WOMEN’S MONTH: Women teachers must be empowered financially

As the world celebrates Women’s Month in March, the Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association Women’s Representative Juliet Chikomo, has vowed to fight for female teachers’ empowerment.

Chikomo’s main vision is to attain 50/50 representation in union leadership roles, and business empowerment projects.

She narrated how she started as a teacher 31 years ago in Sanyati, Mashonaland West Province in 1993.

As a 22-year-old teacher, Chikomo joined ZIMTA after being introduced by her headmaster at the school in Sanyati.

Even over 30 years later, Chikomo vividly remembers how she got excited after receiving a ZIMTA diary, which had information about conditions of service.

“The diary was popular among teachers; it was a source of reference, especially for the young teacher from college as it had all the information,” said Chikomo.

“ZIMTA was and still is known for defending its members, especially against unfair work practices. Even in the absence of a lawyer, just the mention of the organisation earned respect and attention. As a young member, I benefitted from this service when I had to face a transfer issue.”

Chikomo believes that women teachers have the power to influence change socio-political-economical sphere.

She thinks that if the power and influence women wielded in the domestic sphere could be transferred into politics, it could bring a difference in unionism.

“Power comes from money, and because of the patriarchal nature of our society coupled with poor remuneration by the employer, women are still lagging economically. I am looking at owning companies, women teachers have to move from the handbag, tuck-shops and selling small things school or vegetables on the market,” Chikomo added.

“For years, teachers have been reeling under poor remuneration and when funds are short, it is the woman that suffers the most. As such, my main thrust would be empowering women economically as we continue on the road to 50/50 representative.”

The ZIMTA Women’s Representative said economically empowered women can make independent decisions.

“Women teachers need financial education to enable them to run their own companies professionally. ZIMTA could organise such training workshops for women teachers.

“Women teachers need to own property in their names; land is an important acquisition and by creating relations with the Ministry of Lands, some women can have access to land. Those who are in rural schools can go into farming, as individuals or groups.”

She suggested that ZIMTA could offer project loans to enable women teachers to run their own companies.

Young women teachers, Chikomo said, should participate in unionism.

She was quick to warn that it was cumbersome for a woman to assume leadership positions as it comes with sacrifices.

“You (female leaders) will face criticism and even labelled but you have to know how to get out of it all with your head still intact. You also need to be calm and stay positive.  You need the support of others especially members of your province because on your own you may fail to stand,” Chikomo said.

On ZIMTA membership drive, Chikomo is of the position that teacher needs have changed rapidly over the years and now many consider if there are tangible benefits or not.

“Sport used to be an incentive and I think it can still be revived as a recruitment tool as young women constitute the majority of the participants,” she said.

Chikomo then went down memory lane narrating how she rose through the ranks to be what she is today in labour unionism.

She started as a primary school representative and later became the vice chairperson of the Kariba Urban Branch.

“I became the provincial women teachers’ representative before rising to the position of national primary schools representative during a by-election. During this time, I experienced the peak of my career as we participated in recruitment activities, which were held across the provinces.

“I remember being posted to Mashonaland Central during one of those activities; It was quite an experience to address members and also convince them to join ZIMTA,” she said.

Labour activism flows in her blood as she participated in numerous job actions that ZIMTA organised against poor remuneration.

She remembers one day during a demonstration, she was bold enough to wield placards to Parliament to protest against poor salaries and conditions of service.

“Later, I took part in picketing at one time when we had to convince other members of the civil service to join teachers in an industrial action. It was quite an experience because of the volatile political atmosphere,” she said.


ZIMTA Membership Form