By Lloyd Rabaya
Just a young woman from the dust in Chitungwiza but with great willpower pushing her to greater heights that not an ordinary young person can easily reach is Jerita Mutingwende. A second child in a family of six, now second in command at Chitungwiza Municipality, Jerita says it did not come on a silver plate.
“I faced harassment and threats both online and offline, which can make it difficult for young women to venture into politics.
I also faced discrimination from my fellow women and men,” she added.
Zimbabwe’s political space, since attaining independence, has not been friendly to women as well as the youth, inside the parties, Parliament and Cabinet. The environment is marred with gender discrimination, harassment and violence in its many forms.
Zimbabwe has a 52% women population, but they are largely under-represented because of the patriarchal nature of the Zimbabwean society as well as the brunt they have to bear before making it. Women face prejudice and are usually intimidated, discriminated against and expected to take care of the household chores only.
With the Zimbabwean economy, raising the nomination fees for the previous election, which opposition politicians and various organizations viewed as too exorbitant and restrictive was more than a hassle, especially for the women.
Despite facing the backbreaking challenges that many women of her age could have quit, the youthful Deputy Mayor of the dormitory town of Chitungwiza kept her chin up, putting into practice some lessons she learnt from her father, who held the same office in 2009.
Holder of a degree in business management, Jerita believes her family, especially her father, played a very significant part in instilling good values and nurtured her since she grew an interest in politics at a young age.
“Because I grew up in a family of politics, I have always been interested in politics and making a difference.
At the age of 18, I had already gained myself a chair in the ward youth committee, and in 2018, I voted for my first time,” she narrates.
In this year’s polls, it was not easy for her to get resources for running an election campaign and says she is still going through challenges with adapting to the environment and its demands as well as getting up to speed with issues facing the community.
She ran for the Councilor post under the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) ticket and managed to secure the post in ward 12. When the heavens finally gave her a smile and she was announced the Deputy Mayor, it was a moment of ambivalent attitude fearing if she was going to deliver.
“It was a mix of emotions; I was thrilled yet overwhelmed. It’s an honor to be chosen but also the pressure of responsibility and trying to live up to the expectations might be too much,” she said.
For aspiring young women who would like to venture into politics, Jerita says it can be done, but with determination, and more importantly a strong support system as the road is a bumpy one.
“There are many barriers that women face in politics, but your voice and your perspective are needed and valuable. Your presence in the political sphere will make a difference, and you have the power to inspire and empower other women. Don’t be afraid to take risks and to pursue your passions. Remember, you are just as capable and competent as any man. If you work hard and believe in yourself, you can make your dreams a reality,” she said.
Women’s participation in politics and other leadership roles is vital not only to achieving gender equality, but also to empower other women.