WALPE Activity Update 01.

i)Women need resources and guarantee of safety for them to freely and actively participate in electoral processes.

The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), the Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) and the Election Resource Centre (ERC) with support from the Netherlands Embassy on 17 January 2023 hosted an online diaspora television program titled “The importance of women’s participation in electoral processes in Zimbabwe. The women’s perspective”.

The TV program conducted under the Home/Kumusha/Ekhaya diaspora election connect campaign was attended by Zimbabwean women living in the diaspora ie in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, the United Kingdom and the Unites States of America. The participants emphasised that those in the diaspora who cannot go back home to vote must mobilise their relatives to fulfil their constitutional rights of registering to vote and actually vote. They also encouraged Zimbabweans to support female candidates and voice out against all forms of violence against women in politics.

The show managed to demonstrate why it is important for women who constitute more than 50% of  Zimbabwe’s population to take part in electoral processes as both candidates and voters. The participants emphasised that it is important for women to take part in electoral processes in order for their views to be heard and their issues to be addressed.

The participants however noted that there still were some issues that needed to be addressed if women were to freely, and fully participate and these include:

  • The need for all political parties to have candidate lists that have equal numbers of women and men, to reflect Constitutional provisions found in Sections 17, 56 and 80 on gender equality.
  • For perpetrators of political violence to be barred from taking part in elections as candidates.
  • For all political parties to have Sexual Harassment policies that they can be held accountable to and that protect women, young women and women with disabilities.
  • For all political parties to equally and equitably distribute resources to both women and men candidates in order for them to campaign fairly without resource constraints.

ii)Unpaid Care and Domestic work (UCDW) should be recognised, reduced, redistributed and represented from a young age.

On 27 January 2023, WALPE with support from Oxfam Zimbabwe conducted male engagement sessions in Norton with the aim of enlightening and getting insights into men’s perspectives of gender equality and Unpaid Care and Domestic Work (UCDW).

100 men were engaged in the dormitory town, in their various comfort places such as beerhalls, sports bars and open spaces where they are mostly comfortable to converse freely.

UCDW is household work which includes cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, taking care of children, the sick and elderly as well as fetching firewood and water.

Most of the men engaged initially had limited appreciation of the concept of UCDW and how it is affecting women among other challenges from effectively taking part in leadership and decision making opportunities at both local and national level.

After the conversation, the men understood that UCDW is also work and should not be taken for granted. They also understood how this has continued to lower the number of women participating in leadership positions at all levels in communities.

A majority of participants were resistant towards the idea, and cited reasons based on hearsay, religious doctrine that they understood to be anti-gender equality, as well as cultural and traditional factors that reinforce gender roles and the submission of women to men.

The participants later on acknowledged that UCDW is important and should be incorporated into our laws to lessen the burden on women and girls more so the abusive tendency attached to it. They were also in agreement on redistribution, reduction, recognition and representation of UCDW indicating that this is a way of living and should not be taught to men when they are adults as they have a tendency to safeguard their egos which usually results in abuses in homes.

As gender equality and UCDW were explained to the men extensively, many of them became more receptive to the need for gender equality and to represent, redistribute, recognise and reduce UCDW.

At the end of the sessions, the majority of them were able to list reasons why gender equality is integral to a well-balanced and developed society and pledged their support to be gender champions in their communities.

iii)Laws should be enacted for UCDW to be respected.

On January 27 2023, WALPE with support from Oxfam engaged 15 aspiring women leaders who are community leads on UCDW to discuss the relationship between UCDW and women’s leadership. The discussions were engaging, with all the participants contributing valuable points and demonstrating their understanding of UCDW and its implications on women and leadership.

The aspiring women leaders highlighted that due to UCDW they have witnessed a decrease in their income levels. This is attributed to the less time they are now spending pursuing income generating activities.

One of the participants indicated that in Seke, women are underrepresented because they do not have time for personal development hence end up shunning taking up leadership positions.

The aspiring women leaders noted that most women are no longer physically fit to undertake leadership activities as their health has deteriorated due to the strenuous work associated with UCDW.

The women also noted that the compromise of their health due to UCDW is also exacerbated by a lack of proper health care as they cannot afford to get adequate treatment due to unemployment. The participants recommended that WALPE needs to continue capacitating women on UCDW as it will create informed women who can take part in policy formulations and question authorities when it comes to service delivery issues.

iv)Financial capacity and literacy key in women taking up leadership and decision-making positions.

From January 26 to February 01 2023, WALPE in partnership with WLSA with support from the Netherlands Embassy conducted Transformative Feminist Leadership (TFL) trainings in Magunje, Hurungwe district with 50 aspiring women leaders.

The training managed to influence an increase in the number and quality of women aspiring to take up leadership positions and also participate in and influence electoral processes as both candidates and voters. Various responses gathered from the women showed their willingness and desire to take up leadership positions if given the opportunity and adequate resources to campaign for their desired positions.

Some of the topics covered in the training were; Leadership, Understanding How the Government works, Volunteerism, Power, Social Accountability, Grooming and Etiquette, Climate Change, Feminism, Negotiation and Consensus Building and Building a Political Campaign amongst others. During the trainings, the women highlighted that their community leadership was very patriarchal with very few women leaders at both lower  and higher level positions. They stated that this made it difficult for women’s issues to be raised and taken further for implementation as they do not have any representation.

The women also noted that one of the major inhibiting factors to women’s participation in leadership was the lack of financial resources and literacy. Boosting the financial capacities of women aspiring leaders will allow them to participate meaningfully in leadership and decision-making processes. After the trainings, participants felt strengthened to challenge the status quo and were now ready to start taking up various leadership positions in their communities.

…as more women living in rural areas aspire to take up leadership positions.

On 06 February 2023, the WALPE team in partnership with WLSA with support  from the Embassy of Netherlands, travelled to Goromonzi where they conducted the Movement Building in Transformative Feminist Leadership training with 50 aspiring women leaders.

With participants aged between 18 and 60, the trainings equipped the aspiring women leaders with leadership skills, knowledge and capacity to be effective leaders from grassroots to national level. Additionally, the training also increased the number of women who wanted to take up leadership positions and ensured fair representation of women in political leadership.

The trainings were conducted seminar style, with group work aimed at enhancing their understanding of some of the topics. The aspiring women leaders also did summary presentations on the topics they understood best and prepared impromptu campaign speeches under the Mastering Public Speaking topic. They were highly participative and showed interest in local leadership and climate change, a phenomenon that they have noticed to be affecting their community.

v)Malawi Leadership exchange and learning visit a success!

WALPE in collaboration with Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) and with support from Oxfam hosted a learning and exchange visit between the Malawi and Zimbabwe Women’s Parliamentary Caucuses and line ministries.

The Malawi Delegation which visited Zimbabwe from 05 to 11 February 2023, consisted of members of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus, Deputy Cabinet Ministers, and members of the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Oxfam Malawi Staff.

The exchange visit came after a similar Zimbabwe delegation went to Malawi in October 2022, to learn of the country’s Women’s Charter and ways to push for more women representation in leadership and decision making positions. The Zimbabwe Women’s Parliamentary Caucus comprises of female Parliamentarians from ZANU PF, CCC and MDC. The exchange visit created a space for women to collaborate and engage for regional and national advocacy on gender equality.

The Malawi delegation led by Honourable Roseby Gadama, was keen to learn about the women’s quota system in Zimbabwe as they had raised it with their Parliament in Malawi before but did not succeed in pushing for its establishment.

Upon engaging with their Zimbabwe counterparts, they learnt that to achieve gender equality they had to have clear laws, policies and regulations in place for accountability purposes.

The women’s quota system in Zimbabwe also has its loopholes which the Zimbabwean delegation felt it was wiser for their Malawi counterparts to opt for 50:50 representations. 

The Delegation paid courtesy calls to the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, Hon  Sithembiso Nyoni, Zimbabwe Gender Commission vice chairperson Commissioner Obert Matshalaga, Her Excellency, the First Lady Dr Auxilia Mnangagwa at the state house, the Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda at the Parliament of Zimbabwe, Harare Metropolitan Province Minister of State and Devolution Tafadzwa Muguti and, The Zimbabwe Parliamentary Women’s Caucus at the Parliament building.

They also conducted community visits to Mhangura-Mashonaland West, Mufakose-Harare and Mutasa-Manicaland provinces which are women- led constituencies. The Delegation was also invited by Parliament to the official launch of the handbook for Parliamentarians on UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and Zimbabwe’s Women in Leadership and decision making strategy.

The Malawi delegation acknowledged and appreciated the politics of tolerance and how this has been cascaded down in communities to relate to women political leaders in a non- partisan manner.

Furthermore, the Malawi delegation also appreciated Non-Governmental Organisations that have been assisting women through community development initiatives that make them self-sufficient to take care of their families and campaign for leadership positions.

The women in Malawi have an on-going Elect Her 50:50 gender equality campaign that was launched in 2019. This is mainly to offer post-election support to sitting Members of Parliament as a realization that it is one of the major hindrances to achieving gender equality.

The Elect Her 50:50 campaign team which is a consortium of CSOs has embarked on strengthening the capacity of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus for their effective participation in their three roles of oversight, representation and legislation. 

vi)Women’s Charter on political participation and decision making presented to political parties and Government.

WALPE in partnership with the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, WCoZ, WLSA, Institute of Young Women’s Development (IYWD), Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU), UN Women, HIVOS and Act Alliance on 09 February 2023 presented the Women’s Charter with demands of what women in Zimbabwe want political parties to adhere to as the country goes towards elections later this year. The high level Multi-party Gender conference was attended by representatives of political parties, aspiring women leaders, members of Parliament and development partners.

The Charter presented the need for gender equality laws to be abided by, for peaceful, free and fair elections to be held, for women to be afforded equal opportunities in the media and political landscape, non-violence, tolerance and an end to sexual harassment ahead of the elections this year.

At the event held in Harare, solidarity remarks were made by representatives from the European Union Delegation to Zimbabwe, UN Women Zimbabwe and representatives from the three political parties namely, ZANU PF, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The representative for EU Ambassador Jobst Von Kirchmann noted that the delegation put gender equality as one of their top priorities for development partnership and work. He said over the years they have noted that including women in development processes contributes to growth in Gross Domestic Product of a country and overall development of society and communities.

UN Women Zimbabwe country representative Ms. Aminata Fatou Lo noted that women’s participation in leadership and developmental processes benefits everyone in society not only women. She noted that unless current trends of development were changed, gender equality would only be achieved by 2063 thereby challenging every woman to be innovative in their approach to achieving gender parity.

Speakers from the different political parties stated that men needed to be involved in the fight for gender equality and that unless there were clearly laid out laws and policies for gender parity-attaining it would be a pipe dream.

According to the Charter, some of the demands the women made were that:

  • The Government of Zimbabwe urgently align laws and regulations to ensure that women of all ages and abilities constitute at least half of the members of governmental bodies established under the Constitution.
  • The Government must fully implement its obligations to promote women’s rights.
  • The Government must enact a Gender Equality Act to operationalise Sections 17, 20, 56 and 80 of the Constitution.
  • The Government must enact a broader Sexual Harassment Act which incorporates harassment in political spaces and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.
  • The Government puts in place laws and policies that recognise, reduce, redistribute and represent UCDW to allow women of all ages and abilities to freely participate in electoral processes.
  • Political parties must build internal democratic systems which ensure 50% representation by women in party leadership positions and must ensure that the party constitutions are in line with the national Constitution.
  • The Government must create a special independent fund available to financially support women of all ages and abilities accepted as electoral candidates.
  • The Government must amend the Political Parties Financing Act to ensure that political parties are obliged to distribute resources to women candidates of all ages and abilities on an equal basis and in equal measure with men.
  • The Government must facilitate the removal of all laws that restrict free movement, prevent or hinder women from enjoying the right to free association and respect tenets of Section 59 of the Constitution which provides for the right to peacefully protest and petition.
  • The Government must ensure that women of all ages and abilities can fully and equally participate in all decision making structures and processes without experiencing fear or violence.
  • The Government must ensure accountability and reconciliation for the human rights violations that happened in Zimbabwe since Independence. The culture of impunity, especially for sexual violence against women must end.
  • The media must provide equal coverage of both men and women.
  • The media must equally portray women leaders and aspiring women leaders in a positive manner. The focus, as seen in the portrayal of men, ought to be on their professional capacity, the issues they work on, the experiences and achievements.

vii)More women continue to register to vote ahead of elections later this year.

From January 2023 to date, WALPE has managed to register 56 women to become first time voters. WALPE is assisting women, young women and women with disabilities to exercise their Constitutional right to vote in all upcoming elections. The Academy has also been conscientising women on the benefits of registering to vote as well as voting for a fellow woman in elections.

Among some of the challenges faced by WALPE in the voter registration exercise were:

  • Transport challenges for the new registrants to go to and from registration centres.
  • Intimidation and harassment often resulted in low turnout of potential voters for registration.
  • UCDW took up a lot of time of first time voters as they would be home doing chores and had difficulties in going to register.

Despite the challenges, the WALPE team continued with voter registration and as a result of their resilience:

  • The 2.2 Million Votes for Women from Women campaign gained traction and a wide reach,
  • Potential voters have reached out to WALPE mobilizers to assist with voter registration.