MASVINGO – “As a young woman in politics, the ground is not fair, there is a lot of intimidation, hate speech, stress that comes with it be it financially or emotionally and they try as much to bring you down. It’s easy to bring a woman down than it is for a man,” said Shantel Chiwara who recently won as the ward 2 councillor for Masvingo Municipality under the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC).
Having joined politics at a tender age (16) and also growing up with a political background, Chiwara, who is now 25 years, said she joined politics first just for the sake of it, but as she continued doing political activities, she developed passion and the desire to bring change.
“I started facing challenges when I assumed positions in my party. Fairly speaking, it is not a fair ground compared to men. When I was finally chosen to represent my party I was excited and the same time scared because it’s a road that I had never passed through.
“However, as you go through the processes you might as well overcome these challenges. I cannot say it is easy but you just have to overcome anything that comes your way. If you are not strong you can go into depression,” she said.
According to her, although the journey was hard, she learnt a lot from the experiences shaped her to what she is today.
“For someone like me who was running for that post for the first time, I faced a lot of hardships in my party, I later understood that it’s a competition, and in a competition you have to face some people who will not approve what you do. I faced a lot of intimidation. At one point I thought of quitting, but I just said let me soldier on,” she added.
Chiwara added that she overcame some of the challenges she faced through prayer rather than answering back at people who said bad things about her.
She however felt honoured to be elected among a large number of men and to her the goal is to inspire other young women to join politics and to show them that women can actually do better than what men do as far as politics is concerned.
“I will not be able to work alone, I need the help of council and residents and others surrounding me who have better ideas than myself,” she added.
Only two women won as ward councillors in Masvingo urban and the other one who is also a CCC member Sabina Chikwangwani said politics for women needs someone who is not fainthearted.
She joined politics since the formation of MDC-T in 1999 when it was led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai at the age of 26.
“I started contesting in 2018 as ward councillor for the then ward 2 before the delimitation process. I did not have money as my male counterpart so he used that to gain power and he won.
“I was a single mother and vendor and you know the perception that people have on us it’s really challenging. My other fellow women looked down upon me and they can go as far as pulling you down,” she said.
During this year’s nomination process at the party level, Chikwangwani said most men did not want her name to be sent for approval because she was one of the party’s longest-serving member.
“I was the last to send my name and fortunately my name was chosen. It’s the confidence that my party leaders had in me, I have been loyal to the party, that is why I was chose.
“During my campaign to the elections, frankly speaking I did not have money. Mind you, I am a single mother and vendor and there is nothing much that we get from the sales, so I relied on sponsors who provided for fliers, transport and even food,” she said.
According to Chikwangwani, other opposition parties took advantage of her weaknesses, especially the lack of money, and lured some of her party members to work against her.
“During election day, some women in my party were used to de-campaign me. They were given food hampers and money, but this did not work; I came out victorious,” she said.
She however promised to change the face of ward 1 by introducing different projects to all age groups.
“Our ward is the first to be built, especially kwavaMuzenda, there is overpopulation and some of the toilets are dilapidated. We will look for helpers to help us,” she added.