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By Salim Dawood

FEMALE councilors from Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe have gathered in Lusaka for a three-day regional summit to share notes on how they can be effective leaders as well as increase women’s participation in leadership roles.

The summit is expected to tackle a wide range of issues including lobbying, financing, support mobilization for females in or vying for leadership positions and the challenges they may face and and how to deal with them.

The conference themed: “Creating regional learning networks towards achieving gender equality in local government” has been convened by HIVOS under the Women Empowered for Leadership programme who by this hope to promote equal and meaningful participation of women in decision making.

HIVOS programme manager for Women Empowerment in Zambia, Ketty Simasiku, said the purpose of the summit was to enhance capacity and participation for women.

Zambian Participants with Minister Elizabeth Phiri

“HIVOS is trying to share knowledge on how to retain seats and also to encourage women who are aspiring to be councilors,” she explained.

Discussing strategies to achieve equal representation (50:50) is also on the on the agenda for the meeting.

On the second day of the conference, participants will also be taken on field trips in different wards of Lusaka.

The Zambian minister of gender Elizabeth Phiri opened the conference on Tuesday morning with a message of encouragement for the participants.

Minister Elizabeth Phiri speaks to the Local Government representatives at the summit

Phiri hoped that the gathering will impact positively in addressing the challenges that hinder women from participating in politics.

There are many factors that hinder women from political participation, ranging from patriarchal systems, social, religious and cultural norms. Further, institutional, structural or policy-based barriers and political violence make it difficult for women to break into the male-dominated world of politics,” the minister observed.

She also cited limited financial resources for campaigns, low public opinion of women leaders, low self esteem and lower expectations of women in political office as other reasons that stood in the way of women’s rise into leadership.

The minister however, noted that it was important to empower women councilors in order to achieve the desired result.

She noted that women remained under represented in key decision-making positions, especially those in political offices more than two decades after signing the Beijing platform for action in 1995.

“Without the active participation of women and incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision-making, sustainable development goal number five will not be achieved,” she said.

Phiri urged participants to make use of the conference to learn from one another and increase the numbers of women in leadership.