The aims of this training were to create sustainable local security structures allowing traditional leaders to solve community conflicts; and to equip leaders with skills to manage and resolve conflict.
In Zimbabwe, traditional leaders have been involved in solving conflicts for many decades. Their skills are generally passed from generation to generation, instead of through formal training in conflict transformation.
In this blog, we share the reflections of four traditional leaders who took part in the training, as well as two community members. They shared how these training courses have not only transformed their lives on a personal level, but also in their courts and communities.
The oldest traditional leader, Mr. Chishato, is believed to be over 80 years old. He said that since the conflict transformation training with Envision, he’s used the conflict analysis tools he learned to relate to different attitudes, behaviors and contexts in order to understand the positions of conflicting parties.
Mr Nsingo, a village head, confessed that he used to give his own opinion to matters and failed to give both parties, especially women, space to express their views on the issues that really affected them. His approach to mediation used to involve setting a course of action, regardless of how each party felt towards the solution. He admitted that his approach never addressed the root cause of conflicts, and so recurring fights were common. However, after receiving the training he has experienced a massive change in his courts and is appreciative of the knowledge he acquired from Envision.
“I have received knowledge which I never had before; I am now equipped and I have benefitted a lot in the capacity of problem solving. I now have wisdom to deal with conflicts and also respect the rights of women and girls. I have been helped a lot in terms of some of the harmful cultural practises that brought women down and perpetuated violence and conflict towards them as an inferior gender, I thus vow to use my leadership skills to transform attitudes and behaviours of people in my village” remarked Village head Mr. Gandawa.
Mrs Kaundura is one of the very few female village heads. She told Envision how pleased she is that all traditional leaders were involved and trained. She is happy that the project recognises her as a female village head because in most cases being in a patriarchal society they are not recognised. She also appreciated the way that the trainers conduct the lessons in an interesting and understandable way, recognizing that there are associated cultural, gender and differences.
Members of the peace committees also felt satisfied with the changes seen after the training. One community member, Mrs Gamanya, expressed her appreciation for a project that recognises women as capable of leading and making important decisions and seeks to empower them. She highlighted that for a long time in her community, women were never on equal footing as their male counterparts in community decision making platforms. Envision Zimbabwe’s project has created shared platforms for men and women to address issues and support women to take part in the development of their communities, including handling and resolving conflict in non-violent ways. The community is happy that Envision have established sustainable violence prevention mechanisms where women and men are equally represented. This work is setting a good example and best practice for other community leaders in the surrounding areas to emulate.
Mai Honye was excited that women’s rights and the protection of women and girls from all forms of violence has finally been prioritised within community leadership. This is critical given the fact that abuse and violence towards women and girls is sometimes normalized in conservative and patriarchal rural societies of Zimbabwe. However, with the awareness raising and continuous training aimed at ending all forms of violence, Ms. Honye feels that women in her community now feel better protected and are now in a position to fully enjoy their rights.
Envision Zimbabwe told us how all the local leaders and community members who were involved with this project agreed that these trainings had improved overall community relations, and contributed to peace and order. The training on inclusive leadership has been particularly effective, they said. Traditional leaders preside over the traditional courts in rural Zimbabwe and therefore play a crucial role in the delivery of justice when disputes occur at the community level. As such, improving traditional leaders’ understanding of conflicts and how these could be peacefully resolved is so important in conflict management in communities across Hurungwe. Thanks to Envision’s efforts, Traditional leaders now feel in a better position to maintain peace and cohesion in their community as well as to use conflict transformation techniques in their traditional courts.
Many thanks to the players of People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting this work.