What is it about women?

I have often wondered about the role that women play and the influence they have in entrenching male dominion over other women. Why do women manipulate situations to intentionally hurt other women? Strange as it may sound, it does occur in many spheres of our lives.

For example, in 2008 there was rampant political violence inZimbabwe. Political bases were set up in many areas. Women and men were taken to these bases where they were beaten, raped and tortured. Who was singing and chanting as this was happening? Who supplied the lists of ‘opposition supporters’ to instigate attacks on these people? Was it not other women?

Why do some women knowingly enter into relationships with married men and openly declare their preference for married men? Why would one knowingly inflict pain on another woman and her family? Women openly brag about being small houses (Zimbabwean term for mistress). Have women become so selfish and insensitive that they do not care about other people’s welfare for as long as they are not directly affected?

Why is it that in most families the people who cause the most discord are the tetes (aunts)? Why is it that the mothers, aunts and sisters of a man who wants to marry a woman who is older than him or a single mother are the ones to shun her and label her unworthy of their son, nephew or brother forcing the couple to break up?. It seems love is not enough for the couple; they have to please a lot of other people before they can marry.

When it comes to family life horror stories of the mother in law and the daughter in law emerge. From strife to serious ill-treatment cases, all the cases are between women. In  situations where a man has two wives staying in the same house , there is bad blood between the women with, one wife lying to the husband about the other woman so that he beats her up or even chases her away so that she may have the whole house to herself.

Often women underplay the power they have and the role they play in cases of violence against other women. Is it not that women are guilty by proxy? Surely when you create an environment conducive for other women to be abused then you are as guilty as the perpetrator of the offence.

Women need to realise that they are not as innocent as they purport to be; they are as much part of the problem as the men!

Sekai Holland wins Prestigious Peace Prize

The Research and Advocacy Unit wishes to congratulate the co-Minister within the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration, Minister Sekai Holland on receiving the Sydney Peace Prize.

Minister Sekai Holland

 The Award is an initiative of the Sydney Peace Foundation in Australia and it aims to influence public interest in peace with justice, an ideal which is often perceived as controversial.

Past recipients of the Award include

  • 1998 Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank for the poor
  • 1999 Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize recipient
  • 2000 Xanana Gusmão of East Timor who is a poet-artist and president of East Timor
  • 2001 Sir William Deane, the former Governor-General of Australia
  • 2002 Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
  • 2003 Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian academic and human rights campaigner
  • 2004 Arundhati Roy, Indian novelist and peace activist
  • 2005 Olara Otunnu, United Nations Under Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict from Uganda
  • 2006 Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International
  • 2007 Hans Blix, chairman of the UN Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission
  • 2008 Patrick Dodson, chairman of the Lingiari Foundation
  • 2009 John Pilger, Australian journalist and documentary maker, in
  • 2010 Vandana Shiva, Indian social justice and environmental activist, eco-feminist and author
  • 2011 Noam Chomsky an American linguist and activist

Minister Holland was also the recipient of the prestigious French National Order of the Legion of Honour, in 2011, together with human rights activist Jestina Mukoko for what French authorities termed her outstanding virtues in serving her country and others in her fight for freedom, peace and unity.

 Congratulations Minister Holland.

Getting a Zero Percent Pass Rate

In 2011, the Ministry of Education reported that 19 schools had recorded a 0% pass rate after sitting for their public examinations. The worst affected were rural schools where the majority had recorded zero
percent pass rate in Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec) Grade Seven examination results. The overall pass rate ranged between zero to nine percent pass rate.

It is very difficult to imagine that in a group of pupils sitting for grade 7 Zimsec exams, the outcome produces a 100% failure or perhaps you would rather have me say a 0% pass rate? This is serious in the sense that it is unbelievable to imagine that a whole community has failures at grade 7 continuously for years. What it means is that a whole generation has been condemned to failure and this has repercussions for the community.

I was interested in finding out why a school failed to get at least one pupil who passed national examinations and the discoveries I made were fascinating. Yes communities may be disadvantaged in terms of resources. However one of the key areas has been addressed-thanks to the donation of text books by UNICEF in conjunction with the Education Ministry. The books however, continue to be condemned by certain people with an agenda that is meant to discredit anything that is perceived to be “Western”. Surely textbooks as a resource in schools are important whether they come from the United Kingdom government just as computers are necessary even if they are a Chinese donation. (But that is something for another time.)

In my investigation I discovered that certain communities do not attract nor retain qualified teachers. There is always a high staff turn-over, with political violence as the major factor influencing these movements. As a result, schools in these affected areas are manned by untrained teachers whose contracts expire after every term, with new teachers coming in and continuing with the same pupils in a business-as-usual fashion. This is very disruptive for children and because the teachers are engaged for a short while, they do not take time to understand each child and give them special attention they need.

A friend of mine who studied child psychology explained that the mind of a child is very delicate, hence the violence witnessed by children in 2008 may manifest later in the years. For example disruptions at grade 2 level can manifest at grade 7 and therefore it is very possible to get a 0% pass rate. It is fact that most of the violence took place in rural communities and it is no surprise that rural schools have the highest levels of failure rates. I do not want to under play other factors contributing to this failure but political violence remains a key factor.

Political interference in the running of schools is also rife with some reports indicating that teachers in the Mashonaland provinces have been openly told to look for employment elsewhere because the local leadership viewed them as undesirable elements. Surely any trained teacher would not want to go to such areas where schools are run by politicians who know nothing about education. The repercussions fall upon the communities as they face a future with a whole generation cursed because of the ‘sins’ of their fathers. We  seriously need to defend our pride as the most literate country on the continent and situations such as the one we face now where communities are disempowered and other grade 7 candidates can’t write their own names should become a thing of the past.

Dare to Dream

The Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) has been holding meetings where female heads of organisations are encouraged to mentor and groom young women to pave the way for the new generation of leaders within the women’s movement.  This is a commendable move as it comes in the wake of an earlier RAU opinion piece on the PHD syndrome which received considerable feedback see www.researchandadvocacyunit.org.

Having attended one of these meetings and reading Between Women – Love, Envy and Competition in Women’s Friendships by Luise Eichenbaum and Susie Orbach I am enthused and encouraged by the fact that we as women in Zimbabwe have recognised that we need to tackle the PHD syndrome and overcome it as it is a stumbling block for a woman in any sector. The authors of Between Women stated that in the women’s struggle “we must not repudiate those who have most helped us to get to we are today – women. But neither should we be squeamish about confronting the very real difficulties that can occur between women. Without sentimentalizing women’s relationships we can still declare women’s continuing need for one another. Women need each other’s support for the autonomy and self development they are pursuing. They need each other to talk through the difficulties they are experiencing on so many fronts. They need to explore the now hidden feelings between women that threaten women’s relationships. We can and must take on these issues and in so doing preserve and nurture one of the relationships most important to us – that which is between women.”

At the WCoZ meeting the onus was placed on the young women to identify and approach their mentors as they know which paths they want to follow and which women inspired them and would be in a position to help them attain their goals. The older women were thus encouraged to avail themselves when approached and be there for the young women building their confidence without feeling threatened and not to belittle the interaction, as  it is important to remember that women’s conversations usually take on an emotional nature regardless of the subject matter, be it about work, friendships, marriage, children, politics and shoes!

For many of us who grew up in patriarchal societies where would we be if it wasn’t for the nurturing relations with women, i.e. our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and teachers who wanted better for the next generation of women?  How many of us would have succeeded in our given professions and callings if we hadn’t been given that nudge, that word of encouragement, that push by another woman? It is also however necessary to reflect and imagine what our lives would have been like if we had only listened to those who tried to pull us down.

The sooner we recognise and acknowledge those that have inspired, coached mentored and encouraged us to be who we are the sooner we can put aside feelings of envy and jealousy for our fellow women and be supportive of them when they dare to dream.

Nudity cheapens women yet it sells

Misogyny-a deep hatred of women- is the sentiment that the media is brewing with the content that it is spawning each day and yet we have allowed them to get away with it-even becoming accomplices to the crime ourselves as women.

Representation violence! Anyone ever heard that expression before?  When people hear of violence against women, physical violence comes to mind-the one that leaves bruises and scars on women’s beautiful skins.

Yet everyday representation violence is in our faces yet we hardly see it and we do not even comprehend its consequences and how it fosters mindsets that make the other forms of violence permissible in our society.

Naked women on advertisements of cars-do boobs drive cars?

Naked women on realtor’ websites-what has that got to do with selling houses?

Movies in which men beat up their girlfriends because they caught them cheating-what happened to dialogue?

Music videos with naked women caressing and (whining up) to a fully dressed man-and the songs are about making money-explain the link between nudity and money please?

Yes each day the media, print, electronic is prostituting women’s dignity and perpetuating violence against women.

Oh yes some of you right now are thinking-but the women want it. They love posing naked. They consent to these adverts-They are paid for it so what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the media has cheapened the body of a woman to such an extent that any advertisement without an attractive woman will not sell. What sells is not the product but the face of the advertisement.

So if the industry has already laid out its rules driven by masochistic tendencies, what choice does a woman who is fighting for survival in a  harsh world have besides capitulating to its demands.

If the first advert had not had a naked woman, would this woman have such a terribly sexist precedent to fend off?

The reality of today is that nakedness sells and the choice is limited to selling or not selling. At the end of the day, that is no choice.

The media names and shames a woman, blaming her for being sexually assaulted and imputing that she “asked for it.” In films teenage girls who get raped will  either be wearing a short skirt, flirting with the guy or get drunk and so when they get raped the sentiment is why were they doing all that-. They should have been more careful. -But what excuse ever justifies a man who forces himself upon an unwilling woman-drunk or not, naked or not??? In other words, the media through such films represent rape more as a sexual act rather than focus on the violent aspect which makes it a crime.

Criminologists have conducted studies which have shown that the majority of child sexual offenders, child molesters and other perpetrators of sexual offences are regular consumers of pornographic material-be it films or magazines. Pornography increases behavioural aggression and cultivates views of women as objects rather than beings. Again the media’s representation of women is to blame.

The media has normalised the face of rape as that of a woman and so no one is shocked anymore when they hear that a woman was gang raped by 12 men.

The media has made it seem as if fat and big women are unattractive and so women starve themselves, deprive themselves of the food they love in a bid to be smaller and hence more attractive. Is this not psychological violence?

How do we make it stop when few women worldwide own the media? How do we restore the value of women? How do we negate repair terrible representations that paint women as objects? How do we repair those who already view women in this manner?

I was inspired by the lyrics to the song Times like these by the Jamaican artist Queen Ifrica in which she bemoaned the negative role that artists and the media have played in ploughing under society’s decency and exploiting women when she says:

“They took away the voices, that gave the people pride
Now we’re plunging into darkness
We all have to play our part, make a bold start
Every disc jock[ey], tell every artist
Media houses, we notice you love [to] support the slackness
How so much alcohol [is] in our parties
While the girls are broke out
And the something she drinked [has drunk has] knocked her out
Now she don’t [doesn’t]care where they prop her up”

To listen to the whole song and watch the video go here.

Yes, it was wrong!

‘We have done wrong to our people through violence and fighting among ourselves. We must now take absolute care and caution and ensure the fights of yesterday are buried in the past, all fights, all struggles that were violent should not be allowed. Political party membership should never be forced. We organize ourselves on the basis of freedom of choice, belonging to a party of choice and freely voting for the party of choice.’ President Mugabe

18 April was Independence Day and some people chose to celebrate it in the stadium to hear the President speak and watch a soccer match. The President got my attention when he spoke of political violence, a problem whose existence and extent ZANU PF has, in the past, denied. To hear the leader of the party publicly acknowledge that it was wrong was a balm to my heart. Yes, we can never erase the pain we felt, nor the homes we lost, neither will it bring back the loved ones who perished but the first step to any recovery is to admit that there is a problem.And to Zimbabwe the admission is that political violence occurred-no doubt- and a lot of lives were destroyed.

I agree with the President’s sentiments on political violence. Every political party needs to commit to no violence and make their supporters understand that their neighbour with different views is not the enemy. Therefore there is no need to set up party bases during elections because we are not at war? There is no need to force people to attend political rallies; after all they will be alone in the ballot box. There is no need to pull people out of their homes at night to beat them up; political opinion no matter how absurd is a human right.

I applauded President Mugabe’s bold move to state the obvious, that his party is guilty of perpetrating violence. However I believe that more can be done. Yes he admitted it, but that was the first step. There is need to take a second step, to make amends to all those who were harmed. This is so that Zimbabwe as a whole can move on.

Making amends may take different forms from imprisoning the perpetrators of violence and those who instigated the violence to bringing compensation to those who suffered some harm. It may just take the form of a simple apology from the leaders and the perpetrators to those they harmed. Whatever form it may take it is a necessary component in a restorative process for a nation that was wrecked by political violence.

So far, all we have are noble words from the President, now we wonder if these words will  be followed by any form of action, or they will remain just words that will be quoted in history text books 30 years from now?

One thing I love and admire about Zimbabweans is the love we have for our country. Despite all the hardships, the challenges and the hard times, Zimbabweans still find hope in the middle of the desert. Yesterday as Zimbabweans, we celebrated our 32nd Independence Day anniversary. I observed with interest Zimbabweans’ perceptions of Independence Day and among some of the sentiments expressed by Zimbabweans (Zimbos) were the following:.

There were Zimbabweans who were just happy to celebrate Independence Day and wished their loved ones a happy day.

Happy Independence Day to every Zimbabwean…let our flag fly high!

Happy Independence fellow Comrades, learned colleagues girlfriends and friends.

Happy 32nd birthday Zimbabwe, home of the resilient!

Happy birthday to my beautiful country – Zimbabwe!

Others took the time to defend their nationhood and declare their patriotism.

I may go to distant borders, but I am still and will always be proudly Zimbabwean….Happy Independence AmaZim Zim.

Whatever your feelings about Zimbabwe, today is our Independence Day. Zimbabwe is full of potential. Don’t ever give up on her. She needs you! Have a great 32nd birthday, Zimbabwe!

Our Zimbabwe, my Zimbabwe…home to abundant wildlife, blessed with the thunders of the Victoria Falls, built from a past empire Great Zimbabwe and home to sons and daughters of the soil. Let us fly our flag high and celebrate our independency day. Together as one we will rebuild our nation!!

Happy Independence my Zimbabwe. Once born in pain and segregation…now we live in harmony…as the nation’s flag flies. I live with pride inside my heart. Even though I am at a distant border, my heart will yearn for this my home…while time and space may separate you, you hold my heart. Proudly Zimbabwean.

100% Patriotic. Proud Zimbo for LIFE. Happy Independence my beautiful Zimbabwe.

Happy birthday to the land of my birth, my hopes and my dreams. 32 years and still going strong! I love Zimbabwe. Happy independence vana vevhu (children of the soil)!!

Happy Sovereignty Day Zimbabwe, you will forever be my first love. May the Lord restore your greatness!!!

Some took the time to thank those who liberated us from the colonial yoke.

Happy Independence Day my country. In memory and gratitude for all those who dedicated their loves to liberate us, and thinking of our failure at keeping your vision alive.

Happy Independence Day Zimbabwe. Memories to those who died for our struggle and for a free Zimbabwe. Yes, it will never be a colony again!!!

From the blood of mighty sons and daughters of the soil sprung one of the strongest countries. Happy independence to all Zimbabweans.

We are happy because of someone who sacrificed his/her life to bring back the freedom.

Makorokoto Zimbabwe.(Congratulations Zimbabwe) Hona vana vako wavayarutsa? (See how you have raised your children and they are now grown-up) Even in good and bad times we stand proud; proud to say I am a Zimbabwean. I am the fruit of her lost sons and daughters’ represent the 263. Happy Birthday to you Zimbabwe. I stand proud semwana wevhu (as a child of the soil).

Others were grateful not to be under British colonialism but disillusioned with the state of affairs in Zimbabwe in particular the continued violation of human rights and social injustices perpetrated by the state.

Some were born in a free country but never tasted freedom. They still have to live another day for that freedom.

Just wondering where others derive the nostalgia and euphoria about Zim independence. If you ask me what independence is when I can’t even post what and how I truly feel on my Facebook status without fear of reprisal at the barest minimum; I can’t even talk about other freedoms.

So much for celebrating the gains of independence when we can’t supply something as basic as electricity.

We have independence but no electricity so we can’t watch the celebration. Baba’s [Our father’s]country!!!

I have just noticed that everyone who is writing about independence is not in Zim, those that are seem to view it as just another day, the day has lost its meaning for those of us here. I find there is little to celebrate- lots more to mourn, it’s a sad day for me.

Others reflected on where we are going as a nation.

“As we reflect on Independence Day, let us not let other people tell us what the Zimbabwean story should be, but rather we should tell that story because we still have the ability and responsibility to shape and develop the Zimbabwe we want to see for our children and grandchildren. Happy Independence Day folks.”

“Zimboz [Zimbabweans] in diaspora still searching 4 bright lights but who never forget where they are from, keep grinding. Hardcore Zimboz who chose to stay and endure…zvichanaka [it shall be well]. Happy Independence day, hope you all find “true democracy”, peace and prosperity in the years to come.”

Toita sei nenyika yeZim? [What shall we do with our nation-Zimbabwe? Toita sei nenyika yeZim? [What shall we do with our nation-Zimbabwe?

Congratulations Zimbabwe on our 22nd anniversary. I think we need to reflect on the mistakes we have made, admit our mistakes and chart a plan that unifies us rather than divide us.

NoViolet Bulawayo wrote a poem so poignant in its depiction of my thoughts:

She came dressed to kill

This day, 32 years ago

Bloodied but still beautiful

Spotting a green-yellow-red-black and white georgette number

Fighters came from the war and put their weapons down

Kids crawled out of hiding place

Women birthed children named Hondo, named Freedom named Butholezwe

Aunties murdered chickens to cook over frantic fires, in celebration

Black girls and black boys too...k to the streets toyi-toying, chanting “Amandla!!! Viva!!!”

But that was before she got up one night

Many years later, and sneaked away with a love

Smoothe old man on a red rattling bicycle

Today we look for Her in each other’s faces

Eyes barely meeting

Bleeding, broken hearts

Clutching posters that read “missing...

My take...

 I looked on with a sad heart. Trust me, I am a patriotic Zimbabwean ask anyone who has interacted with me at a personal or professional level. I get feisty when defending my country’s name. That doesn’t stop my heart from bleeding when I look at where my country is as compared to where it should be.

 Not only are we still slaves to the whiles of the Western powers which seek to sink us under the yoke of neo-colonialism, with their fake principles of fair trade, illusions of equality of all nations, and the mantra of intellectual property rights in order to patent our traditional knowledge systems and sell them back to us at exorbitant prices.  Yes, we are still not free.

 But what hurts most is the bondage we suffer tied in the grips of our own leaders; leaders whose sole purpose of clinging onto power is self aggrandisement. They talk of a land reform process but to who has the land gone? I don’t have it, do you? They talk of indigenisation but who has been indigenised? I haven't, have you? Is this the Zimbabwe that Tongogara died for, where one can only be deemed truly Zimbabwean if they append their X to a certain symbol on a ballot paper? Surely not!!!

 I hold on to the conviction that those who died fought for a dispensation where every Zimbabwean could enjoy their freedoms, have access to land, live a decent life and benefit from the vast resources we boast of simply because they were Zimbabwean not because they agreed with a certain political ideology. With what we have, how do we deem ourselves better than Ian Smith?

And as a colleague noted I also agree with the words of the President in his speech on Independence Day 1980. In an independent Zimbabwe, those with different opinions are not [and should not be] our enemies. 

Some are guiltier than others

The fundamental principle underlying the right to a fair trial is that every individual is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Hence no one individual should be treated like a criminal until a court of law has passed a decision declaring them so. Even if the circumstantial evidence points to the guilt of the individual, they must still be given the opportunity to go through all the motions of a trial to present their case, present mitigating circumstances – if they are there – and receive a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of their crime. Amongst the motions of a fair trial should be the ability of an accused to be granted bail. This is dependent on the state giving sufficient evidence to prove that the accused is not a fit and proper person to grant bail.  Of course, there is need to balance the interests of justice in granting bail: for instance, whether the accused will interfere with witnesses, tamper with evidence, or attempt to flee (among such other issues) must be taken into account.

My problem with the justice system in Zimbabwe is that the application of these factors is always unpredictable, and their fair application seems to depend on the social status and political affiliation of both the victim and accused.

This is not justice- The scale is clearly skewed

In May 2011, a policeman was killed in Glenview, a densely populated suburb in the capital city of Harare, Zimbabwe. His name was Inspector Petros Mutedza. 29 MDC-T members were rounded as suspects. They are still languishing in prison. They have been detained in remand for nearly a year. They are being held in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions, receiving inadequate food, and constantly denied bail. The High Court of Zimbabwe keeps postponing the bail hearing indefinitely since the arrest and imprisonment of the accused, stating that they are a flight risk. Given this standpoint and the Court’s assertions, should they therefore not proceed to hear the matter on the merits and give the accused the chance to prove their innocence? One wonders, is the incarceration of these people serving justice and is it in line with the principle of a fair trial, or their continued detention is vindictive, serving a political agenda?

On 17 March 2012, police in the mining town of Shamva, in the Mashonaland Central Province of Zimbabwe, killed a man. His name was Luxmore Chivambo. His crime was apparently related tothe disappearance of a purse (containing some money and a cell phone) of the wife of the officer in charge at Shamva Police Station. Residents at Ashley Mining compound, including Luxmore, were savagely attacked by police officers as the officers tried to recover the stolen ‘goods’.

Why am I raising these two stories?

Oh well, the people who are alleged to have killed the police officer in Glenview are still rotting in prison. The police officers who were seen killing Luxmore, namely; Motion Jakopo (41), Simon Mafunda (32), Michael Makwalo (30), Lee Makope (23), Benedict Tapfuma (22) and Blessing Saidi (26) and injuring 11 other people have been released on $50 bail. Where is the justice in that? Are police officers more important than ordinary civilians, hence making their murder more critical and their alleged criminals guiltier than those who kill ordinary people? Is the known crime of police officers, who clearly ill-treated citizens to whom they owe a constitutional mandate to protect, a less serious offence than that of rowdy citizens who allegedly attacked a police officer?

We stand on the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence day commemoration and I cannot bring myself to embrace the celebratory mood that others seem to have. After all what is there to celebrate when the oppressed (under colonial rule) have become the oppressors (black Zimbabweans suppressing black Zimbabweans). Such freedom where others are more índependent’ than others leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

Get it off your chest

During election periods and other national processes people belonging to opposing parties are subjected to horrific human rights violations; these violations are documented and publicised but the real stories of what happens to women are not told as much. From the 2008 election period there are many anecdotal reports of politically motivated violence against women, but the Government of National Unity (GNU) has not launched an investigation to these reports, especially reports of rape, although the Global Political Agreement states that perpetrators of violence should be brought to book.

In RAU’s focus group discussions we asked whether it is important  for women to speak out about violations even 4 years after the violations occurred and the below are some of the responses we got:

  • Violations must be talked about so that the victims can find peace
  • It prevents the same from happening in the future especially if the perpetrators are arrested for the crimes
  • Keeping quiet does not help in anyway, as you can’t get any assistance because no one knows what you need
  • By sharing what happened to you can encourage another person to also speak out and get help.

Others however stated that there is no point in talking about past abuses because:

  • The police do not investigate the cases if you belong to the ‘wrong’ political party
  • The police themselves are involved in the violence
  • The perpetrators mock you and taunt you saying how much worse things are going to happen in the next election

In most cases the women themselves do not want to talk about what happened to them. In addition to the above reasons it is too painful to relive the past; they stand to lose respect and status in communities and this is magnified when they have been victims of sexual violence because of the stigma associated with it. However there are women who have been brave enough to talk about their experiences with politically motivated violence; these women even named the perpetrators who are senior politicians, army officials, police officers and youth militia.

See below two documentaries that detail the stories of women who overcame their fear and spoke out;



These women have inspired many others who have heard their stories; they are no longer victims but survivors.