Bernadette Chipembere – Zimbabwe

Bernadette Chipembere – Zimbabwe

Date: May 29, 2012
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My typical day as a councilor in Chiredzi is full of activity. The council provides water for only 2 hours a day, so at 6am, I usually wake up to water my garden as a way to relax before the activity. I make a point of visiting all my projects on a daily basis so I am kept up to date with all activities on the ground. One of my most notable projects is the women in mining project. The project assists women in finding opportunities in mining and linking them up with investors. Here, I help by searching on line for information the women may need to get ahead in their projects.

I have a passion for widows and enjoy organizing events for them, as shows of appreciation. Another of my passions is spreading the 50/50 campaign and making sure that what is on paper is translated on the ground for all the women in the community to understand. I confess that I don’t accept failure as an option, which is why I have seen success in my projects so far.

More than a year ago to date, I was part of Gender Links workshops that contributed to the success I am seeing now. I took the program very seriously, and I found the organization very inspiring. Gender Links staff work until they drop to achieve results, and they make me see what I am also capable of. I want to leave a legacy for others to follow.

One of the most invaluable things I gained from GL is capacity building. I started my early years in rural Chiredzi, but now I’m a public speaker I’m computer literate thanks in part to Gender Links. I have really come a long way.

My first encounter with Gender Links was during my 13th year in council. In 2010, GL was looking for women in leadership positions. I was not a councilor at the time, but was allowed to attend the workshop and was very happy for it. When I walked into the venue where people were gathered for the workshop, I had no idea what was going to happen. I arrived and found people filling out forms, and hiding their answers. I was not sure of what was going on but joined in with the women anyway. My most memorable moment was when Colleen Morna, CEO of Gender Links noticed that I had potential in my work, and decided that I would go to South Africa. It was my first time on a plane, and I will never forget that.

As a result of my engagement with GL, I feel I have touched so many lives; I just pray that we will avoid obstacles, and take action. I have ensured that children go to school by paying school fees. I have made sure that children are registered with the birth registry by making sure that I have written letters for them when they are born at home; I have done so many letters I cannot count. I know that I am a person my community does not want to lose.

One of the most memorable experiences in my time with the Chiredzi council was when in 2010 land was seized from local farmers. I fought hard to reverse the decisions to seize the land. People would not fight because there were some very high level community members involved, but I found I had the will to correct wrongs, and bring those people down.

One of my most valuable lessons learnt so far is that patience pays. There are many times in my job when I feel low as a result of lack of money, but there have been people who help me to make sure my projects go ahead as planned; I even spare what I have to invest in community projects, because you can really see the results.

What I have really appreciated about working with Gender Links is that when they feel you are doing something important, it will support your endeavors. Gender Links has really changed my life! They invest in me – what more would you want? 80 percent of my drive comes from other people, and the community empowers me. No one will change a community for you. God raises a person for a purpose- I have a purpose.

I have now been the deputy mayor for the past 8 years, but have often stepped down from positions to allow others the opportunity to learn as I have. I am confident that I have performed well in the community. It is important for me that others also learn leadership skills. In the future, I hope to go into full time ministry. I want to be able to do more for local government, and train other women whether in council or not. I would even like to build a center around this training, and create more trainers in the community.

I am grateful that Gender Links comes out to the communities in their work, and empowers women in local government. I admire the monitoring and evaluation the organization invests in; it shows me that they are serious about what they do, and are committed to getting results. This work has been so important to me, I hope it will carry on from SADC to the rest of the world.


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