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Gender focal persons discuss the importance of stakeholder buy-in for promoting gender responsiveness.  

Women’s Institute for Leadership Development (WILD) facilitated a ‘Running to win’ conversation which was attended by Gender Focal Persons from Lupane, Umzingwane, Bulawayo and Gwanda local authorities. The meeting proffered a platform for the Gender Focal Persons to discuss the successes, challenges and opportunities in gender mainstreaming in their council areas.

Facilitating the meeting, Samukeliso Khumalo the Executive Director at WILD said that the organisation does not only focus on women leaders in politics but also seeks to enhance women’s effective and full participation in public leadership so that they have the requisite capacity. She went on to say that the gender machinery in Zimbabwe is key in ensuring that gender balance and responsiveness as entrenched in the Constitution is implemented.

“While significant strides have been made towards aligning national policy plans and actions with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, there are still immense challenges when it comes to implementation. Platforms like this one are key as women are able to come together and collectively strategise on how best they can advance the rights and interests of women in their areas of operation,” said Khumalo.

Municipality of Gwanda Gender Focal Person, Marilyn Nyoni said that the local authority has a Gender Policy which informs gender responsiveness in service delivery, however there are still gaps in implementation.

“At the moment the Municipality of Gwanda only has one focal person. We are however pushing that all the departments have gender focal persons so that the gendered needs of all departments are incorporated in planning and development. We are also pushing to facilitate organisational trainings on gender responsiveness so that gender responsiveness is not only limited to the gender desk but the information is cascaded to the organisation at large,” added Nyoni

Audrey Manyemwe the Gender Focal Person for Bulawayo City Council said that the local authority has progressively recognised the importance of mainstreaming gender in planning and service delivery

“The Bulawayo City Council has made significant strides in gender mainstreaming since the establishment of the gender desk in 2008. The gender desk is currently drafting a gender action plan as a way of integrating the gender aspect in every area of the local authority’s operations,” said Manyemwe.

Presenting on behalf of Lupane Local Board, Linda Ncube said that there have been positive developments in the local authority in terms of gender mainstreaming with the adoption of a Gender Policy. She however highlighted that there is need for training of the council management so that they get an understanding of gendered service delivery.

“The challenge that we are currently facing as a gender desk is that there is limited buy-in when it comes to institutionalising the policy. The gender desk is focusing on rolling out sensitisation meetings with stakeholders as a move towards highlighting the importance of gender mainstreaming in development initiatives. We are working on doing away with the narrative that the gender desk focuses on ‘women issues’ but rather it focuses on community development,” highlighted Ncube.

Discussing the successes and challenges on gender mainstreaming, the Gender Focal Person for Gwanda Rural District Council Mary Mpofu said that this platform was a welcome move as it creates exchange learning which is essential for skills transfer.

“This is a good platform for skills transfer for us as women leaders, I have learnt a lot on how other local authorities are implementing gender responsive service. However, GRDC is situated in rural areas. There are challenges when it comes to information dissemination, this kind of information on gendered planning and development is not widely known. We are in need of capacity building when it comes to gender mainstreaming in service delivery,” said Mpofu

Hainet Mpofu the Gender Focal Person at Umzingwane Rural District Council highlighted that the local authority has a Gender Policy. As a result, the local authority has proposed the establishment of a gender committee which shall work closely with the gender desk on institutionalising the policy.

“The URDC is in the process of establishing a Gender Committee which will be responsible for following up on gender issues. We are currently drafting the Terms of Reference for the Gender Committee which will inform how the information contained in the Gender Policy will be cascaded to the entire organisation. We are doing this so that everyone takes part in gender mainstreaming because this is not only limited to the gender desk but everyone has to take part,” added Mpofu

The Kusile Rural District Council gender focal person, Dorica Zulu reiterated that as much as there has been adoption of the Gender Policies in councils, there is still need for buy-in especially on resource allocation.

“One of the challenges that we are facing in the gender desk is the issue of resource allocation in supporting initiatives that promote gender responsiveness. This can be attributed to the lack of buy-in by council officials in supporting gendered interventions as they consider such issues as unimportant. This is not the right approach because the local governance structures have a mandate to ensure gender equality and balance in all spheres as set out in the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Zulu.

In conclusion, Samukeliso Khumalo highlighted that WILD will continue collaborating with local authorities in advancing gender responsive service delivery as this is key in progressive community development. She reiterated that the gender machinery is important in safeguarding the rights and interests of women in all spheres of society hence engagements in these platforms should continue in sharing best practises amongst different localities.

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