Chitungwiza deputy mayor Jerita Mutingwende says she is ready to take the pressure that comes along with leadership roles, moreso in a political hotbed like Harare’s dormitory town.
Mutingwende said she has what it takes to be part of the leadership in Chitungwiza and is motivated by the fact that she is one of a handful of women leaders’ pacesetters in the town, which over the years has been a preserve of men.
The youthful councillor for Ward 12 was last month voted to be mayor Lovemore Maiko’s deputy in Chitungwiza.
Both got into the council on opposition Citizens Coalition for Change tickets.
Mutingwende, who says she was inspired by her father Rangarirai Mutingwende, who was deputy mayor of Chitungwiza in 2009, told Standard People that she wants to see more women participating in politics and taking up leadership roles.
“What really inspired me to do this was the fact that I wanted to be a role model to many of these girls,” she said.
“Nothing pushed me apart from the fact that I wanted to send a message that ‘women can do it and it’s very possible.
“Look at me, I grew up in Chitungwiza and if other girls see me getting such roles they get inspired and see that it’s possible.”
She said she also wanted to make an impact in her area since she believes women were the best to address the challenges faced by her community.
A holder of a degree in business studies, Mutingwende says her political journey was not a stroll in the park.
“It wasn’t easy getting into this office as a woman,” she said.
“People look down upon us women leaders and as for me it was difficult campaigning as people complained about my age, and my gender rather than my capabilities.
“A person should not be measured by their gender, but by their qualifications and skills they possess.”
The country has always recorded a lower percentage of women participating as candidates in elections since independence in 1980 compared with men, despite constituting more than half of the electorate and of the total 15 million people in the country.
And Mutingwende feels female participation in politics remains low due to a number of challenges, chief being the hackneyed idea that women play second fiddle to men.
“There are a number of challenges us women face and these include gender bias, stereotypes and the assumptions that women cannot do it,” she said.
“For women, it is very difficult to access funding when you want to campaign compared to men.
“It was not easy for me to get funding as a woman, moreso for me who was from the opposition.”
Mutingwende lamented the lack of programmes that empower women to participate in politics or to take up leadership positions.
“I did do much of these empowerment programmes, but I had the privilege to get some training from WLSA [Women and Law in Southern Africa],” she said.
“I feel there is need to have more of these programmes.”
Mutingwende described her first 20 days in office as hectic, but a learning curve.
“I am learning a lot and I had an opportunity to engage with people from different backgrounds, different age groups and different political parties,” she said.
“I am here to serve my area in the best interest of those that I represent.”
The youthful councillor said her areas of priority revolve around water, sanitation and hygiene.
“One of my areas of priority is water provision and for the long-term we are working to have the Muda Dam project completed and for a short-term we are mulling at sinking more boreholes and rehabilitate those that are not functional,” Mutingwende said.
She said she would push for sewer system rehabilitation, drainage clearance and frequent refuse collection.
Mutingwende said council would regularise residential stands in areas like Nyatsime and Manyame Park.
She said corruption was an obstacle to development hence the need to deal with it collectively.
“Corruption is widespread and retards development so in Chitungwiza we need to deal with the scourge collectively,” she said.
“Residents, council workers and councillors should join hands to deal with corruption if we are to see this town developing.”
Mutingwende said her family was so supportive of the route that she had taken and she said she was following in her father’s footsteps.
Zimbabwe Women Against Corruption Trust director Sandra Matendere said her organisation was optimistic that the newly elected female councillors would deliver.
“It is our hope that they are going to bring a positive change in most local authorities where corruption has been rampant especially when it comes to illicit land deals,” she said.
“We understand fighting corruption is not a one-day event, but we hope that their presence in council meetings would bring positive change.
“We are optimistic that as representatives of the people, female councillors are going to monitor alleged health care sector corruption in local authority clinics and the provision of services in council clinics as there has been reports of corruption which is hindering women to access healthcare services.”
Matendere said ZWACT believes having more women in leadership and decision-making positions was a positive development since women leaders help address concerns of other women.
Chitungwiza mayor Lovemore Maiko said his local authority has a gender policy which is a guiding template with regards to ensuring women occupy leadership positions in council.