Elise Shikongo – Eenhana COE

Elise Shikongo – Eenhana COE

Date: October 29, 2015
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Together we will succeed

Elise’s first encounter with Gender Links was in 2013 when Eenhana Town Council joined other local authorities and became a Centre of Excellence through a council resolution. This came about after council was identified as one of the Centres of Excellence, hence she realised that her council would be part of the country wide implementation of the SADC Gender Protocol to help achieve the goals identified. Gender Links briefed Eenhana Town Council on gender mainstreaming and during September the council conducted stages 1-5 through consultative meetings with various stakeholders thereby developing a Gender Action Plan.
Elise explains that in addition to her usual duties as the Human Resources (HR) officer she was appointed as Gender Focal Person. She says that being a gender focal person has not been an easy experience because she became the main contact between Gender Links and the Council, which is a lot of work. At the same time she felt respected, valued and trusted by her colleagues to be nominated to be Gender Focal Person.

Coming from a community where gender based violence (GBV) is rife and where women are regarded as a shadow of men, she felt that her new role as Gender Focal Person would assist her to fight GBV in the town and enable her to advocate for the place of women in her community.

She says that before the intervention of Gender Links the council did not focus on the various gender related issues. It was business as usual. Although the imbalance of the past was highlighted on various platforms by councillors and officials, the commitment was lacking. “The council did not really focus on, for instance, equal employment opportunities or equal opportunities for property ownership within our community and most houses were registered to males rather than females. In many instances the focus was on men as the fraction of humanity that is capable, forgetting that women are equal and able to do things in society and that together we will succeed.”

Elise says that since she became involved with Gender Links as HR officer she has begun to increase awareness about GBV and facilitate discussion in the community. This has mainly been done through social evening events that are held on a regular basis covering HIV and AIDS, alcohol abuse and issues of gender based violence. “Things have started to change in the town. We have evidence that since the involvement of Gender Links there is a change in behaviour toward gender based violence, alcohol abuse and other social ills. Men are becoming increasingly involved in gender equality. In 2014 for example more men in Eenhana were supportive of the “walk a mile in her shoes campaign,” which was a campaign organised to protest against domestic violence.”

Elise notes that one challenge she encountered was the difficulty people had in grasping the difference between ‘integration’ and ‘mainstreaming’ in the context of strategies and programmes on women’s rights and gender equality as well as their own institutional change. Elise believes that the concept of gender equality is understood by men though not all of them support the idea and this process will take a long time since the mind-set of men is still based on past experience whereby men are regarded as head of the household and dominant in most activities.

Her last words were that she appreciates the fact that her council was identified to be part of the Centre of Excellence for gender mainstreaming and therefore putting gender on the council’s agenda. This major step was then followed by interventions that brought together policy, implementation, capacity building through-on-the-job training, monitoring and evaluation and the sharing of good practices at various events. It is important to note that this process/programme has helped council (councillors and staff) as well as the community at large, to gain a better understanding of gender related issues and to realise their importance.

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