Commonwealth Local Government Forum

CLGF project recognised by Jo Cox Foundation

17 September 2023

 

CLGF is rightfully proud of all the hard work and achievements of our members throughout the Commonwealth. This is why it was so gratifying when one of these projects was recognised by the Jo Cox Foundation and highlighted by them last month.

Political and economic empowerment

The project – Connecting the Dots – was delivered in collaboration with GenderLinks, and took place across four countries of Southern Africa from 2019 to 2021:  Eswatini, Lesotho, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The aim was to empower women both politically and economically in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5 – addressing the low take-up of women in politics and in entrepreneurship. With a grant of £1 million from the Jo Cox Foundation, the project consisted of building various key networks in the four countries, to bring women together.

Training, network and mentoring

By creating an enabling environment, women could share ideas, concerns and assist in encouraging more women to get involved in local government politics, or to start their own businesses. Through training sessions, networking events and mentoring sessions, the project helped to develop leadership skills and build confidence. The networks included those dedicated to political empowerment to address underrepresentation in local politics; and also those which sought to encourage the promotion of entrepreneurship and setting up businesses. They included special groups for young women, bringing together with more experienced women, ultimately leading to benefits for many communities. The projects culminated in business fairs in each of the countries, allowing women to come together with the key players who can advise on building businesses, clearly demonstrating that there is a place for women in politics and business.

Ongoing action

Not just a one-off exercise, these groups are continuing to this day, helping women overcome the particular obstacles which prevent them from standing for public office, or making a living to help their families. Obstacles such as personal harassment or abuse; lack of funding for campaigns; having the major role of bringing up a family; not being able to obtain loans or owning properties; and simply not being taken seriously, and being dismissed for being a women.

 

The networks continue to share lessons learned while taking action to increase visibility, opportunities and voice for women and youth, within and across the four countries.

 

Just a few of the achievements across the four countries:

 

  • The project reached over 3,400 women and young people
  • It achieved a 52% increase in women councillors holding senior positions, such as mayors and committee chairpersons
  • In Zimbabwe, a bill was successfully passed to implement a 30% quota for women in local government, confirming that the network’s use of evidence-based advocacy was a key factor in the support of the country’s President for the bill.

 

These are only the headlines and the challenges are so diverse, but all represent major barriers for women. One HR manager in Zambia, after joining the Young Women in Local Government network chose to focus on women and girls in rural areas by founding the NGO, Equal Privileges for All, which makes sanitary hygiene products available to every schoolgirl in her region, ensuring that no girl will be absent from school due to lack of access to these products.  

Continuing the work of Jo Cox

None of this would have been possible without the Jo Cox Memorial grant to CLGF. Jo had worked in the development sector, before becoming a Member of the UK Parliament. She believed in partnerships and working positively for the best outcomes for everyone. When she was cruelly murdered in 2016, this not only brought heartbreak to her family and all who knew her, it also put an end to the important work she had set out to do. Through the Jo Cox Memorial fund, and in her name, this work will continue and she will inspire people, through projects like Connecting the Dots.

 

Read more on the Jo Cox Memorial Fund page with quotes from some of the participants.  

 

Read the personal experiences of participants in our Stories of Change.

 

 

  

 

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