Mayors championing local democracy

To collect best practices and inspire local politicians, ICLD wanted to highlight mayors who are true changemakers. Mayors from around the world who have made positive transformations for local democracy in their locality; leaders demonstrating commitment and action for equity, inclusion, transparency and/or accountability.

We reached far and wide to ask people to nominate a mayor who had made a positive change in their municipality in the last 10 years. 141 nominations (name and motivation) later, we shortlisted the candidates with the most clear and convincing descriptions of positive change – champions of local democracy.

Here are the selected candidates, enjoy and be inspired!

Kanungwe Chota – Kanchibiya (Zambia)   

Kanungwe Chota is a dedicated and hardworking civic leader serving as the Mayor of Kanchibiya District in Zambia. She has actively contributed to the development of her community, particularly in the areas of education, women empowerment, and infrastructure. Kanungwe has used the Constituency Development Fund to support vulnerable children and rural youth in pursuing further studies.  

She has initiated and implemented various developmental projects, including the construction of water systems, clinics, schools, and roads. Her efforts have improved access to services and positively impacted the lives of the people in her district. Kanungwe has also supported the local council in acquiring essential equipment such as a motor grader and tractor for road construction.  

She is known for engaging with her community and stakeholders, promoting girl child education, women empowerment, and inclusivity in governance. Kanungwe’s integrity, commitment, and hard work have made her a role model and inspiration for many, especially the youth.  Kanungwe emphasizes transparency, works with marginalized groups, and energizes both young and old for the betterment of Kanchibiya.  

She is passionate about rural development and is determined to uplift her community with her youthful mind and wisdom. 

Kanungwe Chota, Mayor of the Kanchibiya district, Zambia. Photo: ICLD

More information:  

Pero Kostadinov – Valandovo (North Macedonia) 

Pero Kostadinov, the mayor of Valandovo, has implemented several initiatives and projects to create a more inclusive and transparent society. When he took office in 2017, the municipality had a non-functional website with limited data and no room for development or citizen involvement. However, in 2018, a new website was developed, an IT administrator was hired, and new IT equipment was acquired, leading to significant improvements in the municipality’s technical capacity. These efforts paid off, as the municipality of Valandovo ranked first among all municipalities in terms of active transparency, according to research conducted by the Center for Civil Communications.  

Digitalization has played a crucial role in the administration’s operations. Mayor Pero Kostadinov introduced various digital tools that enhance accessibility to local self-government and facilitate direct communication and cooperation between citizens and the institution such as the “mZaednica” digital tool that enables two-way electronic communication between citizens and the local government (see more here). This tool proved to be especially valuable during the Covid-19 pandemic as a reliable channel for communication with citizens. Kostadinov also promotes the initiative “Select waste”, a digital tool that aims to motivate citizens to participate in waste selection while providing them with personal monetary benefits, which currently is helping select 6 to 7 tons of waste annually.  

Some other important measures he has taken:  

  1. Support of MKD 20,000 per person for individuals with disabilities, during times of energy and economic crisis. This subsidy benefited 56 families in the local community. 
  • Encouraging citizen inclusivity in the budgeting process through digital tools. More than 150 ideas were proposed by citizens and considered for inclusion in the 2023 budget.  
  • The local Youth Council was established to provide a platform for their involvement. Over the past year, 76 official activities related to youth were recorded, highlighting the municipality’s commitment to youth empowerment and participation in community affairs. 
Pero Kostadinov, Mayor of Valandovo municipality, North Macedonia. Photo: Valandovo official website.

More information:  

Chilando Chitangala – Lusaka (Zambia)  

Chilando Chitangala is the Mayor of Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. She leads a dedicated team and has achieved various improvements in local democracy, such as the establishment of the Junior Council, which aims to enhance youth participation in civic matters, involving junior councilors. In order to involve young people and women in decision-making processes, Chilando has also created an open-door policy to interact with residents and understand their needs.  

Chitangala is the Vice-chairperson of the Covenant of Mayors in sub-Saharan Africa (CoMSSA) RMF, representing and elevating the voices of over 300 cities in project coordination, planning, and mobilizing other mayors to access climate finance and energy resources. She has also advocated for women and girls in leadership positions.  

In her administration, she has focused on improving data collection and analysis for effective planning, gender, and social inclusion, climate change and environmental protection, strategic planning, slum upgrading, and youth engagement. She actively fosters partnerships and income-generating initiatives to provide equitable services, improve informal settlements, and combat HIV/AIDS. 

Chilando Chitangala, Mayor of Lusaka, Zambia. Photo: private

More information:  

Olga Ditsie – Jwaneng (Botswana)  

Olga Ditsie is the first female mayor in forty years in her town and the only woman mayor in the country. Her position serves as an inspiration for young women to pursue positions of responsibility. One of her main focuses as mayor is to combat gender-based violence (GBV), which is prevalent in the country. Botswana has a high rate of GBV, particularly against women and children, with two out of three women having experienced it, surpassing international standards. Jwaneng, being a mining town with a predominantly male population, is not an exception, and many women in the town are financially dependent on their miner partners, making them more vulnerable to GBV. 

To address these issues, Mayor Ditsie established a Gender Committee comprising various stakeholders in the town. The committee conducts awareness campaigns and empowers women to start their own businesses, aiming to enhance their financial independence. Additionally, she works with female street vendors through a committee that organizes crowdfunding initiatives to provide support to one another. 

Mayor Ditsie also engages with students through monthly school visits, encouraging their participation in the town’s affairs. During the planning process, she ensures that all sectors of the community, including people with disabilities, are represented. Recently, she collaborated with Debswana Jwaneng Mine to host a panel discussion on International Disability Day, focusing on the issues and barriers faced by people with disabilities in the community. 

Furthermore, Mayor Ditsie is committed to promoting women’s leadership in her town. As a result, out of the seven Ward Development Committees, six are headed by women. This effort is crucial in combating gender inequality, especially considering that she is the only female councilor in the town. 

Olga Ditsie, Mayor of Jwaneng Town, Botswana. Photo from: Global Parliament of Mayors

More information: