Community Update

Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits aim to provide the resources you need to advance your social change work.

We are excited to introduce our Digital Empowerment Trainers’ Toolkit, a dynamic resource to help you bring the benefits of connecting online to women in your community. Check it out today! »

Like Wangari Mathaai, Zimbawean women politicians plant their 'Tree of Hopes' in Kenya

Zimbabwean women leaders' 'Tree of Hopes'

On 12 October 2004 Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient and then Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife planted a tree behind the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters in Gigiri, Nairobi Kenya. The tree is surrounded by 15 other trees planted by the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military through Security Council resolutions; and is the only UN body with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.

On 24th May, four days ago, thirteen women political party leaders from Zimbabwe planted their Tree of Hopes at the Training on Leadership, Conflict Mediation and Conflict Resolution taking place at the UN Women African Centre for Transformative and Inclusive Leadership (ACTIL) at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya. This metaphoric representation reflects the hopes and aspirations of the women who are participants at a training of Leadership, Conflict Mediation and Conflict Transformation to also influence and drive a binding agenda for women’s active participation in politics and for lasting peace and security in their country.

Located under the rubric of the broader Women, Peace and Security agenda, the training is a culmination of an elongated 3 level training curricula put together by UNW omen to benefit women parliamentarians and women leaders form the political party wings in Zimbabwe. Besides providing theoretical and practical knowledge on Leadership, Conflict Mediation and Conflict Transformation, this training has been a catalyst in uniting the women of Zimbabwe across their political party fragmentations, and has been an effective way of providing a safe space for women politicians from different political parties to reflect, share and hope for a better future. The Zimbabwe political landscape is punctuated by both inter and intra political party divisions, and whilst these are hard for political engagement in general, they are worse for women who suffer these divisions at both societal and political party levels. Zimbabwean women here present have agreed to represent and showcase a small community of practice with a shared vision for unity, and will seek to influence other women of Zimbabwe for same, and have silently signed a silent pact for the women from the political parties to support each other in pursuit of their political objectives, especially in parliament. The women political leaders have highlighted as one of their major problems in parliament the hackling that they experience from men, and sometimes from fellow women from oppose political parties.

“There is too much hackling in parliament. As women we are not free to debate, and worse to introduce gender sensitive motions because we are quickly hackled and booed down. But the pain comes when you are hackled by your fellow women simply because you belong to a different political party,” said Honourable Fanny Chirisa, former Civil Society political activist who was sworn into parliament in 2013.

The women of Zimbabwe here present have agreed never to hackle each other again in parliament and to stand up against such hackling from male counterparts. Using a feminist popular education teaching approach, the facilitator Dr Martha Mutisi paired the participants for ‘appreciative inquiry’ at the start of the workshop and this presented a good opportunity for them to highlight each other’s strengths. The revelations were brutally honest, candid and transformative. The general expectation was that the women would show appreciation along party lines but it was really shocking and revealing how they did this across their political party lines. Below are some of the testimonies from the women.

“When we started the Level I training in Nyanga there was so much tension and we were shouting at each other and calling each other names. There was so much anger and the facilitator Dr Martha Mutisi and UNW omen staff had to constantly watch out for these dynamics. One day two women from different political parties nearly got out of hand; I almost thought they were going to engage in fist fighting. I am surprised that now we have gone beyond our political party division and we are getting somewhere. I thank UN Women for bringing me to Kenyatta University. Here I am touched by the female leaders; they handle all the dynamics without the guidance of men. All key leaders are women and they are professors. After this training I want to go back to study, I also want to become a professor.” Trainer Ruzvidzo, MDC T

“I have a confession to make. When I got the first invitation to attend the training in Nyanga and met women from ZANU PF I did not see women, I saw my enemies. I was not happy at all. It was soon after elections and worse to it I had lost my aspired seat in the elections. Everything about the violence in the 2008 elections was still sitting with me and the more I saw women from across my party the more I got angry. One day when the facilitator asked someone to pray I volunteered because I wanted to really attack my ‘enemies’. I am sure everyone remembers my prayers, I said “God you know that we are amongst our enemies. Please protect us from our enemies.’ I remember there was so much chaos after that prayer because the ZANU PF colleagues knew that I was attacking them. My worst ‘enemy’ that time was Tsitsi Caroline Mugabe because we were in COPAC together and the divisions along political party lines in COPAC had really managed to further split us. At the second workshop Dr Mutisi took us through a lot of games and role playing activities that gradually socialised us to working together and to accepting each other, and the anger started going away bit by bit. I also learnt new communication skills, she taught us about the 5 levels of communication, and that communication takes place through the brain, the heart, the soul, the eyes and the ears. She told us that these make a person complete and communication more effective. I started practicing that, looking at my colleagues in the eyes and seeking to feel them in my heart and soul, and also watching them and noticing that they meant well for me. But mostly I learnt to listen to them more carefully without rushing to judge them. This really helped me to start appreciating my fellow women. Sabhina Mangwende kept talking to me and inviting me to conversations and I learnt to loosen up. Today Caroline is my best friend and all my anger is gone. I am very happy to be here and it is the first time I have boarded an aeroplane. UN Women assisted me to get a bank account and an email address. I could not do that because my documents were destroyed in the election violence and I had given up on life. Now I feel motivated to start all over again and work with my fellow politicians from all political parties to over throw women’s oppression. Thank you UN Women for uniting us.” Thandiwe Shumba-Mlilo, MDC N

“I was pushing my heavy trolley and trying to get it inside the bus at Kenyatta airport. Susan from MDC T just came unannounced and offered to help. I was shocked, and I said to her “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” Before I finished that statement Susan had lifted my bag and it was in the bus. My colleagues from ZANU PF looked at me and admonished me, “Why are you asking if she is sure, she is very sure.” This taught me to be more accepting of my colleagues from the opposition. Today I was sharing jokes with Monica from MDC M and I even told her how special she is.” Caroline Tsitsi Mugabe – ZANU PF Women’s League Executive Treasurer

“I have problems with my legs, I can hardly walk long distances after a long flight because of diabetes. When we got to Kenyatta airport I was really struggling to get into the UN vehicle. Honourable Sabhina Mangwende of ZANU PF took my hand and helped me into the car. Honourable Khupe from my party marvelled and said, “Fanny, Sabhina is from ZANU PF but look what is happening. We looked at each other and smiled.” Fanny Chirisa, MDC T

‘I had challenges attending the Level II training in Mutare because my father in law was not well and I could not catch the bus that UN Women had hired for us. I could not fill up my tank because I had a lot of hospital bills for my in-law. Honourable Toffa and Honourable Ndlovu from MDC N offered to fill up my tank and I was able to attend the workshop. I was surprised.” Sibusisiwe Budha, MDC T

“Honourable Mangwende sits directly opposite me in parliament. I see her listening carefully and nodding each time women are speaking, and she does the same for all women regardless of which party they come from. That nodding and affirmation motivates women to participate in parliament despite the hackling from men and I appreciate her for that.” Honourable Thokozani Khupe, MDC T

“When Honourable Mangwende appreciated me and told me that she was proud of me I felt encouraged. I pray for UN Women to lead us to our destiny so that I as a young woman can also become like these elderly honourable women members.” For me the issue is no longer so much about ZANU PF or MDC, I know we belong to these parties for our political identities but what matters more for me now is our aspirations as women to transform everyday perceptions of party politics in order to build our nation.” Susan Matsunga MDC T Defence and Security Officer.

“This training changed my thinking around our relationships as women in politics. When we first met I was so conscious of who belonged to my party but through interactions with women from across the parties I have risen above what divides us. As women we must get above our political party thinking and work together to build a transformative agenda for all women of Zimbabwe. We must challenge those barriers that stop us from participating in politics freely, and we must do it with a united voice as women of Zimbabwe. I admire all my colleagues across the parties, and also admire Honourable Khupe for all her courage as a woman leader in the MDC.” Honourable Sabhina Mangwende, ZANU PF

“UN Women has really collapsed the walls that used to separate us as women from different political parties. When we started this training at Level I everything was heavy and tense. I was afraid to name issues openly in the space for fear of being labelled. I feared to hug my sisters from ZANU PF for fear of my MDC colleagues. Now I am free to hug them and I call them comrades. If we continue with this attitude and perception we will have a changed country in no time at all.” Monica Ncube, MDC N.

“I am motivated by Honourable Thokozani Khupe. I started interacting with her when she was the Vice Prime Minister in the government of national unity in Zimbabwe. I tour guided her at the National Zimbabwe Monument and she gave me a very big tip that surprised me. Last night I came here in the same delegation with her and I was served food on the same table with her. I once served her, now we are being served together because I chose to seek leadership in the political party wing. Nothing is impossible. I can also become a strong woman.” Hlengiwe Sibanda, MDC N

“I want to appreciate Comrade Alice Mutindori. I admire her courage fighting in the liberation struggle for 6 years which she joined as a teenager. That says a lot about women as nationa builders, and to still have her here as a representative of the political party wings leadership for her party shows her commitment with politics through and through. I am motivated by her humility. She fought for the liberation of Zimbabwe no she is here fighting for the liberation of women.” Revai Makanje – Aalbaek, UN Women.

“I want to appreciate UN Women for the vision of this elongated approach. The decision and process to take the women from Level I to Level III was not always easy. There were a lot of challenges and I am sure sometimes the organisers faced a sense of being defeated but UNW omen stuck to the vision of binding the women together to bring change to their communities. I also want to thank Honourable Fanny Chirisa for working so hard to motivate women politicians to participate in politics when she was still a member of the civil society. I am touched also by the attitude of female professors here at ACTIL, their humility with effective results is an example for our women leaders from Zimbabwe to draw from. When I started working with these women in Nyanga, I shook in front of them on day one, out of fear. It is not always easy to stand in the midst of such phenomenal women. I was also afraid of worsening the dynamics given the divisions that existed amongst them, it was so glaring that they were divided from their conversations. Today I stand taller, the women have really proved their willingness to transform, and for them to give these testimonies of transformation for me is a key achievement. When women are united they can do a lot of transformative achievements together, this unity is the starting point.” Martha Mutisi, Independent Consultant.

The training happens at a key period in the building up of processes towards sustainable peace and security in Zimbabwe. On 24 April 2014, the Standing Rules and Orders Committee of the Parliament of Zimbabwe released a Call for Public Nominations for Persons to serve on the Independent Commissions in line with Chapter 12 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, and among the said Commissions are the Gender Commission and The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC). The current situation in Zimbabwe presents a good opportunity and conducive environment for UN Women and other civil society organisations working for gender equality and women’s empowerment to start lobbying the policy makers and other relevant stakeholders for gender balance and gender mainstreaming in the work of the NPRC. For UN Women, The setting up of the NPRC is a critical process which needs to be followed up with support to ensure public, especially women’s participation in line with national, regional and international obligations. Given that women constitute the majority of the survivors of violence in Zimbabwe, it is important for them to participate in the process of creating the NPRC in order to increase their knowledge about the institution and its accessibility.

Reporting from UN WOMEN ACTIL, Nairobi- Kenya,

I am Yours Truly.

Downloads

Comments

hanasazi's picture

I found this in an email from

I found this in an email from LinkedIn and I am so happy I did. This is a wonderful story about the unification of women with apparent divisions and conflicting agendas. Now that UN Women have helped them to transcend their political differences, they are able to work together in Parliament. Surely this will eventually overcome the heckling all the women received from the men in Parliament regardless of party affiliation, and perhaps this will move them closer to being a more effective government overall - I can only believe it will help them create a country that is more friendly and able to provide more effective protections and services to the female half of their constituents.

I can't help but mention that I spotted this email just after reading one about US Senator Elizabeth Warren's new book. The writer said "I think one of my favorite parts is when Elizabeth talks about a conversation she had with Senator Patty Murray about whether or not she should run for Senate. Patty told her that 'men never ask if they're good enough to hold public office, they just ask if they can raise enough to win.'” It's so embarrassing that men have such confidence when they have no intent of actually serving those who elect them. They just want enough money to get elected so they can spend more of someone else's money doing things they way they want to and lining their own pockets with sweetheart deals that only politicians can do. Most women lack the "killer instinct" - though some have learned it since it helps them to rise up in a man's world - but have much more to offer if they can work collaboratively in safe environment without being subjected to the constraints that some men would hinder them with.

I think the strength women can bring to politics if they embrace and utilize their feminine strengths by rising above their differences and put their efforts into powerful collaboration is important to everyone, not just women - first they can truly legislate positive changes on behalf of all the women they represent, and second, this productive example will provide a better working model for men in politics to pattern after. Clearly male politicians have been letting each other off easy and not spurring each other to a greater responsibility toward those who elected them.

Please let me be clear that I am not talking about Kenyan, Zimbabwean or African politicians, but politicians everywhere! If we could see this kind of unity amongst the women in American politics, rather than having so many women either become like the men in their work or be held up by the men as "a good example" (in other words, one who doesn't mind being told what to say and do, and being used by the men for their own ends), we might actually get something productive accomplished here. If women politicians the world over united to create positive and lasting change for their constituents, we could actually see real progress made in some of the areas that mean so much to us no matter where we live - violence against women, including rape as a weapon of war, human trafficking and sex slavery, environmental protection, clean water, safe access to the internet, and so much more!

Kudos to the UN Women for making such a powerful breakthrough and transforming the relationships between the women in Zimbabwean Parliament from adversarial to amiable! For themselves setting a beautiful example of humility and friendliness that the others respected and admired enough to comment on and allow to affect them personally. Now they can work together to get important things accomplished in their country and set a beautiful example of what is possible for women who long to serve their people through politics in other countries, too. I admire each and every woman who participated in this meeting and will download the image of their Tree of Hope to set as my desktop image right now! They bring hope to the world, and to me.

hanasazi's picture

May I make a suggestion?

Cali Gal Michelle posted "African Story Challenge: Up to US$20,000 grants" as an offer in the Resource Exchange a couple of days ago and I was so excited for the opportunity extended to my African friends that I reposted it on my own journal to make sure they saw it. If you haven't entered this post in the challenge, I recommend that you do. This is just the kind of story they are looking for, and you have the chance to win some serious money that could help you in your journalistic efforts. Go girl! ♥

Hana-
Can I just say how awesome you are? Seriously. I love your replys to these posts- we must speak someday soon!

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

hanasazi's picture

May I return the compliment,

May I return the compliment, Michelle? I always love it when I see you've left a comment. I know that person will receive something important - an encouraging word, a tip that can help them, there's always something good coming from CaliGal Michelle! I love living in so. Oregon, but you make me wish I was back in SoCal again too so we could talk over coffee together! Thank you so much for your kind words...and yes, we must speak someday soon!

chibairo's picture

Thanks my dear, yes we must

Thanks my dear, yes we must talk. Keep reading my articles, I have incorporated your comments, sometimes verbatim into some of the articles. I will enter our competition. Thanks,

Dudziro Nhengu

Also, please post a picture of the Tree.... totally into that kind of thing.

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

hanasazi's picture

The Tree of Hopes I set on my

The Tree of Hopes I set on my computer desktop is the photo chibairo included in her post with the hopes written on paper leaves by the participants of the Leadership Training in Kenya. I would love to see a picture of the tree planed in 2004 by Professor Wangari Maathai, especially since he planted it on my birthday! Perhaps chibairo was able to get a shot of it while she was there covering the Training?

Chibairo-
There is much I could say here, but let me just summarize... What an example these women are! To make a commitment to forward-motion, mutual respect, showing us all what true leadership is.

Thank you for sharing this with us!

Let us Hope together-
Michelle
aka: Cali gal

Listener
Sister-Mentor
@CaliGalMichelle
facebook.com/caligalmichelle

hanasazi's picture

I agree...

chibairo's post speaks volumes about the innate leadership qualities of the women who participated. Just the fact that they were able to reverse such animosity to work together shows a depth of character that should mark every leader.

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative