Not just possible…inevitable.
By Luam Kidane, Africa Regional Director
I visited Thousand Currents’ partners in Zimbabwe in September of 2018. With so much political change in the country since my last visit, including a national election, I was curious to understand how these changes are shaping the everyday lives of Zimbabweans and the work of our partners.
In the lead up the election in 2018, Thousand Currents’ partner Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) mobilized young women through the “Her Right of Way, Give Way” campaign and conducted a national survey on the political participation of young women in Zimbabwe.
According to IYWD’s survey results, women only made up 13% of elected municipal councillors, with young women making up 5% of that 13% after the 2013 election, despite a commitment to parity in all political bodies in the Zimbabwean constitution. These figures are already low but in the larger context they are even more jarring: approximately 52% of Zimbabwe’s population are women and youth make up 67% of the population. Given these figures it is not hard to see why IYWD’s focus on young women between the ages of 17 and 35 is critically important.
From 2016 to 2018, the “Her Right of Way, Give Way” campaign facilitated dariros (community dialogues) amongst young women, and between young women and traditional leaders, to deepen young women’s participation in decision making bodies and spaces and to facilitate connections with power holders. While visiting the IYWD team I was invited to sit in on a dariro in Guruve, about 200 kilometers from Harare, that IYWD held with approximately 60 young women in the community to envision the work of IYWD now that the election had passed.
What struck me most was the commitment of the IYWD members and staff to collectively reflect so as to collectively chart a course forward together. What became clear as the dariro went on is that the young women’s desire for democratic participation is not bound by or only tied to seeking power in state institutions, whether local or national, but goes much deeper and wider to wanting to build the Zimbabwe they want. What I heard in the dariros was young Zimbabwean women grappling with and working to manifest their own political, social, and economic realities in any and every space they were in, as well as a desire for those in their communities and beyond to be in solidarity with them – to help them build a world in which not only would this be possible, but also inevitable.