The struggle of women in politics: A story of defying expectations.

Sithembakuye Nyoni is a female politician who despite the volatile environment does not back down from a fight, and she has stood firm on being a leader and representing the needs of her community and women in rural Tsholotsho. Despite socio-cultural rigid norms, Nyoni has been persistent and vocal about empowering women and the community as the Mthwakazi Republic Party’s National Chairperson of the Women’s League.


“I joined MRP in 2015 because I was inspired to represent the needs of women and my community in Tsholotsho. I realised that as women we constitute the largest population, but are not well represented in political processes and decision-making. I stood up because someone had to represent our needs and make sure policies are responsive to the daily struggles we face,” said Nyoni.


In the upcoming 2023 harmonized elections, Nyoni said she would be standing in the women’s quota for the Tsholotsho senate seat.


As a national chairperson for the women’s league, Nyoni attributed the underrepresentation of women in politics to cultural norms which depicted women as not being equally politically worthy as men.


“Women in rural communities fear taking up leadership roles despite playing a vital role in development. They lag in political participation because of rigid gender norms. Women feel they cannot lead without getting authorization from their husbands to participate in politics and decision-making.


“When women stand up for a political position, questions are asked. Will a woman fully represent us? Is she married? Will the husband allow her to go participate in parliament, and then your husband is also questioned on how he can allow you to go participate in parliament with other men?” said Nyoni.


In the face of rigid gender norms, Nyoni defies all expectations of what a “woman” should be in a rural community and soldiers on with the hope of being a senator for Tsholotsho one day.


“I don’t find being a woman leader hard. With determination, persistence, and a clear vision, one can be a leader. I am passionate about leadership. I strongly believe I was born to be a leader, and I will one day be a senator for Tsholotsho. I am inspired by Thokozani Khuphe to be a bold and courageous leader who fights for what she wants and never gives up.”


Moving forward, Nyoni said she was looking for opportunities to capacitate herself to be empowered to effectively lead.


“As a woman leader, I aspire to continuously learn and be capacitated to effectively lead and

take actions that fully represent the needs of my community. to also be part of programs like those hosted by the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development, the “Running to win conversation,” that bring diverse women leaders together to strengthen their involvement in political processes and provide a platform to network.


“I would gladly grab more learning opportunities; however, opportunities for capacity building don’t always come easy for women leaders in rural areas. I am also in need of financial support to finance campaigns and increase the visibility of the work we do as MRP,” she said.


When asked what she would do if she became a senator, Nyoni said: “I will make sure the people of Tsholotsho benefit from their resources and are given priority to employment opportunities. I will also promote technical skills to cater to young people that are not educationally gifted but do well in creative work.”

Written by: Loraine Phiri

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