Following the death of Zvomuya Village Head Traditional Ward in Mrewa, Mashonaland East
Province in 2006, Lilian Zvomuya, (51) never thought herself as the incoming Village Head. Being a woman, the position of Village Head was traditionally beyond her on grounds of gender than merit. However, when the Chief gathered all the villagers for a meeting to nominate a new Village Head, Zvomuya was surprised to be the only woman among three shortlisted candidates. When the Chief asked the villagers to line up behind the candidate of their choice, she had more people behind her than both her male contestants.
Speaking during an interview in Mrehwa, Zvomuya said, “I was surprised at being the only woman among two man nominated to be candidates for the Headship. The mere nomination of a woman, let alone my winning, was beyond everyone’s imagination as Village Heads have always been males. “Initially, it was not easy for people to have confidence in me, as their Village Head. They we’re doubting my capabilities not on merit, but on the basis of my gender with some even contesting my nomination, but the Chief stood his ground.” said Zvomuya.
A mother of three, Zvomuya his renowned for her work ethics. She said, ‘As a farmer, my household never goes hungry. I set myself as an example for the village, by working hard on my field. I am glad that they are now emulating me.’Some people used to think that I use Africa magic to get bumper harvests every year, but they now appreciate that with hard work, they too can have good yields. It is pleasing that they now even get surpluses, and many women have started income generating projects such as market gardening, chicken rearing and joining serving clubs,’ she narrated.
Her fellow villagers now have a new perspective towards development. She instilled a sense of commitment to working hard in one’s fields that none of her subjects still do piece work,(maricho) on other people’s fields.Spurred by the manner in which she has transformed her village, Zvomuya is not resting on her laurels. She has set her sights on improving on her qualifications in preparation for running in Councilor Elections. Zvomuya has been a Village Head for the past 12 years.
Though the number of women in traditional leadership are still low, women are breaking new ground in this previously male exclusive leadership. As it stands we now have six female Chiefs, 13 Headwomen.
Further, the Constitution of Zimbabwe recognizes that both men and women can preside over their communities. Section 280 (2) states that “A traditional leader is responsible for performing the cultural, customary and traditional fucntions of a Chief, Head person or Village Head, for his or her community. This is to say women and men can lead as traditional leaders in theircommunities.
Zvomuya urges her fellow women not to fear taking leadership positions. The local based leadership of Zvomuya, humble as it might sound is a laudable step towards the realisation of women in leadership from grassroots to national level which, Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) Zimbabwe has been advocating for.