Date: September 6, 2019
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I was born in July 1968 in Lupane in Matebeleland North. Born in a family of 8 with five girls and 4 boys, during the days when we still had a mother we were allowed to pursue our passion. My mother was indeed a gender activist and saw her fighting hard to change the family norm of disadvantaging the girl child. She refused to make her second girl, Catherine to stop going to school at grade seven like it was done to our eldest sister Eltha who got married earlier than expected. My mother Saziso Nyoni was seriously abused by my polygamous father and other family members for wanting to send my sister to Secondary school. After an assault she finally won the case after engaging a friend of my father who took sides with my mother and told my father that their friendship would rather break if he was not taking my sister to a secondary school. Little did my father knew that he was educating the person who would later on pay fees for all his school going children including our blind step sister that she took to a special school for her disability. Our sister Catherine struggled and produced two Electricians, a Home economics teacher, an Auditor, a Doctor and a Systems Auditor.

My first work experience was at Tshefunye Primary School at Tsholotsho. I promoted girl sport by sewing and introduced a competition which they got the first prize in immunisation competitions in 1989. I was also the music director and the only women guitarist, the instrument that l learnt to play at home from my sister when I was doing grade seven. I acquired sports kit for girls and this motivated them a lot. I also mobilised women to take on board arts and participate in drama and music for health programmes.

My objectives are to create an empowered society through effective use of available resources for sustainable development by 2030. We have put plans to build schools and clinics and provide every village with a clean and safe water source. Since I got trained by International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD), Gender Links, Local Government and its partners, I always feel obligated to do capacity building programs that create and enforce gender equality in society.
Vulnerable groups are all encouraged to do sustainable projects in the Ward. With the acquired advocacy and lobbying skills, I engage other stakeholders to provide the necessary services.

I was first voted to be councillor for Ward 19 in Umguza District Matebelelend North in 2013. The challenges that used to frustrate me I have learnt to take them as stepping stones. Through training that I got from ICLD, Gender Links, LocaI Government and its partners, I have learnt to focus on the positive. Training capacitated me to overcome many challenges I face as a woman councillor. My mobilisation and advocacy skills have improved rapidly. Citizen engagement brought sustainable development in my ward. Our Schools have improved in infrastructure and they all have boreholes. One of the four have a solar powered submersible solar powered pump. I have mobilised survivors of GBV to establish nutrition gardens, they contribute 10 % towards the cost of drilling a borehole. Where they had no money they contributed the maize grain. Five boreholes were drilled through this initiative. For sustainability of these projects, I mobilised villagers to go for Turning Matebeleland Green (TMG) training, where they were trained on horticulture, poultry and dairy farming. After the training people have started drilling boreholes at their homesteads and farming patterns are now improving for better production.

Development needs patience because it must be a combined effort. At times other players fail to cooperate but if I have a goal to achieve I can only be disappointed but I am never discouraged. I have been trained on how to identify and handle suppression techniques. One time I invited the DA ‘s office to the handover of two completed school blocks of which they never turned up with the program which they designed printed and piled in their office.

Though challenges seem to be a part of life they are a painful this leads to frustration which affects the expected performance. Inadequate resources have been a major challenge in my work. Fuel crisis have affected most of our projects. Some of the projects that needed constant monitoring would go some time being monitored through delegation. Unfortunately some people only take their responsibility seriously when their leader visits them quite often. Hyperinflation has been a thorn in the flesh since I came to this post. The money was losing value so much that the allowance became meaningless. It is only good for buying air time. As a councillor one has to attend funerals and other social gatherings. Many excuses make people lose confidence in one’s leadership.

Incompetent workers have also been a challenge. Sometimes the stakeholders lose temper because of undone paper work. There are workshops that are attended by certain councillors and on return no feedback is given yet issues that affect our wards are similar. Certain information reach the councillor in an outdated state or it never reach the intended user. Sometimes we are not informed about certain events that can be of help to both the councillor and the ward at large. As a result you are left behind or left out completely. At times you could be victimised because of jealousy and you find people teaming up against you when it comes to positions.

Before championing gender, to me gender was a head issue but now it is a heart issue. I now have passion for gender. ICLD training taught me to identify a strategic issue. This was a personal challenge that I had to work on until I overcome it. I learnt that when I have a challenge I must, “face it, fight it and finish it.” ICLD, Gender Links and Local Government trained me for 18 months on how to tackle my strategic issue which was “Time management” and “Lack of confidence. Well managed time and high self-esteem helped me to achieve my set goals. There is a great change that I have gone through since I became a councillor. I have done things that I thought I could never do especially if I look back into my background. I have achieved leadership certificates meaning that my leadership qualities have greatly improved. I got a Mentorship Certificate that I got through an ICLD program. This has trained me to be able to guide other councillors in journal writing and I am now in a position to share my experiences with others so as to capacitate them. Time management is no longer my strategic issue.

When I became a councillor most of my siblings had no interest in what I was doing. They took it as politics. At household level I was just heard and never listened to. They developed interest when they saw good development schemes such as Water and Sanitation Scheme coming in the district. Family members worked with me and we have gone to the extent of establishing a non profit making organization by the name Baobab Strong chaired by our second sister Catherene Gumbo and  Dr. Sibusiswe Gumbo is the CEO. Other members are Mthenjwa Gumbo, Mduduzi Gumbo, Hezekiel Gumbo, Gracious Nyati and myself.

The organization has gone a step further and it is now in. Working together has brought positive change in our family. Issues of discipline are discussed and solved amicably. I have seen a great change in my son’s behaviour and the projects we do have motivated him to discover a skill of installing Solar panels of which he is doing a sterling job in the district and other areas. Baobab Strong has strengthened our relationships as a family leading to positive change in our lives and improvement of many lives in the community. We have assisted in the building of schools.

Gender mainstreaming has brought vast change in Umguza RDC, starting from the Council chairperson and the CEO cascading downward through all structures of the council. There is evidence of improved service delivery starting from budgeting which is gender sensitive. Gender issues are no longer taken as women issues. Important events such as International Women’s Day which council never took seriously before, are now planned for at council level. Council now budget for such events through a gender committee. Gone are the days when people from the Women Affairs ministry could literally beg for donations from council which they could get very late during the day of the event.

Our Gender committee meetings now involve other partners who work in the district such as Umthonjeni Women’s Forum, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association(ZWLA), Zimbabwe Assosciation of Churches (ZACH), Hope For A Child Of Christ (HoCC), Later Day Saints Charities, Victim Friendly Unit (ZRP), Ministry of Youth, Ministry of Women Affairs, DA’s office etc. We are now experiencing a good coordination and co-operation in our district. A gender police has been put in place by all the relevant stakeholders and it is a guiding tool in the operations of our Council.

According to Wangar Waathai “recognising that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisable is an idea whose time has come.” Development cannot be sustainable without policy. It is policy that builds peace and democracy. According to Jomo Kenyatha “our children may learn about the heroes of the past. Our task is to make ourselves the Architects of the future.” Good policies made today will shape a successful future and a prosperous nation. As council we have established a Gender policy which directs our council to operate with Gender lenses. The designed policy seeks to see to it that there is Gender mainstreaming in all departments of the council. Recently, we formed a junior council, whose CEO and Council chairperson are girls. This is meant to encourage the girl child to aim at leadership positions and destroy the stereotype that leadership is for males. The other policy that we have designed is the Human Resource and Manpower development which has helped our women staff achieve better qualifications that have elevated their status at council. We have also come up with Sexual Harassment Policy which condone certain behaviours at work place. This creates proximity limits for workers and it creates conducive working environment.

Since our council introduced gender mainstreaming as a norm the policies developed have made our council to operate with gender lenses. A gender committee which never existed is now in place in my council. Having met Gender Links country manager I invited her to our council and gender mainstreaming practice forced us to review certain policies and to develop new ones which see to it that there is gender equality at our council.

Our human Development Policy has helped our female workers to acquire qualifications that have enabled them to get into positions of influence at our council Umguza RDC. The departments headed by females are Engineering, Social Services and Environment which is three out of six. In our gender committee we have other women from other departments who are part of us. Sexual Harassment Policy has been introduced and this has made our workers to work in harmony. Workers observe the law of proximities and this has created good working environment for both male and female workers.

Having been trained and selected as a mentor in 2014 through ICLD training, I felt obliged to capacitate others. I started mentoring 2016 and 2017 ICLD groups. I helped them on the identification of a strategic issue, journal writing and on how one should work on a strategic issue for a positive change. There were ten of us who were chosen from the first group and we were assigned to work with councillors from our provinces and the nearby provinces. The participants I worked with were from Hwange, Nkayi, Tsholotsho and Lupane in my province Matebebeleland North. From Matebeleland South I worked with councillors from Gwanda, Plumtree, Insiza and Sigodini. Currently I have been engaged by ICLD to work with 2019 ICLD participants. Another capacity building program was the Turning Matebeleland Green (TMG) training program. From 22-24 July I mobilised 100 villagers to go for horticulture, poultry and dairy farming training at TMG in Matebelelad South. This helped villagers to select projects they could work on. This has motivated my community to engage into sustainable projects. All participants are to go for the second module from 28-30 August 2019. This training has motivated villagers to move from subsistence farming to commercial farming.

Sharing experiences made pear teaching very interesting. I noticed that the mentees mastered the identification of a strategic issue quickly as compared to us who worked without a mentor. Also journal writing was practiced thoroughly at the inception workshop, making it easy for participants to write meaningful journals when they go back to their stations. As mentors we got more trainings at the workshops giving us continuous capacitation. Interesting also was that in the TMG training program I had enough time to rub shoulders with citizens I lead. The group had people from all walks of life. I learnt that there is so much benefit in humility. We had an opportunity to share experiences. Interesting enough was that on poultry and horticulture lectures were given by both men and women, but dairy section was supervised by a woman and most workers were women and they were the ones who gave lectures. We learnt that we could partner with TMG and produce chickens for both local and export market and some people are now working on contracts. Besides keeping 69 000 chickens TMG took us to the neighbouring villager who they contracted in poultry business. TMG emphasized family union in business.

I appreciate so much the opportunity I got from Ward 19, to be their elected councillor once more. This gave me the chance to work on the project that could not be completed during my first term. Previously, I managed to mobilise resources for drilling boreholes because water shortage was a major concern in the whole area. The following partners came to our rescue. Community Share Ownership Scheme (6 boreholes), Catholic Relief services (2 boreholes), Unicef (3 boreholes) and Later Day Saints (5 boreholes with 2 using solar powered pumps).
Schools have been improved but teachers accommodation still needs to be upgraded. My plan is to have two cottages built for Johaana P Fuyana, Makhokhomba and Mazizini Primary Schools before 2023. We are also working towards upgrading these schools to be Examination Centres because camping during examination time affect the performance of our pupils especially the girl child. We have put up plans to establish a secondary school for the ward. I am pushing for its pegging so that the building process can start. We want to ensure that by 2023 the school will be operational. The Ward has also planned to establish a Women Resource Centre.