Winter retreat for aspiring women leaders (The Standard)

WOMEN’S rights lobby group Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE), together with Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) with support from the Netherlands Embassy, recently held the first ever National Transformative Feminist Leadership Winter School for aspiring women leaders in Zimbabwe.

The winter leadership retreat, which ran from July 19 to 23, was attended by 40 women leaders who aspire to run for public office in the 2023 national elections as councillors, MPs or president. The women leaders representing the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe were drawn from MDC Alliance, Zanu PF, MDC-T, NCA, YARD, independent candidates, trade unions, student unions, civil society and tertiary institutions.

The aspiring women leaders went through a robust and intensive capacity-building, mentorship and coaching process in political career development, introduction to feminism, building and managing a campaign, introduction to public service and volunteerism, negotiation and consensus building skills, non-violent campaign strategies, constituency outreach and voter mobilisation strategies, introduction to climate change, resilience building and social accountability, public speaking and mastering the art of convincing audiences, etiquette and confidence building.

The retreat was facilitated by a seasoned feminist and development specialist, Grace Chirenje, who did a sterling job in preparing the women for political work through enhancing their political skills necessary for high-level public office. The following guest speakers took turns to nurture and mentor the women leaders mostly through their lived experiences; Margaret Dongo — former MP, war veteran, seasoned politician and women’s rights expert who covered on the topic: Reflections on women in politics: Lessons and experiences. Norton MP Temba Mliswa facilitated on the topic: Analysing the systematic root of male privilege: historic, structural, religious and cultural privileges, while Cynthia Chirinda Hakutangwi, an author, life coach, pastor and motivational speaker, spoke on: Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship.

Rumbidzai Kandawasvika-Nhundu, who is the head of political participation and representation expertise at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, gave an overview on gender equality, women’s empowerment and advocacy in Zimbabwe. The aspiring women leaders were grateful for the skills strengthening process and are confident that they will definitely excel in the 2023 elections.

WALPE and WLSA shall continue working with the women, harnessing their skills, offering them long-term mentorship and coaching exercises until the 2023 elections. The two organisations envisage to increase the number and quality of women who successfully run for public office.

After successfully completing the Feminist Transformative Leadership programme, the aspiring women leaders received certificates of achievement.