Chiredzi Town Council Institutional Profile

Chiredzi Town Council Institutional Profile

Date: October 9, 2013
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“We need women to be confident to get into politics and run for elections. We are putting the framework for them and it is now up to them to run for elections or apply for positions in council”.

Long stretches of sugar plantation forests seem redundant as you drive on the highway, but this cash crop is only a veil. Beyond these plantations lies a community that is vibrant and striving to attain equality and development. Chiredzi is a sugar growing investment area. It prides itself for having some of the largest sugar plantations in Africa. It is located in the Masvingo Province, 201 km from Masvingo Town. The Town Council is one of the biggest institutions in Chiredzi in terms of the number of people it employs, the volume of services it provides to the public and the public utility works it carries out.

The Chiredzi Town Council is not only a local government centre of excellence in terms of gender issues, but is also a focal point in terms of tourism development in Zimbabwe. People in this sugar-growing hub of south east Zimbabwe are engrossed in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development. They are implementing their action plan, and are strictly guided by this protocol.

Chiredzi council has 9 councillors, 7 males and 2 females. “We need women to be confident enough to get into politics and run for elections. We are putting the framework for them and it is now up to them to run for elections or apply for positions in council,” says Owen Gwasira, the auditor and gender focal point at the council.

Though lagging behind in numbers, these two female councillors are empowered to discuss and respond to concerns in the community. They are community savvy and are able to put gender issues on the agenda. These women stand up for the vulnerable in their community as they monitor local police action on gender based violence, help fight legal battles, promote women’s economic empowerment and manage to mainstream gender in all aspects of council operations.
It is noteworthy that the council has a vibrant and illustrious gender champion, Councilor Bernadette Chipembere, who defends the gender agenda in her town. She is instrumental in sensitising the community about the SADC protocol gender provisions.

Chipembere has taken the 50/50 campaign door to door, spreading the word and making sure that what is on paper is translated on the ground for all the women in the community to get on board. She has come up with innovative ways of teaching the community, through dramatising all 28 targets of the protocol. The local women in this town are well informed, and no bureaucrat could ever challenge them in discussing what this protocol entails and which tenets of the protocol they are responding to in their line of work. Unquestionably, Chiredzi Town Council is one of the most informed councils, which has translated to an informed citizenry.

The chief point of engagements with the public is through the councillors. They get information from the constituency and they share with council. The Chiredzi Town Council has been actively involved in women’s empowerment projects. One of the most notable projects is the women in small-scale mining project. The project assists women in finding opportunities in mining, and linking them up with investors.. Key to the success of this project is the gender champion’s level of commitment and the support from the council hierarchies.

The council has also been able to empower the community through land and housing to ensure sustainable development. Over 1090 residential stands were allocated in the previous year.
Housing Cooperatives such as Kushinga and Kubatana housing cooperative cater for the needs of poor women and men in Chiredzi. Through these cooperatives, this authority is helping the community to attain the basic human right to shelter. Tendai Jingura a member of the Kushinga Housing cooperative attests to council’s commitment in giving people land.
“To alleviate the burden of paying our hard-earned cash into the purchasing of stands, the council introduced us to cooperatives. Thirty of us gathered to form Kubatana Housing cooperative,” says Jingura. We contributed USD $50 from 2011 to 2012 into the cooperative for paying and servicing our stands. I would not have achieved this alone, thanks to Chiredzi Town Council. Seven women in our cooperative are now house owners, which is a big step towards their empowerment,” she continues.

Council’s major areas of improvement have been in the water and sanitation sector. Council has been working with UNICEF, which has provided them with funds to be able to increase their water pumping capacity and install boreholes. This will alleviate the water shortages that have been faced. Some of this funding will be taken to cholera interventions and refuse removal.

“Council has no resources now. However, we are working in conjunction with partners to get support of projects.” Gwasira admits that council accountability and transparency is an advantage as they source funds.
Council has two gender focal persons. Precious Mutsetse and Owen Gwasira are both in middle management. They have both won awards in showcasing their best practises in the HIV and AIDS and care work category and GBV response categories respectively. With such focused people in the forefront, the council has been able to spearhead all its mainstreaming and start implementing their policy more strategically. Gender issues have been put onto the map. A budget for women related issues has gone up as this is now recognised officially.

“Gender Links is doing a very good job in helping councils mainstream gender, which was hardly taken seriously in the past. The government of Zimbabwe is backing the organisation in its efforts. Council will not stop in promoting gender mainstreaming. It might take some time, considering the challenges we face, but the bottom line is to get to 2015 and meet the protocol targets.”

The advances made on mainstreaming gender in local government structures through the Centres of Excellence process are evidence that change is possible using the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development as a policy framework during interventions.

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