Women are largely underrepresented in Zimbabwean politics. Annanciatah Mazikana is one of 24 councillors who have received leadership training from the Sida-funded program “Local leaders – capacitating women in Zimbabwe”. The programme aimed at reaching a higher degree of involvement of women in local politics and strengthening the capacity of selected candidates.
Annanciatah sits in her backyard, besides her family’s farm in Mazowe north of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. She vividly recalls when she was told she had been selected among 23 other women to participate in a leadership training programme for local politicians. She is thankful for the opportunity to share her experiences with others and grow in her position as local councillor.
“If more women leaders would receive such a training, we would go far as a nation,” says Annanciatah Mazikana.
The training programme was arranged by the International Center for Local Democracy (ICLD) and aimed at strengthening the capacity of women leaders in local politics and increasing the involvement of women in Zimbabwean politics, where women remain underrepresented. Prior to the training, Annanciatah had to fight in order to assert herself in the political debate. She got insecure from the feeling of not gaining respect as a leader of her constituency or not being the role model for other women she wished to be.
“ICLD taught us how to tackle the oppression we face as women, how to stand up to male colleagues without insulting them. We learned how to gain our opponents’ respect and how to use different techniques that work in practice,” says Annanciatah.
Training programme gave tools to influence
Ever since Annanciatah entered politics she has wanted to make real change. Through the ICLD-programme, Annanciatah gained confidence and became a more emphatic leader. She says that her former management style was too egotistical, but that as she learned to listen. She became more secure in her position, gained confidence and became better at leading others.
“Change starts with oneself. First after you’ve managed to change your own behaviour, you can change others’,” says Annanciatah.
She now uses her newfound power to, among other things, visit villages in the region. She encourages and motivates the parents to send their children to school and to ensure that their daughters receive education. Child marriages are common in Zimbabwe, which forces girls to drop out from school at an early age. Also, since schools often are located far from the villages, parents prioritize sending their sons off to school as the long road might be dangerous to the girls.
When Annanciatah got elected as local councillor, she initiated the opening of a secondary school in her district, a rural part of the country just north of Harare. She also prepared for the overcrowded primary school next door to be expanded with more classrooms, giving the children in the villages easier access to education.
The country’s difficult economic situation has made access to both education and health deteriorating. As her next project, Annanciatah announced that she will let renovate an old farm to become the district’s first hospital, an initiative that will give people in the area closer to health care.
Everyone benefits from an equal society
Annanciatah Mazikana hopes that more women would be able to educate themselves and become role models for other women. While Zimbabwe remains an unequal country, she believes this is the time for women to rise. And she uses her mandate as a politician to make a difference:
“In my community, I can prioritize efforts to strengthen women’s position in society.”
Looking ahead, Annanciatah wants to become a Member of Parliament, and to make gender equality a reality.
“Even the men will benefit from it,” says Annanciatah Mazikana.