Zimbabwe: Theresa Marwei

Date: August 29, 2019
  • SHARE:


I am a married woman aged 66. I have twelve children and sixteen grandchildren. I am a farmer and a gender activist, having worked as a facilitator with development partners Action Aid Zimbabwe and Women and Land in Zimbabwe.

I have lived a life with many ups and downs. Having a big family made me work in other people’s fields in order to fend for my children. That later encouraged me to work hard and also had the passion to work for the community. I initiated income generating projects in ward 27 of Makoni District. Being a church leader and an evangelist, that assisted me in leading the community. As a facilitator, I went with the organisation Women and Land in Zimbabwe representing rural women to Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia. I shared my experiences as a rural woman with others in those countries. I got exposed and learnt that only a woman can emancipate other women. Gender took its form and I felt I should assist the marginalized women, boys and girls.

As a councillor I learnt to represent my community and also understood their needs. I chaired ward development committee meetings at ward level. My mission statement was to decrease gender-based violence in Makoni District by 2025 and mainstream gender in all council activities and advocated for women empowerment.

As a Gender Committee Chairperson, my committee considered all matters relating to gender main streaming in delivering service and budgeting. I worked hard to promote equal access to education for all children regardless of their sex and to educate communities over the need to reduce gender-based violence and live at peace with each other. I also worked on women for improved livelihoods of the communities.

My work needed me to attend gender, ward development and full council meetings at council offices. I also gave advice in schools development committee and health centres committee meetings. As a councillor I also attended International Women’s Day, 16 Days of Activism, Family Day, Orange Day, Independence Celebrations and Heroes commemorations. I even initiated development projects/programmes with the assistance of the council, government and development partners.

In ward 27 there were some traditional leaders who were causing leadership wrangles with me as a councillor. They still felt women should be inclined to kitchens and could not be developmental leaders. They did not believe in me being their councillor and could serve them. They wanted environmental monitors to report to them. Another negative experience was that some women did not accept that fellow women could lead communities as they were used to male councillors. Through the gender committee, workshops on capacity building are being held to curb the situation.

Although gender sensitization workshops were held, some councillors and staff found it difficult to accept gender equality. When resources were limited, the boy child should not always get preferential treatment. There was need to have buy in by all staff in order for the gender agenda to be spearheaded to the highest levels.

The current economic meltdown had not spared council. There were some resettlement areas where services were still limited. Lots of clinics and schools were needed in the area. That caused school drop-outs and low passes in schools. Some pregnant women failed to access medical facilities as they could not walk those long distances. Council tried hard to establish the schools through partnering with other responsible authorities.

Council needed to establish a shelter and also provide funds to gender based violence victims. Since the gender committee was still in its inception it to find a suitable place for the shelter and budget for its establishment and equipment.

I respect my husband and children. I tasked my children with responsibilities unlike before I thought girls could not perform like boys. Our Chief Executive Officer is gender sensitive and so assisted me to champion gender issues in the district. The councils’ gender focal person was willing to assist me spearhead gender issues. I also noted that women were walking long distances to ferry firewood and I thought we should establish woodlots.

I worked with Action Aid Zimbabwe before I became a councillor. Action Aid Zimbabwe capacitated me such that I felt I had been equipped enough to lead the whole ward. The Regional Manager of Action Aid Zimbabwe based in Rusape Mr Peter Clever Matimati once said, “From being a facilitator to a ward councillor and then to a Gender Committee Chairperson, Marwei can do it. I have faith in you”.

My family supported all my efforts but now they had gone a step ahead. They were then interested in assisting me as a gender champion. They even relinquished some of my household chores as they realized that I had many responsibilities.

My neighbour, Victor Moyo, teacher at Mabvazuwa Primary School said, “I wish if I had been chosen as a gender champion when I was still young, I could have made tremendous progress on gender mainstreaming in the district”.

Churches gave time to gender issues. They even attended big church gatherings and also educated the communities. There had been a reduction in the gender based violence cases which were occurring in the district.

The post of office orderly was a male dominated job. At the moment there were two female office orderlies and they proved that they could perform up to the required standards. The post of office orderly was a male dominated job. At the moment there are two female office orderlies and they have proved that they can perform up to the required standards.

There were changes in policies within the council. Council spearheaded the 50/50 or equal employment opportunities within its projects. That was evidenced at the council’s Nzvimbe clinic construction. At Maungwe Investment Private Limited which is wholly owned by council, there were female chain saw operators. Some female environmental monitors were recruited by council.

Council used to have one female councillor who chaired a council committee. After the appointment of a gender champion, we had two female councillors who chaired council committees. The needs of marginalized people were now being taken on board in the council’s budget. They attended the client/stakeholder’s budgetary meetings and their requests were attended to. People living with disabilities, youths and women attended such meetings.

At national level, both male and female council employees competed for gender awards. At regional and international level, the gender focal person and the gender champion both were women are preparing to go to Sweden. During the previous year a male councillor had the opportunity to go Sweden.

“The issue of gender mainstreaming and gender equality is enshrined in the Zimbabwean Constitution number20 of 2013 and as such council has no option but to advance the interest of the policy framework. In the same vein council is hereby creating a stand-alone gender committee to spearhead gender issues in the entire district…………”, that was Comrade David Guy Mutasa, the council chairperson addressing full council.

After attending a workshop on the ICLD programme, I went back to my ward and trained traditional/communal leaders on the strategic development goals. I encouraged them to maintain the natural resources as outlined in the Traditional Leaders Act chapter 29:17. I also taught them that if there are some vulnerable children in their respective areas they should report them to me so that I could take their names to council were assistance could be sought for financial assistance for them.

I also sought the expertise of an officer from the Ministry of Gender and Community Development who came to train my community in ward 27 about the business skills. That became an eye opener as some unemployed youth had commenced chicken rearing projects.

After attending a social accountability workshop at council, I also called all leaders in my ward and gave them feedback on what I had learnt. I put to their attention that as leaders they remained accountable to the communities which had elected them.

I have learnt that gender affects everyone in society. There are some needs which only apply to the girl child like the sanitary wear. It is very important to note that females can as well do jobs which were traditionally meant for their male counterparts. I also learnt that we need to consider the strategic development goals as they impact on gender. If climate change affects the nation, it as well affects the individuals and has negative impact to the communities. We have share what the hub council is doing with the rest of the mentee councils in Manicaland province. This has improved the gender agenda. Some councils which had never show cased at national summits now have the zeal to showcase.

That means that as a hub council we have motivated them as our council has show cased nationally and regionally. I have learnt that learning is a process and as long as we share with our people, learning takes place. We thank Gender Links through its Zimbabwe Office which has managed to improve our knowledge on computers.

My future plans are to conduct gender awareness workshops in all the wards. As a district we need visibility towards gender mainstreaming. Our gender desk officials should initiate for a newsletter which can be produced monthly indicating activities which have been carried out on monthly basis. The copies of the newsletter will be distributed to councillors who will in turn distribute in the wards when they conduct ward development committee meetings.