Zambia National Women’s Lobby (ZNWL) has observed that research and peer mentorship among female politicians is important for their effective contribution to the development of the country.

ZNWL Executive Director Juliet Chibuta says female politicians must be innovative and utilise the advancements in technology to build their political careers.

Ms. Chibuta cited ICTs as one of the tools that if properly utilised can contribute to an effective political career.

She said ZNWL has just concluded a project called ‘Count Me In’ funded by Free Press Unlimited which trained 200 female aspiring candidates from six districts in the effective use of ICTs as tools for information dissemination and canvassing.

“On this project, we worked with all the active political parties who identified women aspiring to contest at local government level in 2016, the project was implemented in Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi,Mufulira, Chililabombwe, Lusaka and Monze” Ms Chibuta explained.

Ms. Chibuta disclosed that 170 female politicians have accessed smart phones through a ZNWL marching fund which was introduced to enable the female politicians purchase the Huawei Y330 smart phones at a subsidised price adding that over 140 of these women did not have prior knowledge of the use of ICTs.

She said the project identified smart phones as the easiest way for the women to access information using the internet. The women were using ICTs applications such as Whatsapp and Facebook to participate in the project.

Ms. Chibuta said the project has revealed the urgent need to strengthen the use of ICTs amongst women in politics as most of them are aware of ICTs but are not accessing and using them.

“In the previous elections, many men have been able to use ICTs for campaign but few women do so,” Ms. Chibuta said.

Ms. Chibuta further explained that the introduction of the use of smart phones to the female politicians was complimented by leadership trainings which encompassed all aspects of leadership development and fund raising for election campaigns which was another area of concern for female politicians.

One of the project beneficiaries, Gift Kapila of the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) said the project has exposed the female politicians to the demands and requirements of modern political careers.

Ms. Kapila said the project has enhanced cross party collaboration and peer mentorship amongst the female politicians who participated in the project.

“We exchanged ideas as politicians on Facebook and Whatsapp even beyond the project. We have continued to communicate using the social media platforms that we have learnt to use such as Facebook and Whatsapp. It was quite an enriching process, I only wish such initiatives can be taken to other areas so that more women politicians can benefit especially at local government level where capacity needs are many,” Ms. Kapila said.