WALPE Activity Update 02

i)First Young Women’s Multi Party Forum in Zimbabwe successfully launched.

The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) with support from the Embassy of Canada successfully launched the first Young Women’s Multi-Party Forum in Zimbabwe. In attendance at the forum were 40 young women representatives from the Zimbabwe African National Union– Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and FORUS.

The launch was a build up to the meeting that was conducted on 12 December 2022 with the Women Leagues and Assemblies’ executive members from the six political parties to deliberate on the structure and the modus operandi of the Multi Party Women’s Forum. The niche of the forum is to collectively deliberate, discuss and proffer solutions for increasing the number and quality of women running for public office ahead of 2023 national elections and beyond. The young female political leaders also took time to discuss the major challenges they are facing in pushing for equality. Some of the issues raised were:

  • A sexist and patronage-based political culture,
  • Gendered economic and household inequalities,
  • Politically motivated violence,
  • Sexual harassment and
  • Ageism.

The young women showed utmost interest in actively and meaningfully participating in  Forum activities going forward and how this can close the gender gap. However they mentioned that there should be in-house deliberations on how both young and older women can engage for equal representation that keeps institutional memory and facilitate mentorship and coaching programs.

ii)Women-led Community Based Organisations (WeCBOs) demand 50-50 gender representation as outlined in the Constitution.

On March 07 2023, WALPE with support from the delegation of the European Union (EU) to Zimbabwe through the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) hosted a training of trainers (TOT) capacity building indaba with 30 representatives of women-led Community Based Organisations (WeCBOs) on electoral reforms and women political participation. The WeCBOs is a national Network of women-led Community Based Organisations coordinated by WALPE to promote gender equality and women’s full participation in leadership and decision making processes.

The capacity building training session focused on enhancing the skills and knowledge of participants to mainstream electoral reforms advocacy and lobby work in their programming. This will increase voices calling for the full implementation of outstanding electoral reforms that affect women’s full participation in leadership.

The participants also shared community challenges being faced by aspiring women leaders in their quest for equality. These include:

  • Limited media coverage of aspiring women leaders both online and offline. They stated that when they do get coverage it is usually sexist and negative.
  • Increased cases of political violence against women especially as political parties embark on the candidate selection process ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.
  • The burden of Unpaid Care and Domestic Work (UCDW) on aspiring women leaders who have to balance between household chores, providing care and political activities.

The WeCOBs members also took time to deliberate on possible strategies and solutions that contribute to the creation of a conducive environment for women to thrive politically. Following successful deliberations, the CBO leaders recommended that:

  • The Government must align gender equality provisions within the Constitution with the electoral act in order to empower the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to reject any political party lists that do not reflect equal representation of men and women.
  • Perpetrators of all forms of violence including online violence be arrested, prosecuted and barred from taking part in electoral processes as candidates.
  • The Government must introduce terms of office for Members of Parliament and Senators. They proposed two five year term limits to discourage leaders from turning into career politicians and give young people a chance to lead.
  • Political parties must amend their constitution, rules and regulations to guarantee gender balance in all leadership positions.
  • People living in the diaspora are afforded the opportunity to vote electronically as the country moves towards embracing the digital era.
  • Multi-party liaison committees must fully function throughout the electoral cycle. They must also be decentralised and reflect gender balance.

iii)Knowledge and enforcement of Cyber and Data Protection Act must be prioritised.

In the month of March 2023, WALPE took part in the annual Non-Governmental Organisation Commission on the Status of Women 67 Forum (NGOCSW67).
WALPE with support from the Netherlands Embassy, Diakonia and Oxfam Zimbabwe hosted a parallel side event discussion under the topic: “Women Political participation in Zimbabwe in the digital era. The highs and Lows!”.  

The discussion was hosted as a roundtable on Zoom and was aired live on Bustop TV’s Facebook page at 4:00pm Central African Time, and 8:00pm New York time on the CSW Whova platform. Founded by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.

The discussion proceedings touched on the women political leaders’ use of the digital space to further their work and campaigns as well as civil society’s use of digital media for wider audience reach and promotion of gender equality campaigns. The women political leaders shared their positive and negative experiences with use of social media such as cyber bullying, the lack of enforcement of the Cyber and Data Protection Act, poor digital based communication as a result of poor connectivity, hiking of data tariffs, high cost of smartphones and lack of basic digital skills. 

For these lows, the panel jointly recommended:

  • Strengthening of the education system in terms of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects,
  • Lowering of taxes on imported mobile phones and other tech devices,
  • Subsidizing of data service providers,
  • Increase in connectivity,
  • Introduction of basic digital skills courses,
  • Widespread knowledge and enforcement of the Cyber and Data Protection Act,
  • Barring perpetrators of online violence from participating in leadership processes as candidates.

iv)WALPE exhibits at the International Women’s Day commemorations in Murehwa.

On 23 March 2023, WALPE took part in the belated International Women’s Day commemorations hosted by the delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe under the #TeamEuropeInitiative. The celebrations were graced by dignitaries from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprise Development, Chief Mangwende, women’s rights organisations, members of the media, women community leaders and members and other development partners.

Commemorations were held to honour the women from Mashonaland East for their strength in breaking barriers and challenging the social norms. The EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Jobst Von Kirchmann stated that the EU was working with the Government of Zimbabwe to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. He stated that the EU through #TeamEuropeInitiative had set aside over  200 million  euros towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Chief director in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Ms Lilian Matsika-Takaendesa also emphasised the need for women to fight for their places in leadership positions. She highlighted that the Constitution clearly provides for 50/50 gender representation and that women must occupy leadership positions in order to push for gender responsive policies and programming.

Chief Mangwende who also serves as a gender champion emphasised the need to end child marriages and that gender based violence needed to end in his chiefdom.

v)WALPE, Padare convene Unpaid Care and Domestic Work summit with the private sector.

WALPE with support from Oxfam and in partnership with Padare Men’s Forum convened a summit with the private sector to discuss ways of streamlining Unpaid Care and Domestic Work (UCDW) into the workplace.

The summit which was attended by delegates from various private sector organisations, worker representative agencies and the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe highlighted the need to incorporate UCDW into the workplace in order to accommodate women and their various needs and roles.

The participants noted that it was indeed important to start mainstreaming gender equality through recognising the role UCDW plays in women’s daily lives. The workers’ representatives also emphasised the need to put UCDW into clear workplace policies and subsequently have an Act of Parliament enacted that recognises, represents, reduces and redistributes the burden of UCDW on women and girls.

Women and young women present noted how UCDW plays a role in their daily lives as they have to contend with various challenges such as power outages at home and work, poor social service delivery and their maternal roles.

One of the women representatives said

“After a hectic day at work, we get home and have to make sure that food is prepared and the family is fed, childrens’ homework is done and their school essentials are packed for the following day as well as taking care of my husband’s needs according to my role as a wife. If the men could also assist with some chores around the house, the burden will definitely be lessened because at the end of the day, we are all coming from work. While women can be labelled ‘Superwomen’ and ‘Supermoms”, they also deserve to rest”

UCDW is one of the major challenges inhibiting women from fully participating in community development and leadership processes as they are burdened with the responsibility of household chores, providing home based care to the sick and elderly and also manning their small businesses and work responsibilities.

vi)Male engagement key to addressing gender inequality.

From 05 April to 07 April 2023 and with the support of Diakonia, WALPE conducted male engagement sessions on gender equality and peace in Shumba village, Masvingo with 50 men whose ages ranged from 18 to 65 years-old.

The men were very eager to learn and understand how they can contribute towards the greater good of achieving a gender balanced society that is free from all forms of violence against women and girls.

Main issues discussed during the meeting included:

  • Men supporting their wives, partners, daughters and sisters to take up leadership positions.
  • Maintaining peace and stability in the upcoming elections to ensure an enabling environment for women, young women and women with disabilities to participate freely and fairly as both candidates and voters.

During the discussions, the men claimed that:

  • Women become pompous and disrespectful when they take up leadership positions making it difficult to support them.
  • Women tend to neglect their domestic and marital duties when they become leaders.
  • Infidelity is rife among female politicians where they accused them of having affairs with other men in order for them to be elevated to positions of authority.

Indepth discussions ensued after they raised the issues above and with more enlightenment, the men agreed that most of their fears are bordered on insecurity and patriarchy as there a lot of principled women who are doing well in the political sphere.

At the end of the discussions, the men were more informed on the importance of supporting aspiring women leaders and expressed the need to have similar platforms where they can discuss the issues with the women present in order to find common ground.    

…. Patriarchy biggest enemy to the achievement of gender equality contends men in Mabvuku-Harare.

WALPE on 06 April 2023 with support from Diakonia engaged 50 men from Mabvuku and Tafara on the need to refrain from violence during the upcoming elections and support the quest for gender equality.

During the engagement sessions, the men expressed their reasons for supporting women and aspiring women leaders and their lack of. Some men cited cultural, religious and traditional reasons as to why they do not support gender equality.

At the end of the discussions the male participants agreed that:

  • Times have changed and women should also be given the freedom to work and aspire to become leaders just as men.
  • Some women have shown over the years to be better leaders than men.
  • Gender equality gives everyone the opportunity to pursue their goals without restrictions.

The men concluded that supporting women in leadership was progressive not only for their household but also for the community and publicly pledged to support equality and end all forms of violence against women and girls.

vii) Support for women crucial for gender equality and community development.

On 06 April 2023, WALPE with the support from Diakonia conducted a  training of trainers Civic and Voter Education conference with 120 aspiring women leaders from Mabvuku and Tafara.

Some of the topics included introduction to democracy and its tenets, why elections are important, the Zimbabwean electoral system, demystifying the voting processes and nomination of candidates, early warning and early response to political violence and why it is important for Zimbabwe to achieve gender equality.

The participants were taken through the WALPE’s 2.2. Million Votes for Women from Women voter mobilisation campaign which they committed to join in and volunteer to mobilise women to register to vote and vote for female candidates in elections. They supported the campaign highlighting that getting more women in public leadership positions increases calls for equality, fairness, transparency and accountability in governance issues.

The aspiring women leaders encouraged each other embark on income generation projects for their self-sufficiency, as it would enable them to fund their campaigns and eventually occupy more public leadership positions.