Hivos Southern Africa, in partnership with the Embassy of Ireland in Pretoria, has launched a new project: She Leads.
The project, which will run until December 2021, aims to increase women’s representation and leadership positions in civic and political institutions. This will in turn increase the number of diverse voices in public debates to challenge discriminatory messages, norms and practices that undermine women’s participation and leadership.
Women must have equal opportunity to participate as leaders and agents of change.
Speaking at the launch event on August 19, Hivos Southern Africa Director Tanja Lubbers emphasized the importance of women’s empowerment programs that enable women to “fight their way up.” Especially now, because as in most crises, it is the marginalized that suffer the most, especially women and girls. “At Hivos, we strive to make sure women and girls claim their rights to full participation in political and societal decision-making processes. Women must have equal opportunity to participate as leaders and agents of change,” she affirmed.
Her Excellency Ambassador Fionnuala Gilsenan of the Embassy of Ireland attended the event virtually. She stressed that this project prioritizes women’s leadership at every level. “We have noticed, even at an international level, including in Ireland, the increase in cases of gender-based violence. It is important for the broader community to come together and come up with strategies that protect women and encourage leadership,” she said.
Closing the gender gap
Zimbabwe has progressive gender equality laws to support women’s representation and participation in public administration, politics and decision making, yet they are not fully implemented. Although important progress has been made in women’s representation in national politics, the results still fall short of international commitments, and progress towards equality is far too slow. As the 2019 Global Gender Gap report notes, the largest disparity is in women’s political participation. In Sub-Saharan Africa it will take at least 135 years to close the gender gap based on current trends.
Keynote speaker Dr. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda reminded everyone that leadership is a journey. “When She Leads, ‘she’ is not leading as an event, she’s leading as a journey. It is a journey which has no end. Positional leadership is transient, but women’s leadership in decision making in society is perpetual,” she stated.
For over four decades, Hivos has been working on women’s empowerment, from the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls, to women’s political participation and leadership, and women’s labor and economic rights. Gender-based violence is a cross-cutting theme that we address in all our work in women’s empowerment.
The Embassy of Ireland provided a grant of €350,000 earlier this year for the project. Addressing gender-based violence and promoting gender equality is one of the main pillars of the embassy’s five-year strategy for South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Embassy and Hivos are committed to working with Zimbabwe’s women’s movements to respond together to issues affecting women and girls.