The Constitutional dispensation allots the mandate to conduct voter education to the EMB the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). The Electoral Act details how the EMB will conduct voter education in collaboration with its stakeholders which are the Civic Society Organisations (CSOs). This workshop was held against the backdrop of harmonising operations between the EMB and CSOs as well as equipping participants from these institutions with necessary skills and knowledge on conducting public outreach programmes. The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) in collaboration with ZEC organised this workshop on public outreach which was held at Amber Hotel in Mutate from the 13th to the 15th of October 2015.
Facilitators were drawn from a pool of BRIDGE facilitators who comprised of Mr Zefinias Matsimbe (M) (accrediting facilitator), Mr Utloile Silaigwana (a.k.a Sly) (M) (workshop facilitator), Ms Rejoice Sibanda (F) (accrediting facilitator) and Mr Blessing Dzwowa (M)(semi-accredited facilitator). There were thirty (30) participants who comprised of the EMB staff, representatives from Human Rights groups (ZimRights), the Faith Based Organisations, and the youths and the women. The participants’ gender achieved a fair distribution and was disaggregated as follows: 16 men and14 women.
The workshop was organised in such a manner that it progressed from the known to the unknown, from the general to the specifics, The worksshop began through explaining what Bridge was, what the course was all about why it was ideal for electoral officers and how it was to be delivered in order to maximise benefits from it. Apart from explaining the BRIDGE aspect and the methodologies, the workshop went on to interrogate issues to do with principles of voter information and civic education which coherently led to other critical issues on public outreach programmes.
Some of the major areas of interest in the course content were as follows; why voter information/civic education, legal framework, steps taken to develop public outreach programmes, mediums and strategies for public outreach programmes, gender considerations, designing voter information and civic education programmes and monitoring and evaluating public outreach programmes.
The workshop was delivered in terms and according to the BRIDGE methodologies which utilised adult learning techniques. This made the workshop enjoyable and rendered a warm and relaxed learning environment. The learning environment suddenly became a hub of activities with continuous cross pollination of ideas. One of the CSOs representatives Nyasha from the Women Coalition Of Zimbabwe (WCOZ) who participated in the workshop categorically stated that “resources permitting, all electoral managers should go through all the BRIDGE modules to be well equipped in election management” This view was also supported by other participants.
Asked how she benefited from the BRIDGE workshop, one of the EMB staff who was a participant, Esther Pasi echoed the following sentiments “I have been equipped with the knowledge that helped change my attitude towards public outreach programmes. This helped me to link BRIDGE concepts with the practical aspects of civic and voter education”
Participants unanimously agreed that there was need to consider more BRIDGE workshops which will culminate into a well-skilled workforce available for service in electoral management.