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Transformational and Inclusive Leadership training for Zimbabwean Women parliamentarians at ACTIL, Kenya

“The training on transformative Leadership for women will chart the way for Zimbabwe parliamentarians to unlock potential and transform their parliamentary engagement for the good of the citizens.” Doctor Francis Onditi, UN Women ESARO Programme Analysts, Leadership and Governance

All avenues at Kenyatta University signal the way to the UN Women - Kenyatta University’s African Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership (ACTIL) for the five day event, training of 25 Zimbabwean women parliamentarians on Transformative and Inclusive Leadership, Conflict Analysis and Conflict Resolution. The training runs under the ambit of the UN Women Zimbabwe Gender, Peace and Security’s five year project, in partnership with the Government of Norway, and is the third initiative between UN Women Zimbabwe and ACTIL, following five cumulative trainings of a similar nature held in 2014.

The curricula for the first two trainings was developed following an assessment of the needs of women political leaders in Zimbabwe by UN Women in 2012. The needs assessment was carried out against the background of marginalisation of women in politics and decision making, as well as in peacebuilding processes in the country, which in turn breeds lack of confidence and partisan representation by the few women in positions of power. The first and second trainings were held in Zimbabwe, in March and April 2014 respectively, and targeted 30 women leaders drawn on equal quotas from the three political parties mentioned above.

The third training was held in May 2014, for 12 women leaders drawn on merit from the group of thirty women trained at Level I and Level II as above, and was a collaboration between UN Women and ACTIL, and also held in Kenya to allow for regional learning exchanges between the two countries in matters of women’s politics and decision making.

The fourth training held in Victoria Falls was for twenty members of the Group of Twenty, 5 women leaders from the security sector and 4 young women leaders from civil society, focusing on Transformative and Inclusive Leadership. The workshop was held at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, while the final workshop was held at Cresta Oasis Hotel in Harare, and was mainly a monitoring and evaluation process to test the success all the trainings held with women political eladers in Zimbabwe, and used different post-test evaluation tools to ascertain how many women would score for having used transformative and inclusive leadership, as well as conflict analysis and conflict resolution skills to develop themselves, their work and their communities for the better. A lot of stories of significant change shared at this workshop were a good sign of what shared expert practice can do in transforming women’s political careers.

As in many countries around the world, Zimbabwean women are generally marginalized from the political sphere, often as a result of practices, traditional norms and attitudes and gender stereotypes, low levels of education, lack of access to information and the disproportionate effect of poverty on women.

The number of female members of parliament (MP) in Zimbabwe is at 34%: 48 percent of Senate and 32 percent of the National Assembly. In the National Assembly, 26 women won constituency seats out of the 111 women who contested. In total, (Assembly and Senate) women comprise 124 of the 360 or 34 percent of the legislators in Zimbabwe, up from 19 percent after the 2008 elections. Compared to 2008 elections, the number of female candidates who stood for elections dropped from 118 to 111, while the number of women who won dropped from 34 to 26. Without the quota, the percentage of women in the National Assembly would have dropped from 18 to 12 percent.

However, as a result of the 60 seats reserved for women and distributed among parties on a proportional basis, women now constitute 86 of the 290 seats, or 32 percent of the total. The temporary measure will be in effect for the first two Parliaments elected after the Constitution came into effect (2013 and 2018). The quota however did not extend to local government. The reserved seats for women in both Legislatures are distributed proportionally to the number of seats each party has won in the respective elections. In 2013, Zimbabwe joined Mauritius in having the lowest cabinet representation of women in parliament globally. The patterns also reveal deep rooted concerns and challenges to women’s leadership and participation.[1]

According to the UN Women Annual Report 2012 – 2013, there are a number of issues that prevent women from accessing the right to political participation by competing for political positions that were analyzed. These include patriarchal ideology, traditions/customs and religion, low level of education, lack of self confidence among women, male dominated political parties, legal criteria in the form of electoral laws, procedures and other cultural inhibitions, together with skills of how to run campaigns and high costs of running good campaigns. There is need to pair the provision of quotas for women with genuine cultural and social transformation of the perceptions of women’s leadership in Zimbabwe, and UN Women needs to work with women parliamentarians and other women across the spectrum to secure the gains made so far and prepare for 2018.

Efforts to improve the participation of women in the electoral processes in Zimbabwe has been implemented through the quota system/special seats and through other legislation. This has been an important means for women’s political participation and to access positions in the National Assembly. Despite the positive nature of the special seats strategy, the process of selection and nominations to access Special Seats has been problematic both in terms of lack of constituency as well as lacking in transparency. The appointment is made by the political parties and also presents a situation where men tend to control the process as well as the behaviour of special seats candidates in the National Assembly. A case in point is how women have of late been used to steer and facilitate rowdy behaviour in parliament at the expanse of progressive debates.

In order to leverage the capacity of female members of parliament to confidently engage in transformational politics and decision making, UN Women continuously supports training on transformational and inclusive leadership skills for continuous development of the capacity of women parliamentarians. This training will be facilitated by experts from ACTIL. This Leadership Centre caters for Eastern, the Horn and Southern Africa, and its mission is to build the capacity of current and future leaders to develop a critical mass of transformational leaders in Africa, especially women and youth in politics, business, government and civil society organizations that can transform the continent. This blogger caught up with the trainers at today’s pre-training planning meeting held at ACTIL. Professor Catherine Ndungo, team leader of the trainers said, “By the end of the training I expect transformed women politicians who will practice constructive politics in parliament.”

Doctor Francis Onditi, Programme Analyst, Leadership and Governance with UN Women East and Southern Africa Regional Office commented that, “The training on transformative Leadership for women will chart the way for Zimbabwe parliamentarians to unlock potential and transform their parliamentary engagement for the good of the citizens.”

“They say when you educate a woman you educate a nation. What if you take it further and enhance the woman’s leadership competence, influence and persuade national policies? My objective for this workshop is to unleash the leadership powerhouse that resides in the Zimbabwean woman in politics,” said Ms Njoki Muhoho. Mr Barasa K. Nyukuri also noted that, “There is need to promote unity of purpose in diversity among women leaders across political parties in Zimbabwe. Women, regardless of their political parties, culture and religion have similar challenges and require joint strategies to overcome them.”

[1] International Parliamentary Union. Women in National Parliaments. Last updated 1st of June, 2014.

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