Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow
with comments by
International Forum for Democratic Studies
With women comprising less than five percent of public office holders in Zimbabwe, the need to engender women’s participation in the country is clear. Yet the participation of women, particularly young women between the ages of 15 to 35, is consistently overlooked as a necessary part of the country’s democratization process, and this challenge is compounded for young women in marginalized communities. Within the broader struggle for democracy, young women must first overcome negative socio-cultural norms that prevent them from participating in public processes. If they are able to cross that hurdle, young women must then penetrate a polarized political arena. In the increasingly fragile political space in Zimbabwe, the barriers these young women face must be overcome with creative strategies that are tailored to addressing their challenges. In her presentation, Zimbabwean women’s rights advocate Glanis Changachirere explored the difficulties young women face and the strategies her organization, the Institute for Young Women Development, has used to combat these challenges. She the provided recommendations for organizations pursuing similar work. Her presentation was followed by comments by Lisa VeneKlasen.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Ms. Glanis Changachirere is founding director of the Institute for Young Women Development, a NED grantee organization that promotes the political participation of young women in Zimbabwe’s marginalized communities. She is a feminist and former student leader, who has courageously broken down barriers between tradition and contemporary democratic societies by fostering dialogue between young women and leaders in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central. In recognition of her pioneering work, she received a 2013 Democracy Award from NED and in 2015 earned a seat on the World Movement for Democracy’s Steering Committee. Her inspirational story is told in “Girl Child,” a short documentary film produced by the World Movement. During her fellowship, Ms. Changachirere is conducting comparative analysis, reflecting on lessons learned, and investigating strategies for young women’s political participation in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ms. Lisa VeneKlasen is founding director of Just Associates (JASS), a global women-led human rights network of activists, popular educators and scholars in 31 countries. She has worked with women’s rights and development organizations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, relocating to Zimbabwe to design and coordinate a 10-country training and networking project that led to the creation of the pan-African Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF).