WALPE Activity Update 10

i) Aspiring women leaders trained on how to tackle waterborne diseases in their communities.

As part of WALPE’s humanitarian response to the cholera outbreak in Harare, the organisation with support from Oxfam conducted a training of trainers on waterborne diseases and their prevention. The training was attended by 45 aspiring women leaders from Chitungwiza, Hunyani, Glen View, Glen Norah, Budiriro and Mufakose which are red zones for the spread of cholera and typhoid. The aspiring women leaders were from Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), and United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA).

The trained women have since been raising awareness about the diseases and how to manage them in their various communities. Furthermore, with assistance from WALPE staff, the trained women leaders further distributed 4000 fliers highlighting ways of preventing cholera and typhoid, 133 Veronica water buckets, and water purification tablets in market places, public eating areas, and bus termini in their communities.

During the training, WALPE indicated that women and girls are disproportionately affected by the cholera and typhoid outbreaks. This is so because gender roles influence where and how people spend their time, which can result in different patterns of exposure to cholera, and other water borne diseases.

The participants highlighted that increased domestic work brought about by efforts to prevent and respond to cholera, like fetching and treating water, preparing food, and caring for sick family members, limits their time to effectively pursue other economic and developmental leadership activities. This leads to more women opting to become voters instead of candidates, as they will not have enough time to actively and fully take part in politics.

ii) Implementation of outstanding electoral reforms need to take place for increased women’s participation in politics.

WALPE with support from Oxfam conducted the “State of women’s political participation in the 23 August National Elections” Conference. The conference was attended by representatives from the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC), media personnel and various political parties which included Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), DAVID, Labour, Economists and African Democrats (LEAD), National People’s Congress (NPC) and United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA).

WALPE made a presentation on the state of women’s political representation in the 23 August elections and how it had relatively reduced from the 2018 elections statistics. Political parties present then discussed the women’s representation in their various political parties and the aspirations they had for increased women’s participation in politics.

Many of the representatives noted that while there were women in top positions, there were very few and this does not inspire many young women and women with disabilities to join politics. They noted that unless the electoral voting system changed from first past the post to proportional representation, the numbers of women occupying leadership positions would continue dwindling.

In the third session of the conference, political parties presented on why women failed to make it on the ballot and a number of issues came up.

These were:

  • Lack of resources for campaigning during internal candidate selection processes,
  • Vote buying,
  • Sexual harassment,
  • Political violence including online violence.
  • Lack of political will by political parties to field women candidates and
  • The hefty candidate nomination fees charged by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

At the end of the conference, the political parties’ representatives recommended:

  • Alignment of the constitution with the Electoral Act to ensure gender equality;
  • Changing of the electoral system from first past the post to Proportional representation (zebra system) and,
  • Enactment of the political party code of conduct to protect women from sexual harassment.

iii)WALPE trains female observers on citizen journalism ahead of 23 August 2023 harmonised elections.

In preparations of the August 2023 national elections, WALPE with support from Diakonia conducted a citizen journalism and community protection training with aspiring women leaders drawn from different constituencies were 70 women were contesting as Parliamentary candidates.

The training provided the women leaders with skills and techniques of monitoring, documenting and responding to incidences of human rights violations against female candidates’ pre, during and post the election period.

The training also included safety measures for human rights monitors and community election observers, community protection measures in case of any violence. They were also capacitated on the reporting mechanisms, what to look out for during elections, the Electoral Laws Act, the voting procedures, and what is expected on the election date at the polling stations. The niche was to respond near real time to incidences of political violence against women voters and candidates.

iv) Peace before, during, and after elections key to women’s continued participation in electoral and leadership processes.

WALPE with support from Diakonia hosted a social soccer tournament for peace building and social cohesion at Chamakondo Ground in Masvingo Rural, with four teams from four wards taking part in the tournament.

The organisation emphasised the need for community members to uphold peace and stability and come together to mend relations torn during election campaign periods. The participants were also encouraged to report any forms of violence against women to the police and make sure the perpetrators are apprehended.

The participants also highlighted that through such sporting events, they learn tolerance and how to communicate well with each other despite coming from different political backgrounds.

The traditional leader in the area, Chief Shumba applauded WALPE for its tremendous support and efforts to make sure that women freely and actively participate in politics. He then encouraged the women to start preparing for the 2028 elections and buttressed the issue that women can also take up public leadership positions if they fully support each other. He went on to say that he is expecting to see female councillors and MPs from his chiefdom in the next election.

v) Women play important role in maintaining peace during election periods.

WALPE with support from Diakonia implemented a sports tournament for peace building and social cohesion at Garanyemba Primary School in Gwanda Rural. Six teams participated in the social netball tournament with participants being drawn from different political parties taking part thus learning tolerance and acceptance of each one’s political views and choices.

During discussions, the importance of peace and what role women can play in maintaining peace in their communities was discussed amongst the participants. The women aspiring leaders also emphasised the need for community members to maintain peace before, during, and after the elections.

Participants in the netball tournament noted that women’s roles in conflict resolution and management is key and their involvement is of utmost importance as a tumultuous environment results in fewer women freely and actively participating in electoral and leadership processes.

They welcomed WALPE’s peace initiatives and encouraged the institution to continue being a beacon of peace, hope and women’s leadership across the country.

vi) An enabling environment is key for women’s full and active participation in leadership and political processes.

On 08 September 2023, WALPE in partnership with the #EndViolenceVoteForHer consortium of local women’s rights and international organisations comprising of UN Women, HIVOS, WLSA, WIPSU, Women’s Coalition and Zimbabwe Institute conducted an online television program on Bustop TV under the topic “Young women’s perspectives on women’s political participation in the 23 and 24 August Harmonised Elections”.

The program saw three young women participants who represented students, aspiring young women leaders and the journalism fraternity chipping in on the conversation. The young women noted that while there were limited cases of open violence towards women candidates and voters during the election period, cases of covert violence such as intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrests, forced migration, online violence, bullying, revenge pornography, vote buying, seniority and sidelining made it very difficult for young women to actively participate in the elections.

One of the participants, Precious Ngwenya noted that the late opening of polling stations in some areas meant that women had to be away from their households for longer hours than usual. She highlighted that this posed a threat on women, young women and women with disabilities’ safety and security as they were forced to return home later in the evening well after dark.

Another Participant Nyasha Dube, emphasised that the delimitation process adversely affected women as some of their names did not appear on voters’ rolls within their areas.

“In Zvishavane there were instances I observed were women could not find their names in voters rolls’ near where they stayed yet they had registered to vote. The women gave up on the whole voting process arguing that it was now taking up their time”

Recommendations made by the young women for future elections were:

  • The ZEC must release the voters roll prior to elections to give candidates and voters ample time to check for their names, wards and constituencies as well as polling stations.
  • The nomination fees be reduced to an amount that allows for women, young women and women with disabilities to be able to pay and take part in elections as candidates.
  • Funding is availed for all women candidates to freely and actively campaign towards elections.
  • Women’s rights organisations start identifying, grooming and mentoring aspiring women leaders in preparation for the 2028 harmonised elections.
  • That all forms of violence, harassment, intimidation, threats against women in politics be met with severe punishments.

vii) Hopely residents demand councillors to implement election promises.

WALPE with support from the European Union delegation to Zimbabwe and in partnership with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) hosted a post-election accountability Indaba in Hopely-Harare on 29 September 2023.

50 people from different political parties including the sitting woman councillor were in attendance, giving their feedback which included their experiences and the challenges they faced as both candidates and the electorate during the 23 August 2023 harmonised elections.

Some of the issues raised included:

  • The delimitation process which was not done timely and in a correct manner resulting in many women not finding their names on the voters roll in their new polling stations and,
  • Cases of violence, intimidation, harassment and victimisation of women which increased just before elections.

The women and men in attendance expressed gratitude to WALPE for running the 2.2million votes for women from women election campaign as it encouraged women to register to vote, vote and support fellow aspiring women leaders contesting in their community.

The participants went on further to ask the councillor to implement her election promises which included availing of water, starting the negotiations towards attainment of title deeds and provision of affordable maternal health, health and education services.

viii) Electoral reforms key to having more women aspire to take up leadership and electoral positions.

WALPE in partnership with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and with support from the European Union delegation to Zimbabwe hosted a post-election Accountability Indaba in Gutu-Masvingo on 05 October 2023.

The discussion comprised of women and men from various political parties who participated in the August 2023 elections. Most women present lamented the challenges they faced during their parties internal candidate selection processes were they were elbowed out by men with money. They also indicated that they were exposed to sexual harassment, intimidation, body shaming, bullying and mudslinging by men in their political parties.

Some men in attendance also shared some views on women’s lack of resources to be able to afford a sound political career. They also said women need intensive political education and re-orientation because of strong patriarchal tendencies in the area and very low representation of women leaders.

Recommendations made at the end of the Indaba were:

  • There is need for long term capacity building programs to help women with personal leadership development.
  • There is need to prioritise grooming and mentorship programs for aspiring women leaders.
  • The urgent need for continued support of aspiring women leaders by their communities regardless of political affiliation.
  • Political parties must provide ample resources to women candidates to adequately fund their leadership campaigns.
  • The Government must implement all outstanding electoral reforms that allow women to freely and actively participate in electoral and leadership processes.

ix) South Africa leadership learning and exchange visit imparts valuable knowledge on attainment of gender equality and assumption of leadership positions.

On 04 October 2023, the WALPE team together with three aspiring women leaders from Ngundu (Masvingo rural) Mabvuku-Harare and Gwanda- Matebeleland South representing CCC, ZANU and an independent candidate with support from Diakonia travelled to South Africa on a leadership learning and exchange visit. 

The trip afforded aspiring women leaders who are members of the WALPE’s Women Leadership Network (WALANs) an opportunity to learn from seasoned women leaders from South Africa while forging partnerships and networks as well as sharing ideas on the work that WALPE does at community and national level.

The trip began with a tour of the Constitution Hill where they got a background of South Africa’s journey to democracy, with a specific focus on the experiences of women political activists and prisoners, their roles in shaping the country’s history and the women’s movement.

The tour was followed by a meeting with former ANC Limpopo Health Member of Executive Council (MEC) Miriam Saohatse, who also sat as the Chairperson of the sub-committee of the African National Congress (ANC). She walked the ladies through her journey as a young woman political activist who was forced into exile, her return and appointment into political party leadership. She shared tips on how to succeed as a woman political leader, the importance of having policies and regulatory laws that protect women in political parties and guarantee them a fair chance at assuming leadership positions.

The aspiring women leaders were also taught on the importance of advocating for gender equality and inclusion of young women in decision making as well as grooming them for political leadership from grassroots to national level.

The participants also got an opportunity to meet with Molly Dlamini, the Secretary of International Relations for the South African Communist Party (SACP). She shared her journey as a young woman political activist, beginning with her grooming in the first political party she was part of, her education and then assumption of the leadership position within the political party.

In both discussions, the women political leaders highlighted the plight of women now in politics as subtle patriarchy and other factors such as weakening economies have led to the backsliding of the women’s movement and women’s participation in politics. A discussion around mitigation measures ensued and possible methods of intervention were developed.

At the end of the trip, the WALAN’s showed a renewed and rejuvenated goal to take up leadership positions and a desire to edify their campaigns so as to make them more effective. They also showed an appreciation of women’s struggle in politics and how it contributes to democracy as we know it and exhibited the ability to engage with seasoned women political leaders.

x) Peace and tolerance post-elections important for women’s continued participation in leadership processes.

WALPE with support from Oxfam conducted a male engagement session on gender equality with 55 men from Hatcliffe-Harare wards 19 and 42. The engagement session was accompanied by a social soccer tournament with competing teams drawn from the Hatcliffe FC and the Hurricanes FC both being local clubs from the community.

Before the match, discussions were done to get buy-in from the participants to understand and accept women as capable leaders. Patriarchy, culture, religion, and other harmful social norms lead to women being treated as second-class citizens by men hence their endorsement is crucial in creating a level playing field for women to excel in leadership.

During the session, it was discussed why women are good leaders and why men should support aspiring women leaders. WALPE emphasized on the need for peace and tolerance during the post-election period, with the Member of parliament representing Hatcliffe Hon Agency Gumbo also emphasizing on the importance of supporting women leaders and ending all forms of violence against women leaders.

The men noted that cultural beliefs, lack of confidence, violence, harassment, intimidation, lack of resources, and cyber-bullying hinder women from participating in leadership processes.  While the majority of participants initially subscribed to stereotypes on women’s exclusion from leadership positions and gender, they ended up pledging to support women leaders and refrain from any form of violence towards women leaders.

Through the soccer tournament, the organization managed to engage men in their comfort spaces, thus giving them a platform to freely and actively participate in the discussion on gender equality and the importance of ending all forms of violence against women leaders. The men who participated in the gender equality session pledged to do all they could to put an end to any form of violence against women leaders and to support women leaders from grassroots to national level.

xi) WALPE launches #WomenForClimateJustice campaign.

In line with emerging issues that affect women’s participation in leadership and decision-making processes, WALPE launched the #WomenForClimateJustice campaign to tackle issues of climate change.

WALPE noted that women are disproportionately affected by climate change, while also grossly under-represented in decision-making processes on environmental governance, as such it is imperative that they be involved in all discussions on climate change.

The campaign will see the organisation mainstreaming the fight for climate justice in all its programming. WALPE works with aspiring women leaders and women already in leadership positions at both local and national level and it is pertinent for them to be at the forefront of raising awareness on the ills of climate change. Women leaders in Parliament and local government must push for laws, policies, regulations and by laws that protect the environment and cushion women and girls from the adverse effect of climate change. Women community leaders in both rural and urban areas must be proactive in raising awareness on climate change and its implications on women. Women leaders must lead the promotion of alternatives that save the environment.

xii) WALPE develops its next 5 year strategic plan and introduces new programming to its work.

From 11 – 14 October 2023, the WALPE with support from Diakonia held its five year strategic planning process and came up with a solid plan for the institution to be implement ted in the next five years.

WALPE’s strategic planning follows Zimbabwe’s electoral cycle, with the thrust of continuously identifying, grooming, mentoring, coaching and capacitating aspiring women leaders with the requisite skillset and knowledge to become competent women leaders.

The strategic process focussed on adjusting the way WALPE works and its programming in line with the ever changing political climate in Zimbabwe and beyond.

Some of the issues highlighted during the analyse were:

  • Failure to fully implement outstanding electoral reforms and alignment of sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution to the Electoral Act resulting in fewer women taking up leadership positions.
  • Lack of political will from political parties thus delaying the achievement of gender equality,
  • The role of women leaders in the fight for climate justice.
  • The need for the organisation to work broadly with women intending to assume any form of leadership positions both at local and national level and also in both the public and private sector. Political leadership should be part of the broader WALPE leadership agenda.
  • Donor fatigue resulting in limited funding for programs.
  • How the Private Voluntary Organisation Bill would negatively affect WALPE’s work through surveillance, excessive bureaucratic red-tape hindering full implementation of program activities.

During the deliberations, the organisation also came up with new programming on gender and ICT and gender and climate change as these are emerging topics that affect women from full reaching their full potential.