ZVISHAVANE Town Council vice-chairperson Itai Pasira has vowed to push for the prioritisation of women’s socio-economic needs in the local and national budget, as the 2024 budget consultative meetings kick off in most local authorities.
Pasira is one of a few women who were elected as deputy mayors in local authorities in the just-ended elections.
“For years, I have always been vocal about women’s issues and I have always pointed out policies that are not gender sensitive. I have been a councillor for three consecutive terms but I kept seeing the suppression of women’s voices in council’s programming,” Pasira said.
Pasira is a Citizens’ Coalition for Change councillor for ward 8 in Maglas, one of the poorly serviced high-density residential suburbs in the mining town.
The ward is part of the Shabanie-Mashava Mine premises. After the collapse of the former asbestos giant, the area experienced poor social service provision.
The community grapples with water shortages, poor housing, use of public toilets, unavailability of healthcare facilities and generally poor standards of living.
Women are among the most vulnerable groups in this particular community.
“As a councillor for a privately owned mining area, I have faced a lot of setbacks in trying to address community needs at local governance level because for a long time there were clashes between the local authority and the mine over ownership and service provision for the area,” Pasira said.
“When I was elected vice-chairperson, people in my ward were very happy because they finally had hopes that their issues would be heard and addressed. Women’s issues were rarely prioritised, but now I have a chance to speak from a position of authority.”
Pasira said as a woman in politics she has had a fair share of challenges.
“The political arena is hostile, women are labelled and we are limited by socio-cultural beliefs which undermine women’s ability to lead,” Pasira said.
At a personal level, Pasira says being elected vice-chairperson boosted her confidence.
“When I was at committee level, I felt like most issues we raised as women were being sidelined, but ever since I was elected in that position, I feel capable of influencing decisions that are made in the local authority. I am positive that in the coming five years I would have achieved a lot,” she said.
Asked on her priorities for this term, Pasira said her main target is to push for more women to participate in the 2024 budget consultation meetings.
“Right now, the 2024 budget cycle has begun, with consultations currently going on. There are a lot of gender needs that have often been left out in budget allocations, but this time I will encourage women to attend these consultations and be very vocal about their needs. If women do not attend these important meetings, decisions are made on their behalf. Women are the most affected by poor service delivery, hence their participation is important,” she said.
Pasira also urged women to approach every office in the local authority without fear whenever there are issues such as unattended sewage pipe bursts and poor refuse collection, which have been a great challenge in the mining town.
Women’s representation in Zvishavane Town Council has also been increasing as currently there are eight females out of the 13 total councillors, although three were elected through proportional representation.
“Indeed, women’s representation in our council has been increasing over the years and at this rate it is possible to have an all-female council in the coming terms. This is a reflection of the mobilisation efforts we have been doing trying to encourage women to occupy leadership spaces. When women are in positions of authority, they always push for positive development because of their caregiving nature,” Pasira said.