Macolese Setaka – Ts’ana Talana Council COE

Macolese Setaka – Ts’ana Talana Council COE

Date: June 30, 2015
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Working with Gender Links was a wakeup call for Macolese Setaka. Gender Links made things which seemed impossible to achieve very possible and achievable. With Gender Links, she learned to love her job as a councillor. The most memorable moment was when Gender Links staff came to enlighten them about Gender issues, which was a topic that was never raised due to the culture and norms of the council. Her most significant moment was when she realised that, as a woman leader, she can stand in the presence of men and women to tell them about gender issues.

Macolese is a community councilor at the Ts’ana Talana community council, and she makes sure that her community benefits from what the government gives to the council. She holds public gatherings in her own village, and finds out what the people need from them as council, and she also gives them advice if need be. She trains people about gender issues as a way of rendering services to the people.

The first time that she encountered Gender Links was when stage one and two of the Centres of Excellence (COE) process were being introduced to their council. She said she was wondering how they were going to be assisted by Gender Links, but above all, she gave her ear to what they were saying so that she could learn and take action. Not that she did not want to listen to them, but at that time gender issues were still taboo, especially in rural villages. Even so, she knew from the start that if she gave it a try, especially because the process was going to be facilitated by professionals, it would be an eye opener.

Many things have changed in her life since the COE process began. Now Setaka is more confident than when she was first contesting elections. Unlike in the beginning, she can have a say while in the presence of men. In a gathering where there are men and women, she is stronger. In Gender Links trainings on gender issues and ways of budgeting, making care work count, climate change and many more, the council has learned to budget well. Many women saw a light on how to deal with gender issues. At first, she and her fellow workers were not aware of what they could do. There were no proper plans in the council before she encountered Gender Links, and they were just working without a formal way of taking stock, prioritising, and measuring their progress.

Gender Links as an office first came with two staff members, and when they talked, everything they said was both easy to understand, and made them eager and energetic to participate in the gender agenda. In the process, Setaka has learned to use a computer. At first she just saw people using it and she did not find it interesting, but since she worked with Gender Links, she learned to use the internet, and that has been very useful. She also learned a lot about gender issues regardless of norms and culture, which remain a great obstacle to the progress of women. Initially, there were no other people the council worked with in the planning, now through Gender Links there is also the Ministry of Gender and other non-governmental organizations.

The changes Setaka has seen as a result of Gender Links also reflect in her family, who respect her for who she has become; especially her husband, who is very supportive. Sometimes her husband goes to meetings together with her, which was not something he used to do at first. Even though her whole family is very supportive, it doesn’t stop them from complaining now and then, because they say she is very busy with the things that concern other people.

The way she carries herself attracted many women in her community to drive gender issues; she is a good example to other women. People around their council have learned to take gender issues seriously. They even attend the activities organised by the council. During public gatherings, women used to mock women councillors, as they did not believe they could be leaders, and they would support only men. After GL held workshops, Setaka was able to talk to community members several times, especially women, and many have changed. They have started sticking up for one another.

Though nothing much has changed in terms of policy, progress is being made, because now people are very active when it comes to gender issues. The main challenge initially was that men did not want to accept that Setaka was both a woman and a leader. Culturally, men do not listen to women, and this was a huge challenge. Now there are many men who understand through the trainings, and they are slowly changing their attitudes and behaviour.

The plans she has for the future are to hold more gatherings that have many men participating, and also find men who are gender champions to lead in those gatherings, so that it will be easier and quicker for men to change their attitudes. She is going to make sure that she plans everything before taking any action with the people that she is leading. Gender Links has been very helpful in so many ways. Seataka can now draw up budgets, and go to people to ask what they need; she does not just bring what she thinks they need. She hopes that Gender Links will help or work with councillors from all the countries so that they can all be enlightened.

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