Aspiring women leaders welcome empowerment initiative as they demand equal representation in all leadership positions.
As the year 2019 comes to an end, Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) concluded it on a high note by engaging aspiring women leaders to share and discuss strategies to achieve gender equality through public consultative and sensitization indabas, distribution of small income generating project funds and engaging in sponsored walks as part of women empowerment and advocating for gender parity in all leadership positions. These activities were held in Nyanga, Mutasa both in Manicaland province, Chiredzi in Masvingo province and Hopley in Harare province.
The women were also given the outcomes of a research conducted by WALPE and SAPST on the ‘Efficacy of the Women’s Parliamentary Proportional Representation Quota System’ which showed that the proportional representation system which was implemented between 2013 and 2018 has not meaningfully increased the number of women elected into parliament as envisaged. In fact, the number of directly elected women in the 210 seats of the National Assembly has dwindled from 26 in 2013 to 25 in 2018. Participants to the Indabas discussing these findings raised their concerns that the plan to extend the system without interrogating its successes and consulting stakeholders were not in the best interest of women. “…They should first ask us as women if we think this is the best model of attaining gender equality in our political spaces. A referendum is even best since this affects more than 50% of the country, as women we are the majority and I think we need a referendum to hear all our voices…,” said a participant in Chiredzi district amid cheers of approval. These provincial indabas were attended by a total of 500 aspiring women in Harare, Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.
The research also noted that financial incapacitation is one of the major reasons why women increasingly shy away from active political participation. In response to this challenge, WALPE at the same meetings distributed seed money to aspiring women leaders to engage in income generating projects. These funds are meant to cushion women in their day to day responsibilities through increasing their disposable income thereby boosting their confidence to effectively contest for public office. Some of the women are already implementing projects in various fields such as bee keeping, poultry, value addition of vegetables and fruits, jam making and catering at a small scale and the funds will increase their production output.
The organization also carried out sponsored walks with the women in Nyanga and Mutasa as part of our #LetsGo5050 gender equality campaign. The women distributed fliers which outlines 10 ten reasons to vote for a woman. The message targeted both men and women to vote for women in all leadership positions. These efforts were applauded by men leaders in the community with a village headman who was engaged in the process saying, “…As men we need to be continuously engaged on issues of women leadership as this engagement is helping change our perceptions…” Women were also encouraged to vote for each other and identify young women in their constituencies to groom and mentor into leadership.
Lastly, as part of its targeted lobby and advocacy for gender equality, WALPE also engaged Members of Parliament through breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings. The meetings were attended by some MPs from the women’s caucus and the portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. During the meetings, the organization appealed to the law makers to push for the full implementation of gender parity provisions of the constitution section 17, 56 and 80 that guarantee gender equality. WALPE believes that the full implementation of these provisions will help the country achieve the 50/50 gender balance. Extending the women’s proportional representation quota system is only piecemeal and it will take Zimbabwe many decades to achieve equality as the provision is only restricted to parliament neglecting other positions such as local government and other community leadership positions such as School Development Committees, Health Centre Committees, Ward Development and Village Development Committees.