More Zimbabwean women political leaders share stories of significant change following training by ACTIL-UN Women
Jan 21, 2015
The camaraderie spirit and laughter in Muchero Conference Room at Cresta Masasa Hotel was highly extraordinary. One could not believe that the space was shared by women from different political parties given the political party faction wars raging in our country. The occasion was the UN Women Mentor-Mentees workshop supported by UN Women Zimbabwe country office, and facilitated by Elijah Wachira of ACTIL and Dr Martha Mutisi, Zimbabwean independent consultant.
“I am overly awed. I never imagined such possibilities. While our political context is telling us huge stories of division and conflict, the bond of unity I have witnessed here will remain unbreakable. Sometimes as politicians we are so fixated on resources and external help, it was amazing to listen to what these women have done without money, and without getting external support. I saw the benefits of the UN Women -ACTIL training in parliament, because women were no longer part of the heckling. I saw women from different political parties supporting each other, and crossing from their sitting places to greet fellow women. I was surprised because this was new. Even women from across the political parties would now engage with me peacefully, and take me aside to have conversations on shared political strategies. I found this completely new. I wondered where it was all coming from until I listened to significant change stories from each of the women sitting here today, and to their testimonies of the benefits of the ACTIL-UN Women training course.” This was the testimony from one of the mentors, Priscilla Misihairambwi- Mushonga, (AKA PMM).
Martha Mutisi, facilitator of the training process from Level I in 2013 was also thrilled. “I am astounded by even the way the women are dressed - the decorum shows the transformative change that has taken place within them.” Below we showcase additional stories of significant change shared by the women leaders from the political leaders. The cross cutting feature of all the stories is the mobilisation of women and groups for a critical mass of transformational leaders. Also notable is the women’s capacity to cross the political party divide and the gender divide and the age divide. Women must take advantage of the community structures already existing and the national machineries that can catapult women’s efforts, also take advantage of the presence of UN Women.”
“After Kenya I was selected to represent Zimbabwe at the 11th annual conference of SADCOPAC. I attended on behalf of the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Parliament Public Accounts who could not go due to family commitments.
I was informed of the trip in less than 24 hours and I had to take the seat of the Secretary General of SADCOPAC which is at the moment held by Zimbabwe PAC chairperson and I was to present the annual report. I had never heard of SADCOPAC before and had no idea of the mandate of this organisations. I was just given a file on Thursday late afternoon which did not have the report as the report was prepared in Tanzania by the SADCOPAC secretariat. I would only be able to see the report at the conference. I was also going to present the annual Secretary General’s report for the Executive committee as well as the 2015/16 operational budget as well as the strategic plans and business plans for 2015-2016, and I did this with minimal guidance from the secretariat. The report was adopted with a few comments. Zimbabwe has been Secretary General of this committee since 2011 to date.
I know I did very well from the confidence I exhibited, and also from the comments I got from other members and from my team. My performance led to more responsibilities like leading one of the commissions which worked on the 2015 resolutions for SADCOPAC. This commission had 32 people representing different African countries from East West and South among them a Deputy Speaker of Parliament from South Africa who was attending as an observer.
Furthermore, I was chosen to be group leader of a team of 28 people who were visiting, and among them were His Excellency Kenneth Kaunda. My name is now in the SADCOPAC database for future purposes. I also made friends and exchanged ideas and experiences. I also learned about the challenges the PACs face in the respective countries’ Public Procurement systems and the role the PAC can play to ensure accountability and transparency.
My personal benefits and achievements at SADCOPAC are mostly because of my training by UN-Women/ACTIL on Advanced Leadership Training. The confidence, the articulation of issues and the ability to lead at SADC level if not African region as a whole as we had countries from the other parts of Africa is all owed to the mentorship I received from UN Women and ACTIL.
Before my experience with ACTIL I used to blame people from the province where I am a member of parliament for not recognising my role in politics in the area. ACTIL taught me to be inward looking, to blame the self rather than others and to influence change. I took a step at a time to go and try to fit in to work with the people, and to create a bond with them. It was a success. After Actil I worked hard after my party congress and contributed for the success of the provincial meeting. I no longer feel ostracised in my province. Change starts from within an individual.”
“After the UN Women and ACTIL training processes I developed a personal fund-raising plan for women in my community. The objective was to help women in my community raise funds for food packs for their families collectively to eradicate food shortages in homes. Women are the ones who suffer when there is no food in the home, and most of them fail to take part in formal political activities when the children have no food. There has to be food security for all women to be at peace. I introduced a scheme where as women we saved each a dollar a day for 3 months. We raised a surprising amount and bought food packs for the women. I invited members from all political parties as well as UN Women to witness this beautiful initiative. We distributed some of the food packs to orphans in the area and we continue to do so. There is peace in the community.
Politically I contested for the national committee position. I faced challenges from other women who were pulling me down and discouraging women from taking part in the economic empowerment initiative saying it was bent on manipulating direct political support. I was not deterred by their comments, I won a position in the national executive of my party because I was committed.
ACTIL and UN Women also gave me courage and confidence. I was invited to speak about peace and security in front of crowds at Crown Plaza, and this was in front of chiefs and ministers, professors and publics, and I was one of the panellists. I was really impressed with myself.”
Sibusisiwe Buddha Masara
“I influenced the 50/50 structures from cell to national level in my country. Now in the national executive committee our Vice President has other 4 women after her who are within the standing committee. I got influence from my mentor to work with the women from grassroots level upwards, and we managed to get key positions for women like the position of treasurer and deputy spokesperson. These women can stand up and challenges men where they used to dominate. However, the men in my party did not want me to lead these processes and they mobilised confusion until I was voted out. I faced challenges within the party but I managed to mobilise the women to attend the drip irrigation programme in Bubi district. It is only us women who can make some of these declarations a reality. 50/50 can begin at the lowest structures of the party going up wards to the district and the national executive, and we have championed that.”
“Since the training in Kenya I have undertaken initiatives not only to transform my life but the lives of women and children in my community. When I received an allowance from UN Women I saved part of it to boost my business. I boosted orders for my general dealer shop and got more profits. I managed to pay duty for a car I had bought earlier using the money from my business. Now I have been elevated from women’s wing to the main national executive wing through the knowledge I gained from Actil. Because of the benefits from ACTIL-UN Women training I now have much confidence in my community and I have been selected to lead the Citizen Health Watch in my community. I am part of the group responsible for monitoring drugs from the Global Health Fund. I have also joined a rotational savings scheme where I encourage women from my community to save money monthly. We lend this money out for an interest and plough it back into our pocket. At the end of the year our target is for each woman to get 1, 400 dollars, and they have agreed to collectively use the money for to do rural electrification for the whole community. I will use my money to start my own drip irrigation scheme. My target is to get USD20, 000.00 a year, and retire from my job. I am unstoppable.”
“After Kenya I managed to work with churches to speak about peace committees. My communication skills have improved and I can now talk to people nicely, regardless of their political affiliations or their situation. I have taken a personal initiative to help people acquire places for their children in schools in the areas where I live. I have been invited to several schools to be guest of honour during price giving days and have also managed to donate some of the prizes. During the recent elections I managed to pull through all the conflicts that were happening. I helped solve conflict between a family that was warring over home ownership with their step mother and at the moment I lead a group of women doing projects. I managed to give one of the groups 25 chicks for a poultry project and bought them poultry feed.”
“I am working with the Ministry of Women Affairs and some civil society organisation to champion women’s groups for self-help projects. Soon after the UN Women training I learnt the power of working with the national gender machinery in my country. I learnt that the ministry belongs to all Zimbabweans. When I approached the ministry they were very welcoming and agreed to support me. They gave me two women’s groups to work with using all the knowledge acquired from ACTIL. They also connected me to Katswe Sistahood, a partner of UN Women that will be giving out loans to promote young women in my area.”