Jennifer Bent: the importance of women in leadership

When Jennifer Bent was elected Bulawayo city councillor for ward six in 2008 along with three other women, it was not easy for them to articulate their views in the male-dominated council.

Bulawayo city councillor, Jennifer Bent.
Bulawayo city councillor, Jennifer Bent.

Bent went into council on a Welshman Ncube-led MDC ticket but defected to the mainstream MDC in 2009. The MDC-T dominate the council with 23 councillors, while Ncube’s party has got only five councillors.

“When I was elected councillor, male councillors used to underrate us and not take our views seriously. At times we were ridiculed and our contributions were suppressed by the men,” said Bent.

She added that after the council and civil organisations ran gender equality campaigns, male councillors now appreciated the importance of women in leadership.

“Almost every councillor has attended a gender workshop. Our male councillors now appreciate our role as councillors and we are working very well with them now,” she said.

Self-help projects

Since her election into council, the 66-year-old has initiated a number of self-help projects for the residents in the ward. One of the major projects was securing housing stands from the council for victims of operation murambatsvina. So far 53 households have benefitted from the housing scheme.

“We have a lot of murambatsvina victims in my ward, some of whom are staying in squalid conditions at Sidojiwe flats. I have managed to negotiate 102 stands for these people. I have opened a bank account for them and they have been depositing monthly contributions for the stands,” said the councillor.

The councillor has also secured land for the establishment of a nutritional garden for the elderly and people living with HIV and Aids. Bent said her immediate plan is to establish a multi -purpose community centre in the ward.

“My vision is to construct a community centre which will have a hall, pre-school, recreational and skills training facilities for the youth and adult literacy training centre,” she said.

Bent paid tribute to the Member of Parliament for the area, Eddie Cross, for putting the Constituency Development Fund to good use.

“Residents in my ward are happy with the way the CDF was allocated. The distribution process was transparent and every stakeholder was consulted,” she added.

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