Zimbabwe: Mattie Dhliwayo

Date: September 19, 2018
  • SHARE:

Mattie Dhliwayo credits Gender Links workshops of helping her fight GBV in her household, community and workplace. She now have a new perception on gender issues and is now gender aware. Her attitude and skills have been sharpened through working with Gender Links.

 The Centres of Excellence for Gender in Local Government brings together all GL’s core programmes focusing these in local municipalities in each of ten countries that GL works every year. Gender Links currently works with 430 local authorities in the 10 countries GL has offices in. Research provides the evidence for the work; this informs policies and action plans which are advocated in various ways. The COE’s represent a unique on–the-job approach to training. Evidence shows that this approach is changing lives

“I am the Assistant Director of Health Services and also the outgoing Gender Focal Person (GFP) at Kadoma City Council in Zimbabwe. I have worked with Gender Links (GL) for just over 3 years now and the experience has been exhilarating. I remember my first contact with GL personnel, whom I did not know at the time was in their office in Harare. We were preparing for the District Local Summit (DLS) and as a council, the GFP who was there had just left for another job. I was all of a sudden given the responsibility of being the GFP. I had totally had no idea what that was all about. The instruction from my supervisor was to go to Harare and see Tapiwa and Priscilla and they would explain to me what was required of me, particularly for the upcoming DLS.

So I found myself walking into the GL offices where I was received with a lot of warmth. Tapiwa and Priscilla managed to help me a lot. Some of the things I later went onto do for myself i.e. read on gender and topical issues. Even in my first summit presentation, I did not do well but that helped me. However, to this day I am grateful for what GL has done for me. That was the stepping stone to my gender relations in the workplace and the community at large.

Being a part of the Centres of Excellence programme and interacting with GL has really helped me as a person. I saw myself having what people may term gender eyes or binoculars. I was at peace just being a health worker without looking at the gender connotations of it. This changed when I became a part of the COE process as I saw myself relating my work to the gender dimensions. My particular focus was looking at how my work impacted on the different groups of people in society. Using disaggregated data as a health practitioner became more useful as programmatic work became less biased.  In addition I have managed to make a lot of friends particularly with the entrepreneurship women who also happen to be survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV). In another life I would have never imagined myself talking to those women and listening to their experiences given the fact that our statuses are different. Again my job also put me in a position to have a working relationship with these women. They have essentially become my family. My profession sees me interacting with everyone from the youths to the elderly and most disadvantaged groups. Hearing their concerns and helping them is something that I look forward to daily (and I know I get these). It is all part of the job that has become a part of me.

I have also learnt quite a number of things as a result of the interaction with GL. I got to know what gender is all about as I really did not know a lot about it. The only experience that I had had on gender was when I was studying for my Master in Public Health, though this was more theoretical rather than practical. GL came in with the practical aspect as now I can do gender budgeting, child budgeting and facilitation of gender activities. I also learnt about how to manage gender issues within an organization.

The COE programme has also had an impact on my family relations. With my family we discuss gender issues most of the time such that they now jokingly say, ‘sister please be quiet about your gender things’. We talk so much about gender equality in our family. We were lucky to have grown up in a set up that allowed for equality among children and the family. Our parents saw us as equals all the time. Household chores were never segregated for boys and girls, everyone did everything. Our church the Salvation Army is also gender sensitive as they do not discriminate anyone on the basis of their sex. Anyone can become a leader or pastor in the church regardless of sex. This background enabled me to embrace gender.

As an institution a number of changes have been instituted by the organization, for instance we now have departmental GFPs to assist the GFP because this kind of work is not as easy as one would think. The local authority now has a fully-fledged gender desk with the backing of management. The COE programme has seen the local authority come up with policies that articulate gender issues like the Gender Policy and HIV/AIDS and safety policy. Though this may have a welcome development in the institution, this goes without saying that I faced challenges in as far as these issues are concerned in the institution. One of the challenges was that as an individual I was not clear on gender issues but the trainings that I got from GL and also my own initiatives to learn about gender helped me. The community has also come to the fore in gender practices as the local authority is now working with church groups. This is owing to the work GL has been doing with our council.

I also found myself facing resistance within the institution, largely owing to the issues hinging around gender and culture. Zimbabwe is largely a patriarchal society and so is our local authority thus I was bound to meet some form of resistance. I was however lucky as one of the Directors (Daniel Chirundu) gave me all the support that I so needed at the time. He played a pivotal role in convincing his colleagues that gender was an important facet in any organization. Daniel Chirundu is one of the persons I owe my success to.

Going forward, I wish to enrol for my Doctorate studies in Public Health. I also want to be a Director of Health one of these days. I have currently been attending interviews on this position in other local authorities. Though I am still to succeed, I still see myself one day being a Director of Health. I am not going to stop engaging myself with gender issues despite the fact that now I am no longer a Gender Focal Person. I will continue with gender advocacy. We all know that gender mainstreaming is a process thus never ceases.”