Women make modest inroads into local govt

via Women make modest inroads into local govt | The Zimbabwean 8 July 2014 by Nelson sibanda

Women occupy the top posts in four local authorities in Zimbabwe – Kariba, Gokwe, Norton and Beitbridge. Tserai Machinda, acting secretary general Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ), says this is a promising start in elevating women into influential decision-making positions. Although female local authority policy makers are in the minority, they have their own association – the Women’s Local Government Forum – which is affiliated to UCAZ. Machinda urged city fathers

“UCAZ is in agreement with the Ministry of Local Government that qualified female candidates should be preferred for vacant posts. This is in line with the United Nations Millennium Development Goal to promote gender equality and empower women by 2015,” said Machinda in a recent interview.

The Forum meets quarterly to review progress made towards placing women in influential positions in politics, local authorities and elsewhere. To speed up gender equality local authorities have established a desk for the gender focal point person, who is charged with the responsibility of stress the importance of gender equality.

Precious Mufahore, chairperson of the Norton Local Authority, said at least there was some progress regarding the empowerment of women. Politicians needed to be educated on the need to vote women into positions of leadership starting from ward level, she said.

Women should also be encouraged to participate in party politics as a starting point and aspire for the highest offices on the land.

Workshops run by an NGO, Women in Politics Support Unit, urge women politicians to recruit more of their own for political participation and positions. Such workshops, Mufahore said, capacitated women to handle leadership issues by informing them about their rights and obligations.

The last workshop was organised for all women local authority ward councillors at Pandari Lodge in January. WIPSU’s activities are aimed at creating qualitative participation and influence by women in policy and decision-making.

The workshops empower female legislators with technical capacity and resources to minimise the many hindrances that stall their rise to higher political office.

Norton local authority now has seven women councillors and six male. The Forum’s efforts to balance gender representation at all levels are complemented by allies such as the Ministry of Women Affairs, WIPSU, UNDP and others.

Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo has affirmed his commitment to achieving gender equality using the SADC Protocol as a tool. Promoting gender equality and improving the status of women remained a top priority in Zimbabwe’s development agenda, he said.

The Constitution provides for 50-50 gender equality in all key decision-making positions. Sixty National Assembly seats are reserved for women.

The current Parliament has 85 women in the lower house out of the 270 lawmakers, while39 of the 80 members of the senate are female. It has been realised globally that gender equality and women’s rights are prerequisites for the health and development of families and societies, and the driver of economic development.

According to the UN report on MDGs, gender equality is an important development goal in itself and key to the success of all other goals.