Zimbabwe: Ruth Chamunorwa

Date: September 6, 2019
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I am passionate about gender equality and human rights. I have always been interested in issues to do with equality of opportunities at individual and policy level.

I took part at the National Gender Links Summit in Harare 2018. The Summit was an eye opener, for I learnt how other councils are going about with gender issues, I got an opportunity to rub shoulders with high profile people from other councils. I also had a presentation as a driver of change.

My objectives were perseverance, determination and real commitment. As a gender officer I am a member of the gender committee and am answerable to the council gender focal person. I made sure that there was gender mainstreaming in all departments. I mainly worked with ZACH and Sista2Sista under National AIDS Council on issues which included Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Gender Based Violence and HIV/AIDS. Line ministries were also involved.

I was also at the Environment and Natural Resources department, where my main duties were attending and preparing for environment committee meetings. Activities such as clean up campaigns, fire awareness campaigns and firewood auctions were all part of my activities.

Patriarchy was one of the challenges I faced in pushing for gender equality. Some colleagues thought that gender was all about women however most of them now understand that it is a human fight not a woman fight. At times, some people developed some attitudes for they viewed the gender office as not necessary. However, more understanding and proper sensitization on gender related issues were realized.

I initiated the setting up of a gender library for all councilors and council employees so that there was better understanding and appreciation. However, with the current economic challenges the gender library has a few books and reading material. It became a challenge because we did not have enough reading material.

Championing gender equality brought positive change in my life. I changed for the good, understood some things I never knew before I was gender sensitive. When I attended meetings/workshops I made certain that I practiced what I learnt. I also managed to upgrade my studies.

“She is an open minded young lady whose ambition is to grow and influence the community in a positive manner especially to the girl child”, commented Cynthia Nunu – a well-known Zimbabwean legal practitioner.

Championing gender equality led to positive changes within my family and close circles. I now use gender lenses in everything that I do. I managed to convince my colleagues that gender equality is the equal opportunities between females and males.

At institutional level, I managed to offer gender library services to youths in and out of school, inclusion of the junior council, senior council and other employees. In line with the council gender and social inclusion policy, as the gender officer I made sure that the policy was well understood by every employee.

“I have learnt a lot from Umguza RDC on how they mainstream gender. I will go back to my council and work hard, for example to create even a stand-alone gender committee”, commented Binga councilor (2019).

I often attended the Women in Local Government Forum (WILGF) workshop Bulawayo. I learnt a lot, and l cascaded the information to other colleagues at work.

I also engaged in monitoring and evaluation of projects from other stakeholders, for example nutritional gardens, manufacturing of soap and dishwasher by GBV survivors and other women empowerment groups in the district. l learnt that pushing gender equality was not a challenge if you are being supported.

Gender equality issues must be cascaded to all departments before going to the community, it made work easier. I hope that the Gender Library has enough reading material, so that we are able to lend books to other people who are not from our district. The library also needs a television so that it can be youth friendly. For example gender based violence, empowerment, sexual reproductive, health and rights, and other gender equality related programmes should be shared amongst the people from the district.