Fainesi Bwakaya – Zvimba Rural District Council COE

Date: September 6, 2018
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“I was apprehensive and attended the first national summit with a lot of anticipation, though on the other hand, I did not know that I would end up a winner. My first defining moment came when the results were announced with Zvimba Rural District Council as having attained the first and most sought position of being the best rural Centre of Excellency. 

Zvimba Rural District Council Gender Focal Person (GFP) Fainesi Bwakaya revisited her most memorable experience with Gender Links (GL) which was in 2013. She pointed out that it was a memorable achievement as she had won at the National Summit that was held in the city of Kadoma, Zimbabwe. This enabled her to proceed to the next level which is the Regional Summit in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa where she also emerged as a winner. 

 “I was apprehensive and entered the competition with a lot of anticipation, though on the other hand, I did not know that I would end up a winner. The reason I felt that way was because Zvimba was in its’ infant stage of development as it had recently become a Centre of Excellency in 2012. My first defining moment came when the results were announced with Zvimba Rural District Council as having attained the first and most sought position of being the best rural Centre of Excellency. I had scored an unbelievable 96% in the competition. I still consider that moment as a very huge achievement. That achievement changed the course of my performance for the better even at my workplace,” said Bwakaya. 

Due to improved motivation, which came as a result of winning, Bwakaya acknowledged that a lot was put in place, such as Gender Committees in every department. Zvimba R.D.C. was the first Local Authority to prepare and set aside a budget for projects such as Bursary Fund and a Victim Friendly Unit at the local police station. She stated that the Victim Friendly Units helped in addressing cases of gender-based violence. All these led to the reduction of gender-based violence and assisting of other vulnerable groups. 

In response to whether she qualified to be a driver of change, she reiterated several factors. In terms of policy level, she said that she influenced the Council bosses to have policies that are gender-sensitive. Examples of such policies include HIV/AIDS, Climate Change and Global warming as well as its’ impacts. She also stated that she embarked on projects that addressed gender imbalances. Such projects were aimed at incorporating both males and females to be on the same footing and a specific example was the horticulture project and a revolving fund that was established for both males and females. 

She added that she implemented a Bursary Project for the less privileged children and orphans thus she is a driver of change. She also spearheaded the afforestation programme. That programme was mainly aimed at driving awareness to the people on the importance of planting as many trees as possible. The programme can ultimately benefit the communities through the sale of gum poles and fruits from their plantations and orchards. 

She promoted the use of biogas in the area as an alternative source of energy. This, according to her, has an impact on alleviation of the challenges faced by many people in regards to other sources of energy such as electricity, gas and firewood.  

Bwakaya indicates that when she was initially appointed to be the gender focal person, she could not decipher what gender was. To her, it was a new subject altogether and because of that, she did not readily accept the post. She thought that there was a lot to be done so as to understand the new terms and roles which were linked to gender. There were new terms to master and she said that she had no idea on how to use a scorecard which she was given to measure what Zvimba R.D.C. was doing in gender mainstreaming.  

“I was clueless about what this was all about. I then acted decisively by calling Gender Links to get more information concerning the whole issue. I was inspired by a lady whom I later learnt was the Country Manager for Gender Links, Priscilla Maposa. She was and is still eager to explain to me and demystify all that had confused me before. She really inspired me to do better and motivated me in every way she could,” said Bwakaya.  

From that time onwards, she got so fired up that every time she participated in summits she emerged as a winner. As a single mother and a gender-based violence survivor, her passion for care, love and equality blossomed. In her marriage, she was unfairly treated as a second class citizen by her paternal relatives. She considers that GL offered her a perfect opportunity to bridge the gap between her and the rest of the women. At her workplace and the community, she is involved in the implementation of gender policies. Bwakaya has also succeeded in establishing a gender desk and has been holding gender committee meetings where policies were generated. She also helps others to implement gender policies and course of actions if the policies are violated. 

As a way of boosting self-confidence, she continually holds public presentations. These have resultantly increased her confidence when giving public addresses. She believes that she has indeed improved from being shy and reserved to being easygoing, confident and vocal especially on basic human rights issues. 

She accorded all the credit to Gender Links as they patiently groomed her through group works and workshops. After presenting in group assignments and workshops she further developed public speaking skills and interaction. Bwakaya gives great credit to Priscilla Maposa and Tapiwa Zvaraya, from Gender Links. Priscilla, in particular, has developed great faith in most gender focal persons and Bwakaya confidently believes that she is one of them. She insists that she can help others in formulating and devising policies and setting up gender committee programmes at her workplace and in the community. 

Besides public speaking skills, Bwakaya has gained skills and knowledge on gender mainstreaming, values, professionalism, accountability and positive attitudes on viewing other people. This positive attitude stresses equality and non-discrimination. All this is reflected by evidence files, reports and videos kept at the council offices. She also mentioned the support she got from the District Administrator’s office that helped her to achieve the set goals. 

Bwakaya acknowledges that she has changed her close relations’ perceptions because of the knowledge she got from workshops organised by Gender Links. Her sons now perform household chores without being selective or negative minded.  

 “My twenty-four-year-old son can now clean the house and even sweep the whole yard in broad daylight, without any reservations. It was not easy at first to get my sons to do duties perceived by the society as meant for females, but with time the situation changed for the better. My sons are now very eager to educate their peers on the fair distribution of household chores. They now shun the traditional belief that some roles are meant for girls and women,” said Bwakaya. 

At the community level, Bwakaya’s changed life has inspired a lot of people who had poor interaction skills. Such people had problems in public communication but they are now emulating her after she won at the Summit. According to Bwakaya an ardent and inspired community member Denica Makota indicated her willingness to participate and win at the next Gender Links Summit competitions. Denica considers that Bwakaya used to be very reserved but won at the competition therefore she can also do the same if given the chance. Such an inspiration to others makes Bwakaya a very happy and confident person who is proud of the positive impact that she has made among the people in her community.  

The beneficiary acknowledges that new policies at her workplace are conducive for a pleasant environment that is prevailing. She would forever be thankful to a revolving fund and gender policy at Zvimba R.D.C. A lot has been achieved through lobbying by gender committees. Recommendations and resolutions are being made at the council level and this is evidenced by the policies and minutes of all meetings and workshops.  

Bwakaya is very thankful to Gender Links team and she had this to say: “Priscilla Maposa diligently spearheads her team in organizing the annual national summits making every summit unique and memorable. The summits always leave a great impression on all local authorities as they strive for excellence, especially with regards to gender equality,” said Bwakaya. 

Bwakaya stated that through her achievements, there are still some challenges which she faced. These challenges include jealousy by her workmates who feel that she is receiving all the limelight. Despite all these challenges she is all fired up with a deep passion for gender work. She emphasised that she accepts the challenges positively as they would, in the end, inspire and harden her. She considers herself a person of integrity, someone who is very principled and focused thus deserving to be Zvimba RDC’s driver of change. 

The beneficiary concluded by highlighting the need to explore new avenues such as churches to promote gender equality. She conclusively stated that since change is a process her aim is to see it unfolding and she feels that she still has a lot of work to do for her to realise her dream.