“I am a courageous woman. I did not even consider that I was in a race with a man,” says the confident recently sworn-in Zvishavane Ngezi ward 4 councillor, Sheilla Chabuda.
Chabuda of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) battled it out with her Zanu PF male opponent Simbarashe Mutemeri in the 9 December 2023 by-elections, and emerged victorious despite the challenges often faced by women when running for political office.
The first-time councillor was sworn in by the Zvishavane Town Council on 5 January 2024.
Chabuda takes over from the late Cherita Mundoka, who passed away a few weeks after being re-elected during the August 2023 elections.
Women’s representation in the mining town’s local authority has been increasing. There are eight female councillors out of the 13 councillors. Three of them were elected through proportional representation.
Asked on the challenges she faced during her campaign, Chabuda said it was nothing she could not handle.
“Challenges were here and there, but my ward is already dominated by CCC so this made it easier for me to reach out to the community for support,” she said.
Chabuda joined mainstream politics when she was a youth.
“I started actively participating in politics in 1999 when the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was formed. I was 24 years old,” she says.
Chabuda said victimisation of opposition parties was still a thing then as it is now.
“What pushed me to join politics as a young woman was that I was in the working class and everyone could see the signs of an economic meltdown. As members of the opposition we were victimised a lot back then,” Chabuda says.
Almost three decades later, the victimisation of opposition political party members persists in Zimbabwe, with women being the worst affected.
Chabuda joins the few women who have successfully braved the hostile political environment at a time when the decrease in women’s political participation is becoming increasingly worrisome.
“All I can say about women’s political participation is: women should not be afraid. We must learn to take the bull by its horns, and when we are trusted with positions we must go out there and execute,” Chabuda urged fellow women in politics.
The new councillor says one of her key priorities is ensuring that women and girls are socially and economically empowered.
“A lot of women and girls are jobless and this has driven them into prostitution and drug abuse. I hope I can find donors who can help them undertake sustainable projects. I will also lobby council to build a marketplace in the ward so that the women and girls have their own vending stalls,” said Chabuda.
She also says she will tackle issues of service delivery head-on.
“I’m setting up a standing committee which will provide reports on sewer bursts, broken water pipes and everything else that compromises effective service delivery.”
She added that in light of the cholera outbreak, she will ensure adequate water supply to deal away with the medieval disease.
*This article was supported by the Canadian Embassy in Zimbabwe in partnership with the Centre for Public Interest Journalism (The NewsHawks)