Enlightening, refreshing, unique’ are just some of the words that participants have used to describe the just ended two-part, five day BRIDGE training workshop organised by Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, from 7 to 11 May 2012.
35 participants from over 30 civic society organisations committed their time and experience to the courses that were designed to help professionals in the development sector craft programmes that are effective in voter registration and civic education campaigns.
Ms Rindai Chipfunde-Vava, ZESN Director and co-facilitator introduced participants to the programme explained that, ‘BRIDGE stands for Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections. It is a 23 module course that covers all aspects needed for the training of practitioners involved in democracy, governance and election processes, which civic education is also a component. For this training two modules voter registration and civic education were selected specifically for practitioners in civil society. It was specifically designed to equip Zimbabwean CSOs with advocacy skills and also to identify and design projects that can benefit communities that they work with to understand and fully involved in participatory democracy’.
Despite the varying experiences that facilitators, Tomsie Dlamini from South Africa, Taona Mwanyisa based in Zambia and Rindai Vava from Zimbabwe had, they managed to shape the programme to apply to the Zimbabwean context in a way that participants were able to relate to.
The course covered a number of aspects including voter registration types and processes and the challenges faced in Zimbabwe, crafting of election messages and how to involve marginalised groups such as women, youths and people living with disabilities.
Speaking on this issue one of the participants remarked, “I have found the workshop very useful especially at this time when there are many speculations about when and how elections in Zimbabwe will be conducted.. Looking at the past election experience of 2008, I would like to see a great change in the way the next election is going to be carried out. This training has equipped me with relevant information on how to mobilise young people in my constituency to take part fully in the elections”.
The teaching methodologies utilised varied from debates, group activities, and energisers. These were very effective for the mixed group of young and older development practitioners who were coming from different regions, cultures and professional disciplines.
Participants were drawn from Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands, Masvingo and Bulawayo. Most of them expressed interest in taking up the full BRIDGE course which would enable them to become facilitators of the same course to others. They called on ZESN to make it possible for the group to do the remainder of the courses so that they can be fully equipped to implement the programme in their different areas.