Women; deliberately shut out or are part of the problem: Celebrating 16 Days of Activism

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By Margaret Chinowaita

SINCE the time I started working as a journalist, I have heard women complaining about this phenomenon. I have always questioned who shuts that door, who is supposed to open it for women, why is the phenomenon more prevalent in women?

Initially I did not believe it. Thought it was make-believe and argued women just lacked capacity. Later, however, I discovered that this is common and it can be between females or between a male and a female. In one instance, it’s actually because women would have become a threat to the positions occupied by men but on a number of occasions, women are shut outside just because of who they are – women. This is not peculiar to a workplace but in church, political parties, community and any other place where women are found.

I recently spoke to Jenifer Madhuzu, 51, a woman who knows her rights and has been an activist in the opposition MDC party since it was formed in 1999 and led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai.

She listed the following as reasons why women can be shut outside or can shut themselves out in a political setting:

  1. Using their bodies as bait to get favours- Women in politics should avoid this vice, because that is how they are manipulated and they fail to manoeuvre in the party because they would be captured by the leadership. Women fail to handle the pressure of being dumped and another being chosen. Usually they slacken after this or they become very bitter. They can become angry to the extent of seeking cold revenge. Some women sleep with the bosses for positions and they fail to manage them once they get them.
  2. Women surrender active positions to men in the field and during party meetings. A senior woman sends men on the ground for recruitment meetings and these men end up being more visible than the woman hence they are shut out.
  3. Sitting positions-the position women or men choose to sit at a meeting is also important. When in charge women must show they are in charge and should demonstrate that by sitting in the right place.
  4. Dressing is very important. Whichever way we look at it a woman should be dressed in a way that reveals her position or aspirations. I saw a poster of a woman who appeared as if she was wearing boob tube, and this was a picture for a presidential aspirant.
  5. Women should be steady in their dealings. To have a steady heart that allows them to look at two sides of a story when they are presented with one. The power to say it is okay this will pass or to face the person posing a challengeand oppose whatever is being proposed on the basis of principle. They should avoid rushing to address the opponent without facts.
  6. The most important thing is that women should see where the wind is drifting to, so that they will not make bad political decisions.

Female Vendors daily hustle

Last Friday, I noticed a despicable act that has become common in Zimbabwe that no one would bat an eyelid at. Pedestrians moved in pavements oblivious of ginger, tomatoes and onions that was strewn along Julius Nyerere Way. They only changed direction after feeling the sting of tear gas.

An elderly woman stood tense at the corner waiting patiently to leap at her tomatoes that had miraculously escaped the police after a swoop on vendors. She waited but her timing was bad as a police officer noticed the unattended heap of tomatoes and took them. I wondered whether he was taking them for evidence in court or for personal use. I noticed the woman walking away dejected but she also had an air of someone who was coming back because this was her daily hustle, and as they say the money follows where the police are.

Vendors do not sell wares on the streets for fun. They sell so they can feed their families, clothe them and send them to school. In this hideous economy it is their only route to survival. As we celebrate 16 Days of Activism I wish the government could come up with a lasting economic solution that will give decency to female vendors. An economy that will give them avenues to sell and trade their wares lawfully with access to the market. That market base can be created by a robust economy that gives hope to the people with disposable incomes.

Wives of Activists

Having worked with the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) and I was exposed to comrades that were arrested, brought to court, remanded, arrested and brought to court again. It has become routine as is the case with Obert Masaraure. Among other cases he has a charge of subversion hanging over his hand which attracts a 20 year jail term.

Subversion in Zimbabwe is the lesser evil to high treason.

I have witnessed that wives of these activists face untold suffering during the period their partners are in jail. They miss work, organise the household, attend to lawyers, and workmates from the activists’ organisation and all this with no psycho-social support system.  They are expected to be strong while their spouses are harassed, have to attend to the children and assure then daddy will be fine even when they know chances he might not come back home in the worst case scenario of return with broken limbs.

I salute these women, they are strong. As the country joins the rest of the world in observing the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, let us take a few seconds to celebrate these champions.