Zimbabwe: Resta Dzvinyangoma

Date: August 30, 2019
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Born in 1974 in a family of 5, I was deprived to sit for my Ordinary level examinations by my father in favour of my brothers. My mother had no voice since he said he paid lobola and a waste of resources. I was hurt but to no avail. He ordered me to run his shop without any appreciation citing that family belongings were for his sons and I was useless in my father’s eyes. Family members influenced me to marry a businessman to boost family welfare.

I got married at a tender age and I thought this would end my problems, instead, they worsened. My husband wanted a baby boy failure of which he would marry a second wife. I was in charge of one of our businesses but hardly controlled finances and I had no bank account. My life was just like that of a child in the family due to the failure of family care work. In 1997 my husband ordered me to go to our rural area citing traditional and cultural beliefs such as “Musha mukadzi”.

We were forced to join politics and that was my first opportunity to interact with others. My political history started as Youth Treasurer, Branch Chairlady. From 2005 to date I’m the secretary for Mainboard. In 2004 I was elected councillor for ward 1 and that was the time I was fully engaged in gender work. I’m a policymaker, mentor, ward development chair, ex-officio member in ward sub-committees, HCOC Vice secretary, Council Gender Committee Chair, Council Vice-chair, Mash East Women In Local Government Forum (WILGF) chair, Mash East chapter member, WILGF National Executive member, Africa Union chairperson for women’s forum. I have noticed that positive change is possible meaning there is life after being hurt if one is empowered.

Part of my objectives is committed to working as a team in order to eliminate all harmful cultural practices and norms that hinder women’s participation until we achieve 50/50 representation. Other objectives include:

  1. To achieve equal access to the highest possible level of education for both girls and boys.
  2. To eliminate all forms of GBV.
  3. To achieve a modern ward through sound infrastructure and ICT development.
  4. To empower women economically and socially.
  5. To increase the number of programs in climate change.
  6. To reduce maternal mortality rate and HIV/ AIDS.
  7. To impact people with knowledge on the legal framework.

As a ward, council gender committee and Mash East WILGF chairperson I facilitated the following developments in my ward, council and province:

  1. Encouraged the commemoration of the 16 days of activism, gender awareness campaigns and school public speaking with information from legal framework.
  2. Mobilized for community participation including special groups.
  3. Empowered women with the revolving fund, grants and assistance from well-wishers for economic projects i.e. horticulture, poultry, goat rearing, herbal gardens, moringa processing, sewing and knitting, bakery and skills training.
  4. Established a victim GBV one-stop centre, information, educational centre, safe shelter, child-friendly clinic, police base, 2 bridges, Heather Chimhoga Orphanage and Chenhuta secondary.
  5. Purchased horticulture equipment, OVCs grinding mill, and television for mothers’ shelter.
  6. Upgraded mothers’ shelter roads and boreholes maintenance, drilling of new boreholes in villages, clinics, schools and churches, installation of solar street lights and electricity installation.
  7. Increased girls’ enrolment through BEAM and NGOs, paid fees for 2 girls.
  8. Assisted people living with a disability with free office, wheelchairs, albino lotion, hats, homestead construction including for child-headed families.
  9. Presiding over SDCs and VIDCOs with women chairing.
  10. Assisted the vulnerable with AMTOs, safety net programs, capital for GBV survivors and pads for incarcerated mothers.
  11. Sister to sister and men dialogues, circumcision and cervical cancer screening.
  12. Participate in council meetings and give feedback.
  13. Formulation of the ward and council gender committees and junior council action plans, gender policy and manual, and ensure that other council policies are gender-sensitive.
  14. Educating women about waste recycling projects.
  15. Represent council, women and girls at provincial, national, regional and international forums on gender programs.

The following challenges have been encountered:

  1. Male domination was the major culprit when pushing for gender equality, although they seem as if they are supporting the idea, they have the tendency of wanting to control work being done by women. I still remember when I called for my first ward meeting, the youth officer (a man) told the community that “since our councillor is a lady we have to assist her for the good of our ward”.
  2. Political affiliation, that is, if you are from the minority party, being a female you will not get enough support from the community.
  3. Pull her down syndrome, women do not support each other as a result of jealousy and influence from men who think that you are now better than them.
  4. Assumptions, if a woman becomes a public figure people think she becomes a prostitute which differs for their male counterparts.
  5. Women were not forthcoming towards development programmes because women and men have the perception that women’s core business is of childbearing and household chores.
  6. Inadequate resources for planned programmes.
  7. Council policies were not gender-sensitive.
  8. There was no conducive platform for discussing gender issues for example gender committee.
  9. Unbalancing of female and male councillors for council resolutions resulted biased towards service delivery.
  10. The high rate of maternal mortality due to ignorance of men on pregnancy registration and unavailability of waiting for mothers’ shelter.
  11. High rate on GBV cases resulted in divorces, child marriages, school dropouts and poor developments.
  12. National disasters such as cholera outbreaks these will delay completion of projects since gatherings are not allowed so that the disease is not spread.
  13. No supporting tool like quotas system at the local level.

As an individual, my attitude and behaviour changed towards people living with HIV/Aids. I managed to attend a Training of trainers on the legal framework, which has helped me to develop skills in action planning, Lobbying, advocacy, ICT, Professional networking, Media, Conflict resolution, confidence and role modelling. I also gained knowledge on property ownership, grooming and etiquette. I pursued an educational qualification and have since sat for and passed my Ordinary level English.

I have gained the respect of the community because of the exposure I have gained. My family, community, council and all gender organizations have contributed a lot towards the change in me.

Maliki Israel, the chairperson of the Finance committee of council testified that “Alderman Resta Dzvinyangoma is a force to reckon with in terms of council business and specifically the gender championship initiative. She transformed herself from a semi-literate politician to a seasoned politician of note whose attitude to chamber business is excellent. She gained a lot of confidence as a policymaker earning herself the title of alderman, something that most women councillors have failed to achieve. Given the opportunity and capacity to develop her personal attributes, she is capable of doing far greater things for council”.

Changes have been noted at the household level as there is improved budgeting within the family. My husband started a gum plantation and drilled a bush pump to ease the walking distance for firewood and water fetching. “It was not easy to accept my wife’s ideas. Because of the training on gender equality, equity and gender-based violence, we have changed in attitude, behaviour and we now share responsibilities. We no longer experience hunger, poverty, discrimination, GBV, gossiping and we are no longer power-hungry. I am regretting the time I wasted underrating my wife due to our cultural beliefs; otherwise, we should have done better in our time. Thumbs up to all players in gender work we are now a happy and respected family”, said her husband.

At the institutional level, many positive developments have been noted as a result of her efforts and these include:

  • Gender issues have become part of the council’s strategic plan.
  • Supporting all Gender programmes in Council and this has led to my council being the hub for Mashonaland East Province as far as gender issues are concerned.
  • Addressing SDG number 4 on quality education through the construction of more schools in the district.
  • Formation of a fully-fledged LED committee to address SDG number 8 on economic growth. She also influenced a success gender committee, gender awareness campaigns, GBV victim one-stop centre, junior counsel,a gender-responsive budget

At a policy level, I lobbied for successful council and ward gender committees, influenced council policy to adapt ward junior committees so that the junior council can deliberate effectively issues affecting the youths. Being a gender committee and council’s vice-chairperson I influenced the formulation of numerous policies including Gender policy, Stand allocation policy, HIV /AIDS policy, Sexual Harassment policy, Climate change policy, Recruitment policy, Policy on ending child marriages and working with traditional leadership, law enforcement agencies and other partners on enforcing by-laws. I also participated in the marriage bill during Parliamentary hearings and in the highest national dialogue 2019 and proposed for the extension of the quota system in the constitution (temporary measure). I participated in Ethiopia on the CSW 62 on policies on promoting gender equality and equity, and in the African People’s summits in Namibia as a mentor where youths were advocating for policies that protect their rights.

Some of the lessons I learned include the need to build the capacity of communities in gender, so as to change mindsets around the topic. I have also learnt that restrictive cultural practices, laws and regulations are still in place and they are disadvantage women and girls in different ways. There is a lack of political will to drive the gender agenda as in some areas gender issues are being viewed as a women’s issue. Achieving 50/50 representation is a process which needs all stakeholders’ involvement in achieving gender targets.

Going forward I will continue advocating for more girls to go to higher education and educating the community on girls’ re-entry to school because there is always life after a bad experience. I will also keep pushing for an extension of the quota system in the constitution with additional seats from 60 to 100 as a temporary measure for 2023 elections and a new proposal on equal representation at all levels.