BY BOKANI MUDIMBA
A local organisation is using focus group discussions in Tsholotsho to capacitate women with critical skills to fight for their constitutional rights and participate in developmental programmes in their communities.
Emthonjeni Women’s Forum (EWF) has been conducting focus group discussions in six wards namely Skente Ward 10, Ngubomlilo ward 11, Mhlabangubo ward 12, Jahe ward 13, Malanda ward 14 and Nembe ward 22.
Abigail Tshuma (45) from Malanda ward, 14 said women were now able to participate in decision-making at village and ward meetings as well as budget consultations following programmes by EWF.
“Before EWF, we used to be bystanders in our own development issues,” Tshuma said.
“We would go to meetings and just sit and let men decide for us.
“But EWF has capacitated us with skills and we can now share ideas and raise issues on our own.”
Tsholotsho is one of the communities in Zimbabwe where a majority of men work outside the country while women remain home taking care of the family.
Some women also reportedly said they were exhausted by the amount of work taking care of family in the absence of husbands.
However, culture and socialisation, as well as long-distance to the service centre, are some of the barriers to the participation of women in local government programming hence their priorities are not considered as they are insufficiently represented in budget and decision-making meetings.
Men still believe that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and still have to get consent from a husband or family member to take leadership roles, let alone attend a meeting or speak, a barrier that EWF said should be broken.
Some of the issues coming out of the focus groups include an increase in gender-based violence as women have been forced to lockdown with their abusers.
Those in lesser paid jobs or informal sector living closer to the poverty datum line with no savings at all are struggling to make ends meet due to the effects of Covid-19.
EWF director Sikhathele Mathambo said while some women lacked confidence due to patriarchy, gender roles limited them as they had to balance between household duties and their aspirations.
She said there was need to capacitate women with knowledge and advocacy skills so that they promote women issues and raise awareness about their constitutional rights.
“Women say they are not consulted and if they do, they have no means to follow up on their submissions to find out if they were included,” Mathambo said.
“At the local government level, Tsholotsho Rural District Council does not have female councillors hence the need for women to take up leadership positions because representation and participation of women in local governance are directly linked to the advancement of women and gender equality.”
Mathambo said there was a need to spread vital information through various media platforms such as posters, text messages and radio although transmission is a challenge in most parts of Tsholotsho.
Tsholotsho RDC chief executive Nkululeko Sibanda said the local authority had programmes aimed at capacitating all members of the community, including women.
- This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.