Mollen Rutsate – Zimbabwe

Mollen Rutsate – Zimbabwe

Date: May 29, 2012
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I am the chairperson of the Audit and Risk Management; Sports and the Conflict and Management committees in Norton Urban Ward 3. I am also a member of the Environment Licensing and the Human Resources Committees.  A teacher by profession, I start off a typical day with everyday household chores – cooking, cleaning – before attending to my ward members between the hours of 8 and 10 almost everyday. Ward meetings usually take place from 12, on an almost daily basis. On the days when I am not in meetings, I go to check on different ward projects. From 4or 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, committee meetings take place.

I grew up with a passion for politics; it was within me. 2006 proved to be a tough year for government teachers, and this is when I decided to give up teaching full time. The climate at the time left room for too many strikes to take place, where teachers would be absent from work too often. I was a focal person, I was the one who organized the strikes. My passion was teaching, and I thought I could help, but I wasn’t actually helping. When I turned my focus to campaigning, I was up against one male in my ward. I won the election.

I love working with the community, especially the children who still call me teacher, and remind me about my profession. I have put my efforts into youth and sport development in my community as a result of my profession and my attachment to the children.

I first heard of Gender Links in 2010, when they were at a meeting at Kadoka Ranch Motel. That’s where we were introduced to GL as a council, and we continued to do training with them. Three women from Norton were invited. I first learnt about gender budgeting and gender mainstreaming here. It was an invaluable lesson, since I now use these skills often in my portfolios. The training was a real eye opener for me, as I already had some knowledge on gender issues, but not to the level that Gender Links provided. For my job, I needed the in depth knowledge, and until I got it, I didn’t realize how big the gap was. As soon as I grasped the concept, I returned to my council and was very concerned. I looked at the budgets again and realized there were issues that may have been left out. The training helped me to enhance work that had already been done; I could improve the budgeting process. I have used the skills through my role as Audit and Risk Management and Conflict and Management chairperson. The biggest change, though, has been in the Sports Committee, where we no longer allow sports academies to have only boys teams. If this is the case, they will no be recognized in the community.

It’s hard to think back to specific accomplishments since I have been councilor. But there have certainly been changes. In 2008, community members came to me to ask me to help with an issue where residential stands were being bought from the council and resold to other residents. Some had no title deeds and therefore no ownership of the land they lived on. I took the issue to heart and starting to rectify the problem. Currently, those residents and others, through their faith in my abilities, have title deeds and ownership of their stands and homes.

When I think of the economic situation in my community, I decided that the best way to help was to start a poultry project, the Nharira Poultry Project, whereby I approached a bank which provided the capital, and I gathered a group of both men and women who wrote to the council and were given one hectare of land to house the project. They are now looking for partners to construct the buildings needed. I have done an herb project with Environment Africa, where people were trained to grow and process herbs, and I have set up the pilot project for it at my home. I have also set up a fish pilot project at my home, and the National Parks department has decided that it is work rolling out into the community. I attribute my success to Gender Links and WiPSU, without whom I would never have been empowered enough to start strong. I have learned a lot through the training that I did over 2 years ago, and I continue to apply what I learned practically in my community. I can proudly say I am a leader because I can change things.

In spite of all these positive developments, I certainly face challenges. At times, there is a lack of coordination of efforts within the council. Another main issue was when as a councilor I am criticized; and one point, the issues led to my home, and I almost lost my marriage. It was through training from GL and WiPSU that I persevered at this difficult time. GL taught us to be women of character. I’m confident that I always do the right thing the first time, not the second time. Through GL I have learned to speak with dignity and honour as the Audit Chairperson.

My most memorable experience as a councilor was when beach soccer came to Zimbabwe for the first time in 2012. I have been on the sports committee since my election, and I often wondered why it was that we invest so much time in the youth through sport, and yet still the children didn’t change. They participated in all the sports that were available, but I still felt that something was missing to boost the morale of the youth in my community. After much communication with Beach Soccer Zimbabwe in 2010, the council was referred to ZIFA. After communicating with ZIFA, ZIFA finally communicated with FIFA. All ten provinces congregated in Norton to launch Beach Soccer in Zimbabwe- with FIFA representatives to top it all off. I saw a spark in the young people at that time that hadn’t come through in other sports in the past; the energy was tremendous.

I strongly believe that when you are determined to do something, even the big organizations will help where they can. If you are determined, honest and hard working you will succeed.

I attribute my analytical skills to GL; their training has really strengthened me in that regard. I look at several things we need to prioritise. I know how to get the information I want. When I first started in the auditing committee, there was a backlog, and I stuck to my guns and got all of the reports up to date even with back lash from my fellow councilors. It was not easy, but it was necessary, and in retrospect, it was a very worthwhile thing to work towards. Everyone has someone to support them in their roles, and Gender Links has been a pillar of strength for me along the way. WiPSU and the Senior Auditor in the council have also been a source of strength and guidance.

In the future, I want to run for Mayor and then Member of Parliament. I am a leader, I am a source of change. Wherever I am, change locates me.


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