The women in Local Government Forum of UCAZ recently held a two-day conference in Bulawayo where members adopted a work plan.
The meeting, the first since the 2018 harmonised elections, was attended by female councillors and senior female officials from urban local authorities who make up the Women in Local Government Forum (WLGF).
The President of UCAZ, Clr Josiah Makombe and Secretary General Mr Livison Mutekede also attended the conference. WLGF was established in 2000 to promote the participation of women in local governance at both policy and administrative levels.
The objectives of the conference, held on 11 and 12 June 2019, were to familiarize the 2018 to 2023 Women in Local Government Forum with the WLGF mandate and activities; to compile a data base of the WLGF members; to present the draft WLGF Work Plan for 2019; and to discuss thematic areas of service delivery with a gender lens. The Deputy Mayor of Bulawayo, Clr Tinashe Kambarami (bottom left) welcomed participants to the City of Bulawayo and wished fruitful deliberations. The Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, Hon. Judith Ncube (below) welcomed participants the Bulawayo Metropolitan Province. Before she read her prepared welcome remarks, Hon Ncube gave a brief background of the women’s struggle.
Hon Ncube informed participants that at international level the women’s struggle for equality started with the World Conference on Women 1975 which was held between 19 June and 2 July 1975 in Mexico City, Mexico. She added that it was the first international conference to be held by the United Nations focusing solely on women’s issues and that it marked a turning point in policy directives. After that meeting, women started to be viewed as part of the process to develop and implement policy, rather than recipients of assistance. The conference was one of the events that led to the year 1975 being designated as the International Women’s Year and led to the creation of both the United Nations Decade for Women and follow-up conferences to evaluate the progress that had been made in eliminating discrimination against women and their equality.
Turning to her prepared speech, the Minister of State said that she wanted to see more women participating in government structures at every level. “We hope that you will encourage others to follow in your footsteps by not closing the door behind you but by grooming young women who will be our future leaders,” she said “We anticipate that you will be the champions of the policies and new initiatives that have been put in place by government for the benefit of women in Zimbabwe,” said the Minister. In his remarks, the UCAZ President said that the establishment of WLGF was a clear demonstration by the Association of the importance that it places in the need for gender equality in local governance. He added that UCAZ was serious about gender mainstreaming. “To this end,” he said, “WLGF is represented in the UCAZ Presidium. This affords the women in local government a voice in the top decision making organ of UCAZ.” “This conference is therefore an important milestone as it brings together, for the first time since the 2018 harmonised elections, all the female councillors and their managers to chat the way for gender mainstreaming in local government,” said the UCAZ President.
He added that those who had been elected for the first time would have an appreciation of what WLGF was all about, its mandate and activities. He said WLGF was a platform for women to improve their leadership skills and be visible and better community leaders. “The 2019 Work Plan that has been developed by your officials, if properly implemented, should transform UCAZ into a more responsive and gender sensitive local government association while at the same time enriching your contribution to local governance,” said Clr Makombe. “As the President of UCAZ and, indeed, in my personal capacity, I am totally behind you, Mayor Kasipo and your colleagues in WLGF as you endeavor to improve representation of women, change perceptions and mainstream gender in service delivery.
“This is important because men and women are affected differently by the services that we provide. There is therefore need for a paradigm shift in our service delivery planning as we move away from the one-size-fits-all, generic service delivery model to a gender-sensitive service delivery one. “This can only be possible when we actively involve women in the planning and implementation of service delivery. Female representation at both policy and administrative levels is therefore critical for achievement of gender-sensitive service delivery as the voice of women should be heard at all levels,” said the UCAZ President.
The Secretary General had an opportunity to introduce the Women in Local Government Subcommittee to the Minister of State, the UCAZ President and all participants. The subcommittee is made up of the Chairperson Clr Angeline Kasipo, the Mayor of Kwekwe; Vice Chairperson, Mrs Monica Ngwenya, the Chairperson of Lupane Local Board; Committee members, Chairperson of Chirundu Local Board, Mrs Coetze; Deputy Mayor of the City of Kadoma, Clr Tendai Kokera; Deputy Mayor of Victoria Falls Municipality, Clr Patricia Mwale; Deputy Chairperson of Ruwa Local Board, Clr Grace Chekecheke, Secretary of the WLGF Subcommittee, Town Secretary of Gokwe Town Council, Dr Melania Mandeya and Vice Secretary, the Town Secretary of Mvurwi Town Council. Thereafter Dr Mandeya and Dr Nyakudya took participants through the background of WLGF, issues and challenges of service delivery from a gender perspective, the quarter system at local government level, how to interest youths into leadership in local government and the WLGF Work Plan.
Participants had an opportunity to study the Work Plan in groups and make input. It is from the work plan that proposals for funding will be developed and shared with development partners. WLGF members had high expectations. Common among the expectations was to increase the number of both female councillors and female mangers in councils. They agreed that political parties should have deliberate policies to increase the number of women candidates for local government elections.
Participants also agreed that there was need for female councillors to be able to be reelected in next elections in order to keep and increase the number of female councillors. The 2013 elections female councillors constituted 16% while the 2018 elections produced 14% female councillors, a decline by 2%. It was noted that the number of female town clerks or town secretaries was too low, five out of 32. The number of female departmental heads were also low in most local authorities. Members called upon local authorities to have deliberate policies to have gender balance in the recruitment of staff at senior levels. WLGF Chairperson, Clr Angeline Kasipo said in her closing remarks that urged participants to continue to think about how to make local government attractive to the girl child. “Let us implement what we have learned in our wards and prepare for the 2023 election. Let us be better councillors. The technocrats are going to look for partners and we will come back to you,” she said.