Zimbabwe: Men Leading and Calling for Equality

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Men in Hwedza support gender equality and electoral reforms

The Women's Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence (WALPE) in partnership with WLSA with support from the Netherlands Embassy facilitated male engagement sessions for gender equality and electoral reforms in Wedza on the 30th and 31st of March 2021. The public discussion platforms were attended by a total of 50 men in adherence to the COVID-19 protocols. The participants, most of whom were traditional leaders, were engaged to get their buy-in to support electoral reforms that promote women's full participation in electoral processes.

The participants had prior knowledge of WALPE's work through being informed by their partners and other aspiring women leaders. They were grateful that the organization managed to create a platform for them to better understand the programme and how it benefits the community as a whole. One of the highlights from this engagement was when men confessed that they had misconstrued the purpose of the programme as they thought that WALPE was "teaching women to neglect their duties as wives and disrespect men in their quest for leadership".

After the organization took them through its work, the men had a better understanding of the niche and most of them publicly pledged to support women leadership and advance the call for the implementation of outstanding electoral reforms that affect women's active and free participation in democratic processes. The men also requested joint discussion forums with women so that they are all at the same page and together push the agenda of equality. They also requested for more male engagement forums.

Zimbabwe and Malawi push for mandatory rape sentencing

Rape remains one of the major hindrances limiting women's full participation in politics and leadership and a tough mandatory sentence will go a long way in protecting women, girls, boys and men. On the 31st of March 2021, WALPE in partnership with Youth and Society Malawi (YAS) with support from Oxfam Zimbabwe conducted a regional virtual discussion on mandatory rape sentencing.

The meeting was attended by women's rights activists from both countries, human rights law experts, representatives from the Zimbabwe Gender Commission and Malawi Human Rights Commission. Women-led community based organisations, aspiring women leaders, men and traditional leaders also attended the discussion.

At the core of the dialogue was how rape in all its forms continues to be used to silence political opponents in the two countries and the SADC region as a whole. Various proposals were made on how this menace can be eradicated and this include putting in place mandatory rape sentences in the African continent. YAS is pushing for life mandatory rape sentencing in Malawi whilst WALPE is pushing for 40 years minimum sentencing in Zimbabwe. WALPE's position to push for 40 years' minimum sentencing is in line with the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Small and Medium Enterprises' 40-year mandatory sentencing campaign.

Some of the recommendations that came out from the virtual meeting include:

The need to develop a comprehensive communication plan and an advocacy strategy to popularise the #NoToRape campaign and make communities understand why it is important to have mandatory rape sentencing in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole.

The need to engage policy makers to treat the issue of mandatory rape sentencing with the urgency it deserves in order to curb the vice.

Alignment of the legislation to the constitution on the issue around age of consent and definition of young persons.

There is need to engage men and boys to be champions of the #NoToRape campaign so that they can reach out to their counterparts on the ills of rape.

Engaging political parties to put in place laws, policies and guidelines that protect women political activists from sexual abuse.

Encouraging young women, women with disabilities and women in political parties to come out and report any cases of rape including sexual harassment which is prevalent in many political parties.

Urging the Government to speed up the setting up of section 210 which provides for complaints against members of the security forces. This will help women report cases of abuse perpetrated by members of the police and army.

Women empowered to fight COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is showing induced poverty surge which has also widened the gender poverty gap. Women have reported limited to no personal income and eroded personal savings which is affecting their economic status and financial independence.

With this in mind, WALPE, in partnership with three women-led CBOs i.e. Sprout Women Empowerment Trust, Girls Table and Bethany project with support from Oxfam Zimbabwe on the 1st of April 2021 conducted a virtual training on Empowering Women to fight COVID-19 and also launched the people's vaccine campaign. This came against the backdrop of women failing to access personal protective equipment (PPE) and having little information to make informed decisions on the vaccination process.

40 women leaders and 10 men from the country's 10 provinces were trained how to make PPEs such as hand sanitisers and washable facial masks. This came as a big boost to the women who are the majority of frontline responders at family, community and national level. The trained women were informed to engage health experts when they want to make the hand sanitisers for commercial purposes.

The People's Vaccine Campaign aims to engage Government on the importance of rolling out an inclusive, transparent and efficient vaccination drive. Lack of proper awareness on the vaccine has led to low uptake of the precious jab. The Government is accused of not doing much to demystify the myths and lies that have circulated within communities. WALPE continues to appeal to the Government to further decentralise the vaccination process, increase transparency in the procurement process and provide citizens with many options of the vaccines beyond the Chinese ones.

As part of empowering women to fight the pandemic, the participants were taken through a mental health session. With COVID-19 wrecking-havoc one year on, many people's mental health being had been affected. The participants were urged to guard their mental sanity and also exercise regularly.

Aspiring women leaders get small income generating projects

On the 9th and 10th of April 2021, WALPE in partnership with Self Help Development Foundation (SHDF) with support from the United States Embassy Harare were in Triangle and Chiredzi Town for the setting up and operationalisation of Women Leadership Networks (WALANs) and also provision of small income generating projects (igps) to aspiring women leaders.

Two sessions were held with each attended by a total of 50 participants who co-created the leadership networks with WALPE and SHDF staff. The participants were drawn from a pool of aspiring women leaders who went through several training sessions such as Transformative Feminist Leadership Training Development, Social Entrepreneurship, Climate Justice, Intergenerational Coaching, Grooming and Mentorship exercises.

The women leaders were sensitised on their duties and responsibilities as WALANs which include organising community accountability discussions where issues such as budget tracking and expenditure processes, Community Development Fund, social service delivery, food aid and other development issues will be discussed. Most importantly, the WALANs shall be responsible for identifying, mobilising, training other aspiring women leaders and encouraging them to take up leadership positions from the community to the national level.

The WALANs also received business capital funds in groups of 10 to kick-start small income generating projects or boost their existing ones in preparation of the 2023 elections. WALPE hopes that the aspiring women leaders will be able to run successful projects and use the surplus for campaign purposes during the pending by- elections or 2023 elections and beyond. Women continue to be at the receiving end of vote buying and monetisation of electoral processes in Zimbabwe leading to the majority of them withdrawing as they won't have funds even to develop basics such as posters, fliers or even buy airtime for campaigning.

Alliance building for CSOs and CBOs on unpaid care and domestic work (UCDW) and the People's Vaccine Campaign

With Unpaid Care and Domestic Work (UCDW) increasingly affecting women and girls more especially since the advent of COVID19, WALPE in partnership with Sprout Women Empowerment Trust, Girls Table and Bethany project with support from Oxfam Zimbabwe on the 9th of April 2021 held an alliance building webinar on UCDW and the people's vaccine campaign. A total of 50 women and men representatives from the civil society organisations (CSOs), women-led Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and the private sector attended the meeting. Discussions on how to recognise, redistribute and reduce UCDW for women and girls were discussed and the participants were trained on how they can also do similar trainings in their respective communities in a niche to reduce the burden of UCDW on women and girls.

Major takeaways from the webinar include:

The need to engage both men and boys to understand the negative implications of UCDW and how it is affecting women and girls from freely participating in governance processes and occupying leadership positions.

The need to engage traditional and religious leaders in UCDW discussions and seek their buy ins to be ambassadors for equality.

More engagement sessions with policy makers to advocate for UCDW to be recognized as an economic development and gender equality policy issue.

The webinar was also a space to raise awareness on the people's vaccine campaign and encouraged the participants to endorse the campaign and take it up in their various spaces of operation.

Men in Macheke join the People's Vaccine Campaign

On the 10th of April 2021, WALPE with support from Oxfam Zimbabwe conducted a Male Engagement session on MenCare on Unpaid Care and Domestic Work and the People's Vaccine Campaign in Macheke. The main objective of the engagement was to reach out to men from different backgrounds to champion care work and also engage them to become ambassadors for the People's Vaccine campaign so that they advocate for equal distribution of the vaccines regardless of gender, geography and means.

The sessions which were broken into four and held in four different areas were attended by a total of 100 men. From the discussions, the men only knew that people have started to get vaccinated but had no information about the vaccines themselves. They stated that they have not received adequate information about the vaccines which they feel is crucial for them to make informed decisions. All the participants agreed that women and women with disabilities should be prioritized in the vaccination rollout process.

At the end, the participants vowed to engage duty bearers and policy makers to make sure that they provide them with more information about the vaccines and also to treat UCDW as an urgent matter that needs to be addressed at both community and policy level in order to close the gender gap.

Source: WALPE

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