Session 6 – Promoting gender equality and women’s leadership in local government for the achievement of SDG 5
5 May 2022
Emperors Palace Hotel, Kempton Park, South Africa
Local Government Association Presidents and Secretary Generals
Senior Government Officials
CLGF project partners, development partners, regional and continental organisations
Ladies and gentlemen
My role in this session is to provide an overview of the Commonwealth Women in Local Government Network, a network I am honoured to be chair. Launched in 2017, the network has managed to support women to get involved in local government as politicians and practitioners and to increase the influence of women in the decisions made about local priorities in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 5.
The network’s work focuses on seven areas, namely:
- Supporting institutions and capacity building
- Encouraging prospective councillors
- Supporting strengthened coordination of local government actors
- Data collection and research
- Strengthening and mobilising the network, and lastly
- Implementing pilot projects.
We have managed to implement the Connecting the dots: Local Actions for Women Political and Economic Empowerment” Project in Eswatini, Lesotho, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
With the main aim of increasing the number of women holding senior positions in local government in the target countries by 15% and increase beneficiaries’ monthly incomes by 30%, I am pleased with the work done thus far as part of the eight main strategies.
Notably, as a result of implementing these strategies, there has been an increase of 31% in the number of women holding senior positions such as Mayor and Committee Chairperson against the project baseline, a 30% quota was introduced for women in local government in Zimbabwe, which will result in doubling the number of women in local government in 2023, when the next elections are held.
Further, women beneficiaries reported increased confidence, knowledge, and skills. As a result, out of the 113 out of 186 prospective local government young women leaders that were trained and mentored, expressed their interest in taking up leadership positions in the local government, including in the upcoming elections in Lesotho and Eswatini.
This session happens after the Women in Local Government Network session we held last month. The session emphasised the importance of continued support to women to play a full and active role in public life through building the capacity of existing women leaders, increasing the understanding of the roles and responsibilities of local elected people and encouraging women (with a focus on young women) to run for council; and elevate such dialogues to ensure they feature on the global agenda and obtain deserved focus and action.
This is especially significant given the focus of this conference, as women continue to be at the forefront of our fight against Covid19 at all levels and sectors around the world. Women in municipal government have been at the forefront of efforts to flatten the curve, and we recognize and appreciate their quick and compassionate reactions.
Women’s participation in the fight against COVID-19 has not only been limited to those in local government and health. We have seen their participation as part of civil society and community organisations. Through these organisations, they have managed to reach the population in terms of information, PPEs and healthcare.
The contribution of women in the fight and response to Covid-19 should serve as another evidence of the long-standing urge for women to be involved in every decision that impacts their well-being. Women, who make up the majority of the population, have a long way to go in terms of equal representation in positions of power and leadership, which is unjustifiable.
Let us remember that women’s empowerment initiatives are successful when women and men work together to promote gender equality, particularly men who occupy positions of power.
We should also pay attention to capacity building through training and mentorship as these increase women’s self-esteem, confidence, and agency the benefits of capacity building initiatives were documented through the stories of change collected under the “Connecting the dots: Local Actions for Women Political and Economic Empowerment” Project and highlight the importance of knowledge, skills, and confidence in enabling women to make decisions that affect their lives. We must however be mindful that capacity-building initiatives need to be complemented by an enabling environment and access to resources such as finance, services, and technology, among others.
As I indicated in yesterday’s opening session, we should work with political parties to promote greater participation of women in local government. Political parties are among the most important institutions affecting women’s political participation. Therefore, governments, development partners must engage political parties to create an enabling environment for women’s participation.
Political parties should be encouraged to amend and implement political party constitutions to promote women’s participation in local government leadership, adopt more women, and support them through training, mentorship, and campaign funding.
We call for concerted action to achieve the anti-sexist and egalitarian society that we so desperately want – a world in which women are not required to show their worth just by participating in the economy and society.
With these few words, I again wish to thank you for allowing me this opportunity. I look forward to robust engagements that we will have in relation to the work done by women in local government with the view to elevate them to the highest platforms.
I thank you.