women leaders both in rural and urban areas to utilise virtual spaces such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype so that they will not be left behind.

On the 9th and 10th of February 2021, WALPE in partnership with Self Help Development Foundation (SHDF) with help from the United States Embassy held a series of online trainings on Social Entrepreneurship, Value Addition, Branding, Packaging and Market Linkages.

103 aspiring women leaders from Chiredzi were trained and this came against the backdrop of most women failing to have the financial muscle that men have, and thus making them fail to participate in leadership and decision making processes. The same target participants were previously trained by the two organisations in transformative feminist leadership to enhance their skills and knowledge to effectively run for public office.

During political campaigns, most women do not have access to funds to produce campaign materials such as posters, fliers, t-shirts or transport to move from point A to B leading to most of them failing to run successful campaigns.

The core of the trainings was on Social Entrepreneurship and the content included introduction to business management, production, processing, value addition, branding, packaging and market linkages.

With the country under COVID19 lockdown and women being the majority of frontline responders at family, community and national level, there is need for them to be equipped with skills to produce low cost personal protective equipment (PPEs) and in the trainings they were taught how to make hand sanitisers and washable facial masks.

The trained women leaders were informed to engage health experts when they want to make the hand sanitisers for commercial purposes. Some of them are going to be assisted with small income generating project funds by the two organisations so that they can expand their businesses in a niche to increase returns.

ii)Mutasa community members mobilised to include women and women in disabilities (WWDs) s in leadership positions.

On the 12th and 13th of February 2021, WALPE in partnership with Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT) and Mutasa Youth Forum (MYF) with the help from Christian Aid conducted a virtual awareness raising and sensitization training programme to mobilise community members in Mutasa District to vote for women and women with disabilities (WWDs) in local and national level leadership and decision making processes.

Women and women with disabilities have for a long time been excluded from leadership and decision making processes and as a consortium, WALPE, DZT and MYF took it upon themselves to raise awareness in the communities so that women, young women and WWDs can take up leadership positions.

With the country under lockdown, the participants went through a capacity building training on how to use digital platforms such as Zoom and WhatsApp video as most people in rural areas do not know about these platforms let alone how to use them.

50 participants, who include men, young men, traditional and religious leaders and women were engaged and encouraged to support women and WWDs running for community and national level positions such as School Development Committees (SDCs), Health Centre Committees (HCC), Ward Development Committees (WADCO), Village Development Committees (VIRDCO), farming committees, councillors, MPs and Presidents. The participants were taken through a process of why it is important for women and WWDs to occupy such critical leadership positions. They promised to support the women leaders and vote for them in future plebiscites.

iii)Intergenerational grooming, coaching and mentorship support for Chiredzi women aspiring leaders.

On the 23rd of February 2021, women aspiring leaders from Chiredzi were taken through intergenerational grooming, coaching and mentorship sessions by WALPE and Self Help Development Foundation (SHDF) with support from the American Embassy.

The mentorship and coaching sessions came after the aspiring women leaders had gone through transformative feminist leadership and social entrepreneurship capacity building trainings where they were equipped with knowledge like how to run a political campaign as well as running a profitable business.

With the movement restrictions imposed by the government because of the coronavirus pandemic, the coaching and mentorship sessions were conducted virtually using the WhatsApp platform and a combined 100 women leaders participated.

The exciting platforms created opportunities for women to get ideas and strategies on how to be effective leaders and role models. Young women were grateful for the opportunity to learn from those who walked the journey before them. They gained communally created wisdom, organised knowledge and learnt from each other to further their abilities in leadership and business development.

Discussions on how the women leaders can be ambassadors for climate justice were also shared as challenges of climate change affect women and girls more. The women received information and strategies on how they can be at the forefront of ensuring that the environment is preserved with particular focus on how the burning of sugar canes in Chiredzi is affecting the environment and how the women can engage the companies and individuals involved to use eco-friendly methods. The women leaders took it upon themselves to engage the community in addressing the challenge of climate change head on and push for solutions such as renewable energy, preserving ecosystems and rehabilitating wetlands.

All the participants who attended the virtual platforms were reimbursed their data costs.