WALPE Activity Update 12

i)Time is running out for the full implementation of electoral reforms… bemoans aspiring women leaders.

The Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) in partnership with the Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) with support from the Netherlands Embassy between 04-09  December 2022 travelled to Goromonzi and Hurungwe and conducted  training of trainers (TOT) sessions with 100 aspiring women leaders on electoral reforms and the law.

The training sessions on electoral reforms equipped the participants  with knowledge on what electoral reforms are and why it is important to push for their implementation. The women have already began imparting he same on other aspiring women leaders creating a network and movement of women advocating for reforms.

The women identified that the police are a critical arm of the state as they maintain law and order however it is important to note that electoral violence in Zimbabwe does not normally take place on polling day and so deploying huge numbers of police officers on polling day which is usually peaceful does not address violence that takes place before and after polling day.

At the end of the meetings, the women noted that:

  • The Government was taking long to implement gender equality provisions of the constitution (sections 17, 56 and 80) which guarantee equality.
  • The Government has not aligned the Electoral Act with the Constitution in order to ensure gender balance.
  • Aspiring women leaders have limited access to both public and private media and when they are covered they are usually portrayed in a negative manner.
  • Cases of hate speech and inflammatory language against aspiring women leaders are increasing as the country heads towards the national elections.
  • Incidences of violence, harassment, intimidation and sexual harassment against aspiring women leaders are on an increase.
  • The steep nomination fees for candidates proclaimed by ZEC will discourage women from running for public office.

The women leaders vowed to continue engaging the Government to put in place mechanisms that create a conducive environment for women to excel in leadership and decision making positions.

ii)160 aspiring women leaders from rural Hurungwe and Goromonzi successfully trained on leadership.

Between 12-16 December 2022, WALPE in partnership with WLSA with support from the Embassy of Netherlands conducted capacity building sessions in Transformative Feminist Leadership in Goromonzi and Hurungwe Districts respectively. The trainings enhanced capacities of 160 aspiring women leaders in marginalized communities to lead and drive development and advocacy for gender equality and inclusion of women in all leadership and decision making processes.

The topics covered under the trainings included:

  • Transformative feminist leadership,
  • Managing political campaigns,
  • Public speaking and speech writing,
  • Negotiation and consensus building,
  • Social accountability,
  • Social media and digital training,
  • Resilience building and;
  • Sexual reproductive health rights and climate change.

The trainings shape the capacities of women socially, economically and politically through mentorship and capacity building in transformative feminist leadership. The all-inclusive approach to women leadership empowerment assists women beyond occupying leadership positions through enhanced skills and techniques in advocating and lobbying for community justice.

iii)Not much is being done to curb violence by both Government and political parties- aspiring women leaders.

On 09 December 2022, WALPE and WLSA with support from the Embassy of Netherlands hosted a live TV program on Bustop TV with aspiring women leaders discussing the topic ‘Is enough being done to punish perpetrators of political violence against women?’ 

To mark the end of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence,  aspiring women leaders reflected on the challenges posed by political violence on aspiring women and how inaction on the part of political parties, the police and Government was discouraging women from contesting for public office.

The panellists concurred that women were indeed the biggest victims of political violence before, during and after elections and that the perpetrators are mostly men. They also bemoaned lack of timeous response to reported cases of political violence, surge in cases of political violence and lack of stiff penalties for perpetrators. The net effect of these vices is a further decrease in the number of women occupying leadership positions.

The women highlighted that the media could play a significant role in curbing violence against women in elections by reporting and publicly naming and shaming all perpetrators.

The aspiring women leaders recommended:

  • Mandatory sentences or penalties for perpetrators should be enacted,
  • Political parties should do more to curb politically motivated violence,
  • Use of social media to name and shame perpetrators,
  • Automatic disqualification of candidates who have a history of violence by political parties,
  • Development of toll free lines by women’s organisations for reporting cases,
  • Operationalising the independent complaints commission,

Political parties’ code of conducts must clearly condemn and punish perpetrators of politically motivated violence against women.

iv)Aspiring women leaders breath sigh of relief as they receive income generating projects funds to start projects.

WALPE with support from the Embassy of Canada distributed small income generating projects to aspiring women leaders in Glen View and Glen Norah-Harare. The women were earlier on trained in transformative feminist leadership by WALPE and will be contesting in the national elections scheduled for this year.

The income generating projects will help the women become self-sufficient while also assisting them with campaign funds for their leadership journey. The recipients of the funds were ecstatic as they could now be able to not only fend for their families but also be able to campaign effectively to take up leadership positions in their communities.

One of the recipients stated that through her project she hopes to campaign for a local position in her community.

“As we go towards the election period these funds have come at the opportune time as we can now be able to actively campaign without financial problems. We are very grateful to WALPE for its generosity and trainings for women empowerment”

The aspiring women leaders promised to provide free  intergenerational mentorship, coaching and grooming programmes to young women and assist them in their leadership journey.

v)The diaspora has a role to play in Zimbabwe elections.

On December 16, 2022, WALPE in partnership with WLSA and the Election Resource Centre (ERC) with support from the Netherlands Embassy hosted a diaspora online television program titled “The importance of participating in electoral processes in Zimbabwe. The diaspora perspective”.

The TV program conducted under the Home/Kumusha/Ekhaya diaspora election connect  campaign encouraged and mobilised Zimbabweans in the diaspora to motivate their loved ones, relatives and friends back home to register to vote and show up on election day.

The discussants who are currently residing in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, the United Kingdom and the Unites States of America 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 them to support female candidates and voice out against all forms of violence against women in politics.

The participants also noted that there were many factors that hinder women’s participation in politics which include lack of financial resources, Unpaid Care and Domestic Work as well as fear of violence, intimidation, harassment and cyber-bullying among others.

Participants also noted that there was a general lack of knowledge on the importance of one exercising their right to vote.

At the end of the discussion, the panellists noted that there was a dire need to:

  • Ensure stability, peace and harmony in the country before, during and after elections
  • Ensure that elections are free, fair, credible and peaceful.
  • Guarantee that all sectors of the society especially women, youths, persons with disabilities and marginalized communities are equally represented in elected leadership positions.
  • Guarantee national development soon after elections as focus will shift from elections to nation building.

vi)We need transparency on how funds are disbursed for election campaigns- aspiring women leaders.

WALPE and WLSA with support from the Embassy of Netherlands on December 16, 2022 hosted an online television program on Bustop TV Facebook page titled “Electoral financing to advance women’s political participation. Views from aspiring women leaders”.

Aspiring women leaders from Goromonzi, Hurungwe and Chitungwiza noted that one of the  challenges they are facing apart from violence, harassment, intimidation and cyber-bullying was a lack of resources to effectively campaign during the election period.

They stated that because they cannot afford to print election campaign material, men often take up positions that would have been filled by women. The women noted that because the men in political parties mostly hold high positions, they are not told when funds from the Political Parties Finance Act are disbursed and who would have benefitted.

Divine Chikwereti said because of this lack of transparency, women are often left out and have to find a means to campaign on their own without assistance from the parties.

“You cannot ask for something you do not know about. How can you ask about how the funds were used when you do not know whether the party was allocated their share, how much it is and who is supposed to benefit? That then makes it difficult for women to fully participate in politics because they cannot afford to finance the campaigns on their own”.

As such they recommended that:

  • Government sets up a scheme were they hold political parties accountable for how they use money from the Political Parties Finance Act.
  • Women’s rights organisations broaden their areas of operation to include other parts of Zimbabwe that are hard to reach.
  • Voter education should continue and be widespread so that everyone knows the benefits of exercising their Constitutional right to vote