By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni
Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association (BVTA) has successfully executed Leadership and Advocacy Trainings in Bulawayo’ 29 wards targeting its Wards Committee structures, poised to inspire vendors and informal traders to have better lives.
The objects of the trainings were to enhance the leadership and public policy advocacy capabilities of its ward structures. One hundred and ninety seven (197) members of the Ward Structures were trained. BVTA carried out trainings after noting that most those occupying positions lacked adequate leadership and advocacy skills that hinder their effectiveness in mobilizing and providing leadership at local level. This is part of BVTA`s broad strategy as enshrined in their 2016 – 2018 Strategic Plan to build capacity of vendors to be able function and have better lives.
The scope of the trainings focused on BVTA Constitution and reminded the structures on their leadership constitutional obligations, their term of office as well as functions and roles played by BVTA Executive Committee.
Essentially the trainings acquainted members of Ward Structures about key aspects in leadership. The trainings emphasized that leadership is about motivation, inspiring people to aspire and make positive contributions in communities and changing their lives. Ward structures were sharpened with knowledge on qualities of good leaders for example that good leaders have a vision for the future, have strength of personality, the will power of a never say die attitude.
The Ward structures were made aware that good leadership is not about use of coercive means, force, and abuse of authority, abuse of power or use of threats to get the work done.
The course handed BVTA Ward leaders with a tools box of leadership skills that is envisaged to assist in leading membership within communities. It emphasized that leadership skills are tools, behaviors and capabilities that a person needs in order to be at motivating and directing others. The skills were portrayed as characters of professions such as the behavior of a Captain who directs the sail, who delegates duties, gardener someone who cultivates trusts and makes members of the group feel the sense of belonging and ownership of the group or organization. Furthermore, a diplomat someone who is able to solve conflicts that are inevitable in groups, the talk show host someone who is an effective communicator and who masters nonverbal communication among other skills.
The training course was complemented by imparting vendors with lobby and advocacy skills that will enable vendors and informal traders to organize themselves and speak against to find solutions that affect them in their day to day lives. The course has already to motivated vendors to organize themselves and speak in one voice in order to improve their conditions especially the constant violation of rights and abuse from law enforcement agents. An increase of vendors visiting the organizational offices to join the association has been recorded.
One woman vendor from Ward 7 confessed how the training has helped her to change the way she thinks and conducted her business “I have been stuck in my vending bay for the rest of my life to the point that I had quit attending church services, these trainings have made me to gain useful information to do other things, I have learnt that I can delegate someone to remain manning my vending bay whilst I attend to other issues in the community and seeking other opportunities that may arise in the informal sector”
The trainings envisages to improve coordination of activities of vendors and informal traders at ward level. This form of decentralization will make the organisation more accessible and be able to promptly respond to the needs of vendors across the city.