WALPE Statement on International Women’s Day Commemorations
Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) joins women from all walks of life and spheres across the globe on the commemoration of the International Women’s Day (IWD) which is being held under the theme: ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’ and trending under #balanceforbetter.
As WALPE, we commemorate this year’s occasion of IWD on the back of regression in women representation in leadership positions at Parliamentary and local authority level as well as in the private sector. According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Of the 210 Parliamentary seats, 29 women (13.8% of total were directly elected in the 2013 election, the figure dropped to 26 (12.3%) during the July 2018 elections. In the local government elections, the percentage of female Councillors dropped from 16% in 2013 to 13.3% in 2018. This is a worrying trend which show that Zimbabwe is far from attaining the Sustainable Development Goal 5 and Section 56 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provide for gender equality.
Women in Zimbabwe face a hard place and a rock to participate in the public sphere and seek elected public office. Research by WALPE has found that women on one side suffer challenges related to institutional and policy challenges and on the other cultural challenges of patriarchy and stereotyping. Women seeking public office lack the legislative support and are often discriminated and labelled by the rest of society including by fellow women. Limited capacity building opportunities and violence also remain some of the major hindrances to women’s full participation in leadership processes.
As WALPE, we acknowledge that the challenges facing women in contemporary Zimbabwe and indeed the world have been well documented hence the focus of our organization is to provide innovative and cutting edge solutions to the challenges. Resultantly and as part of commemorating the IWD, WALPE is setting forth proposals to change the situation of women in Zimbabwe and indeed across the border using the following strategies:
- Promote women to occupy community leadership.
WALPE believes that leadership starts from below and must deliver at the lowest level of the strata. As such, the organization is working on a programme to support women is seeking and getting into community leadership positions such as School Development Committees (SDCs) and Health Centre Committees among others at their local levels.
- Women’s Leadership Academy.
WALPE’s landmark and unique innovation is the School of Leadership and Political Excellence dedicated to women leaders only and this will address that capacity gaps which often let down women seeking public office.
- Cultural and Political Transformation.
WALPE has an ongoing advocacy initiative which is building to what other organizations have been undertaking to challenges and transform institutional, legislative and policy frameworks which inhibit women participation in leadership and decision making platforms at all levels. Such transformation includes promoting equality of men and women at all levels and pushing adherence to international declarations and the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The organisation has upcoming initiatives that aim to eradicate all forms of violence against women who intend to run for public office.
- Intra party Democracy Initiative.
Zimbabwe’s multi-party arrangement mean that political parties have a significant say on who occupies political office. As such, WALPE is in an initiative to challenge political parties to open up democratic space for women to fairly contest and get elected.
- Prioritising women livelihoods and self- employment.
Given Zimbabwe’s complex and incessant economic crises, it is women who have borne that brunt because of their role as primary care givers and household managers. As such, WALPE believes a multi-stakeholder approach should be taken to address women livelihoods and employment especially in the informal sector.
These are some the solutions which WALPE is putting forward and we will be engaging all relevant stakeholders and more importantly women, who are the primary resource for their own transformation throughout the year.
As part of commemorating the important day, WALPE held a leadership consultative indaba on 06 March 2019 with aspiring and women leaders in Makoni, Manicaland Province. Key highlights of the day were: a reflection on the 2018 elections and how women fared, current challenges being faced by women in occupying leadership positions, opportunities, strategies and solutions women can implement in furthering their active and full participation in leadership processes.
The women leaders also got an opportunity to discuss the UN Women CSW 2019 theme: “Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”. They discussed and analysed the status of women in terms of accessing quality public service provision and infrastructure as guaranteed by the bill of rights and other constitutional provisions. They highlighted the challenges they are facing in accessing quality service delivery. Some of the solutions they proffered include mobilising more women to occupy leadership positions starting from the lowest level possible as they believe that women naturally have an inclination towards improving basic social service delivery and most likely to push for pro poor, pro women policies.