Security means uncurling my toes….


By EverJoice Win

What does security mean to you? That was the question surrounding this year’s 16 days of activism theme. Militarism, conflict, state sponsored violence, political violence, were some of the sub-themes we campaigned on. We talked about the big stuff, the big news tickets of the moment. The news coming out of Syria continues to be unbearable. Libya is still on the boil. In the DR Congo, thousands are fleeing across the borders, fearing for their lives as the election results are about to be announced. In Burma, Hillary Clinton smiled for the cameras and got paly-paly with the generals, temporarily shorn of their uniforms for better picture quality. In various Northern capitals anti capitalist protestors were carted off the streets, sometimes violently. At COP17, things got ugly and civil society had to be shoved back into their small allotted space. The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan rage on. None of these places is too far away or too foreign. I know women there. I have met them. I know their names. They are my friends. I worry about them. I text. I email. I Skype them. Just to make sure they are ok. Being a global citizen means you curl your toes each time you watch the news.

The so called ‘security forces’ and law enforcement agencies continue to frighten me and other women out of our wits. In my home number two, the South African Police service decided that adopting militarised titles and ranks was the way to…..what? Instill discipline? Show seriousness? Give the service more gravitas? Induce fear? Each time I enter Rosebank police station to get my documents certified, I am greeted by a “colonel”, and sometimes a “lieutenant” looks over his shoulder. I clutch my bags in fear. I smile feebly and answer their questions with too many words, and run out as soon as I can. Thankfully I have never had to report a crime, or ask to be taken to a place of safety by these “soldiers”, because I just don’t know where they would take me! I don’t feel secure with a police man called “general”, no matter how much he smiles, or tries to convince me he is here for my protection.

In home number one, my state President goes by the grand title of, “Comrade Robert Mugabe, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the First Secretary of ZANU PF and commander in chief of the armed forces”. This for a man with seven (well earned), University degrees! If he needed any accolades he has the BA, BA Hons, etc to pick from. Being told that the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces is not meant to make me respect the man. It says, ‘Be very afraid. He has guns. Pointed at your head. One move we don’t like and we pull the triggerS”. I know who is in control. And if I forget I am reminded on the hour every hour by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

I curl my toes. I draw my knees together. That is the effect men in uniform have on me. The military industrial complex announces itself, advertises itself and reminds us ‘they’ are in control of our countries, our lives, our bodies.

But it is not only these visible manifestations of our militarised world that make me insecure. Going to the supermarket makes me frightened. I am scared to see the price of food. I worry about whether there will be enough month left at the end of the money. I am too scared to ask a woman with three children how she lives on a twenty dollars per month wage. Yesterday I took my son to a doctor and she asked for 50 dollars just to write a referral note to the radiographer. In the space of two weeks I have buried two women, both aged 44, both died from diseases that could have been easily managed. I don’t fear death. I fear an undignified and painfully unnecessary death, such as I have seen countless times around me.

Two days ago I met a beautiful young person who identifies themselves as trans-gender. I immediately started worrying about how she was going to get out of that hotel back to her home in the township. What hoops she would have to navigate to ensure her own safety. I keep hearing the hateful sermons preached at one of those funerals I went to, “these ngochani are an abomination! We must cast the devils out of them! If you are a ngochani come forward so we pray for you!” I keep curling my toes and drawing my knees up.

A lot can happen in 16 days. And it did! So we come to the end of this year’s 16 days of activism against gender based violence. It has been an amazing two decades of organising by women, and a few good men, all over the world. To hear some talk today you would think they invented the campaign and made us women too while they were at it. Well let us not go there. I suppose we should just be happy that what started off as an idea, almost a pipe dream, with only 24 women, has grown to be one of the most well known global campaigns. Who says the feminist movement is small, insignificant and the changes it has brought can’t be “measured. If anybody had asked us on that bright summer day at Rutgers, what will success look like? How will you measure it? I don’t think we would have been able to provide an answer, let alone imagine that this is what the 16 days campaign would achieve. Hear yea, monitoring and evaluation zealots. This is what success looks like!

So what does security mean to me? It means uncurling my toes, unclenching my knuckles, free of fear – real or imagined, and living a life of dignity, experiencing sexual and other kinds of pleasure, and having the right to make choices.

To Obert and His Boys: Passengers have Rights


By Rumbidzai Dube

Zimbabwe is commemorating the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, and the key message is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in our communities: ‘Promoting safe spaces for women and girls.’ Safe spaces are secure spaces. They are spaces in which human security-the totality of all conditions that make a human being feel secure-is guaranteed. They are spaces in which women and girls are free from fear and free from want. These spaces are about the protection of women and girls from unnecessary harm and exposure to risky circumstances. The majority of women, men and children in Zimbabwe use the public transport system and the levels of risk they are exposed to within that system have precipitated my blog.

Sometime in March, while aboard a New York taxi, I learnt that there is something called the Livery Passengers’ Bill Of Rights. The Bill gives passengers the following rights to:

  1. Ride in a car that is clean, in good condition and has passed all required inspections.
  2. Be driven by a TLC (Taxi and Limousine Company) licenced driver in good standing whose licence is clearly displayed.
  3. A safe and courteous driver who obeys all traffic laws.
  4. A quiet trip. Free of horn honking and audio/radio noise.
  5. Receive a fair quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the fare changed).
  6. A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands free phones are not permitted).
  7. A smoke and scent free ride.
  8. Air conditioning or heat on request.
  9. Working seatbelts for all passengers (please use them!).
  10. Not share a ride unless you want to.
  11. Be accompanied by a service animal.
  12. Decline to tip for poor service.

I am sure many Zimbabweans are wondering how passengers in New York can have as many rights in their transport Bill of Rights as we have in our constitutional Bill of Rights? What we need to interrogate is why New York chose to make what seems like a very unimportant issue so very important.

First of all, in New York as in Zimbabwe the majority of people cannot afford owning cars. Whereas in New York buying a car is not as difficult as maintaining it (including the taxes and parking fees), many Zimbabweans simply cannot afford cars. That is why a functional public transport system is critical.

Second, the ability to access a clean, safe and secure alternative mode of transportation is central to guaranteeing the safety of the residents of New York. It is also central to the productivity and development of the city as residents commute between their homes and work, 24 hours a day.Similarly, Zimbabwe needs a functional system to keep our economy going.

The more I have listened to the grievances about combis (commuter omnibuses) and the service they give to my fellow Zimbabweans, the more I have wondered how many of them would be out of business if a similar bill of rights existed in Zimbabwe.

  1. Clean car in good condition: How many times have you been in a dirty combi or taxi, dusty even that you had to use tissue to wipe the seat before you sat? How many times have you seen combis and taxis that look like they want to fall over on one side? How many times also have you been in a combi or taxi that feels like the moment the driver changes the gears, that is the last sputter that the combi is going to give then die…on the spot? The combis are health hazards, so much that if anyone gets a cut from the edges of the folded aisle seats while dropping off or getting onto the combi, they need to get an immediate Tetanus shot.
  2. Licenced drivers: We know that many combi and taxi (mshikashika) drivers are unlicensed. In investigations following one of the accidents in Chitungwiza, it emerged that the driver was unlicensed. The majority of those who are currently licensed need a retest because they either procured their licenses through fraudulent means and never actually had proper driving tests or they have been driving hazardously for so long they have forgotten what the correct and proper procedures on the road are. When they get to the police and are asked for a licence, they produce a piece of paper with $5 or $10 or $20 stuck in the middle and police officers immediately forget what they were asking for.
  3. A safe and courteous driver who obeys traffic laws: That is something you do not see among combi and taxi drivers. What you see are near death experiences in which 98% of the time the combi drivers are in the wrong. Passengers sit and grit their teeth as their drivers overtake where there are continuous lines (clearly saying do not overtake), break the rules and drive up the wrong lanes in opposing traffic, shoot through red robots (traffic lights), filter into traffic at the wrong time forcing other drivers to hit their emergency brakes, skip over speed humps (not slowing down as they should) and turn dangerously close in front of oncoming traffic. I always say, if our roads had traffic cameras, which award automatic fines to a license plate as penalties for every road traffic offence, then our government would not need to tax us (law abiding citizens). They would generate all the revenue needed just from traffic fines.
  4. A quiet trip. Free of horn honking and audio/radio noise: This is one right where those who use public transport daily would agree with me that the adage “if wishes were horses then beggars would ride” applies. From the loud urban grooves sounds of Stunner singing “Tisu Mashark,” to the Zim Dancehall vibes of “Tocky Vibes” and the legendary Winky D, to the lewd sounds of Jacob Moyana singing “Munotidako,” the combi drivers “blast” (literally) the music. They play the music so loudly that anyone trying to have a conversation has to shout. Some drivers are courteous enough to turn down the volume when they see a passenger talking on the phone but the majority could not be bothered. When passengers sometimes request they turn down the volume they are told “Tenga yako kana usingade zvenoise” –“Buy your own car if you have a problem with the noise.”
  5. Receive a fair quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the fare changed)-The dog eat dog mentality that has permeated our society also affects public transport operators. Although certain fares are known i.e. it should cost $0.50 from the city centre to any residential surburbs in Harare using combis, the combis always take every opportunity available to charge more. If it is raining the fare goes up to a $1, during rush hour when everyone wants to go home-suddenly the fare also goes up to $1, if there is a big event somewhere (a soccer match, a Makandiwa judgement day) suddenly all operators want to carry passengers to that route reducing the numbers of buses available on the normal route-those that remain want to charge $1 because those going to the “hot and busy” route also charge $1. Nobody constantly monitors and enforces fares.
  6. A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands free phones are not permitted): Dream on! Some drivers do not only talk on the phone as they drive, they even text; what with all this WhatsApp business.
  7. A smoke and scent free ride: Luckily Zimbabwe has very strict laws against public smoking and so in this instance public transport users are covered. I can’t say the same for the smell issue though because the buses are not always clean. Sometimes the problem and source of discomfort is not with the bus itself but the sweaty armpit of the conductor, stuck in someone’s nose as the conductor squeezes himself tightly between the door and the passenger on the edge of the first seat behind the driver’s seat.
  8. Air conditioning or heat on request: Again, dream on! Some combis and taxis do not even have functional windows; the windows are broken, missing, stuck and won’t open, not proper windows but rather cardboard paper or furniture boards. The ventilation is either poor creating a stifling environment or the wind lashes the passengers’ faces.
  9. Working seatbelts for all passengers: What seatbelts? This is why in many accidents the passengers on the front seat fly though the windscreens while the driver survives. At police roadblocks, the police are concerned with the driver putting on his seatbelt and are not bothered about the safety of the passengers seating next to the driver without their seatbelts on. RATIONALE: the driver can pay a bribe if he is caught not wearing his seatbelt; it is harder to solicit for bribes from passengers-you never know who they are, right?
  10. Not share a ride unless you want to: Huh! Dream on. Not only are passengers forced to share but they share with more people than is necessary. Packed like sardines, seats that should accommodate 3 people have 4 people on them. The situation gets worse if one of the passengers is a big person; never mind if there are two big people in one row of seats. They end up squashed to each other, literally sharing body fluids (sweat). I used to shout at the drivers many times when they tried to fit a 4th person in the front seat. It was bad enough that the seatbelts were dysfunctional and the risk of flying out through the windscreen if the driver suddenly applied his brakes was high, but to share the seat meant for two people with a 3rd person, practically sitting on your lap was an added annoyance.
  11. Be accompanied by a service animal: Service animals are specially trained animals (mostly dogs)meant to help people with disabilities e. g. visual impairment, hearing impairment, mental illness, diabetes, autism, seizures and others. This greatly improves the safety and security of persons living with disabilities as they navigate their way using public transport. In Zimbabwe, not only do we not have such service animals but as it is animals are not allowed on public transport. Besides the animals, fellow human beings are not very helpful to the disabled. Many combis avoid carrying paraplegics arguing that they have no space for wheelchairs; when it truth they want to use that space to carry goods that will get them more money.
  12. Decline to tip for poor service: Well we don’t have to worry about this one because the service is guaranteed to be poor. No tips coming! Or going!-whatever the case may be.

Clearly the combi structure of providing public transport in Zimbabwe is problematic on many levels.

  • There is no uniformity in the quality of service.
  • There is no guarantee that passengers will get their change as some conductors assault or insult passengers for demanding change.
  • There is no guarantee how long the trip will take as there are no strict timetables.
  • The combis are not maintained to the same standard. Some buses are fully serviced while others have broken seats, torn interiors, missing windows.
  • The system of licensing is not properly monitored as the police take bribes instead of enforcing the law.
  • The buses are overcrowded.
  • The fares are not strictly standardised, monitored and enforced.

What is the solution?

The Minister of Transport, Obert Mpofu suggested banning the combis. But to me that pseudo-solution would only create more problems. The reality is that:

  • Combis constitute the largest transport providers for the majority of Zimbabweans on local routes within cities, between urban centres, between urban and rural centres and some even across borders.
  • Combis are a source of employment and income for thousands of combi owners, drivers and conductors and their families.
  • In urban centres they also provide employment to a unique group of individuals known as the ‘rank Marshall’s (effectively a group of touts who have dignified their loafing by creating a system of accountability among bus operators by giving them equal turns to ferry passengers in exchange for a $1 for every trip that each combi takes.
  • The dynamics become even more interesting when one observes the organised trade that takes place around the different bus termini known as ‘ranks.’ Vegetable, airtime, food and fruit vendors take advantage of the movement of people to and from the combis to do business.
  • Urban councils charge these combis for parking and this revenue going directly to the local governance structures.

To create a safe and secure transport system that gives men, women and children the dignity they deserve, Obert and his boys should consider creating a bus service (including combis) that operates on timetable and in line with a set list of rules and procedures observing the strictest standards including proper licensing, full insurance, being roadworthy with a cut-off date for the vehicle life span e.g. Anything older than 10 years should be taken off the roads as un-roadworthy! Every combi should have a bin to throw litter in to avoid littering by passengers, all seats should be properly functional –not broken or torn seats, combis should maintain a set level of cleanliness and hygiene in their interior including having functional heating and air-conditioning, every combi should abide by the regulations on maximum number of passengers to be carried; 3 per seat instead of 4, staff that is helpful to the disabled. In other words, an enforceable look-alike to the New York Passengers Bill of Rights would be a welcome development for Zimbabwe to guarantee citizens safety and security on the roads.

Silenced voices at home; orators abroad-the universality of justice


By Kuda Chitsike

One of the major reasons, leading to the negotiation of the Global Political Agreement was that violence during the run off period had reached unprecedented levels. Approximately 200 people were killed, thousands displaced and assaulted, but there was no mention of the rape that women suffered. It is well known that there was widespread violence, but what is less known is that sexual violence was perpetrated against women as a political strategy.  Previously, there was a lot of anecdotal evidence but no proper documentation was available in the aftermath of the election. Civil society organisations, including women’s groups were hesitant to talk publicly about politically motivated rape, even though survivors were seeking refuge in their organisations and their horror stories were known. The silence of the women’s groups muted the voices of the survivors; if well-established organisations were unwilling to speak on their behalf, who would listen to their individual voices? But as time went on the survivors of rape became bold, began speaking out about their experiences during the election period, and demanded to be heard and taken seriously.

The first public report on sexual violence in Zimbabwe during the election period was written by an American-based organisation, AidsFreeWorld, ‘Electing to Rape: Sexual Terror in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.’ This report was released in December 2009 and it was based on 70 affidavits collected from women who were survivors of rape and were living in South Africa and Botswana where they felt free to speak.  A second report was produced by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) in 2010, entitled, ‘No Hiding Place: Politically Motivated Rape of Women in Zimbabwe.’  In these two reports, women reported that they were repeatedly raped and beaten for their support of the MDC, whether perceived or real, as the perpetrators told them so during the ordeal. Some stated that this happened in front of their children and family members, and, as a result of the rape, their marriages broke down. Most of the women did not receive appropriate care for the trauma that they had experienced. The women exhibited high levels of sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, and hopelessness: symptoms, which are commonly associated with experiences of trauma.

These two reports gave credence to the claims that the women were making about politically-motivated sexual violence, and the issue could no longer be ignored.

The recently released findings of the Khampepe report supported what Zimbabwean organisations have been saying for the last 14 years, violence and intimidation are part and parcel of elections.  This report has implications for Zimbabwean women who lodged a case in 2012 in the South African courts with the support of AidsFreeWorld. The women brought their case to a South African court because they had failed to get any recourse in Zimbabwe. When they tried to report their cases to the police they were either turned away, told that the police were not dealing with political violence cases, or told by the police that they gor what they deserved. Sometimes the police outrightly  refused to open dockets, which effectively meant the women were unable to go for medical examinations.

AidsFreeWorld submitted an amicus brief to the South African courts after a case was brought by the Zimbabwean Exiles’ Forum and the Southern African Litigation Centre in 2008 on behalf of MDC supporters who alleged that they were tortured by ZANU PF supporters and state agents. On 30th October 2014, the Constitutional Court in South Africa ruled that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is obliged to investigate crimes against humanity “where the country in which the crimes occurred is unwilling or unable to investigate.” The ruling is based on the fact that South Africa is obliged to investigate because it signed and domesticated the Rome Statute on the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

This ruling has given hope to the Zimbabwean women who were brave enough to tell their stories. Unfortunately not all perpetrators will be brought to justice, but it sends the right message; that sexual violence will not be tolerated in any society for any reason.

Had the election report, which was compiled by the high court judges Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke, been released when it was compiled it is highly probable that 2008 might never have happened as a government of national unity could have been negotiated in 2002. The Kamphepe report supported other observers’ groups that stated that there was serious election violence and it would have added to international pressure to end the Zimbabwean crisis.

As we commemorate the 16 days of gender activism, there is hope that justice will be delivered and that the victims of election violence, particularly the victims of rape that have not been acknowledged will get the redress they deserve. Although their voices may have been largely silenced at home, they can get justice abroad-proving that justice is a universal principle and that no atrocity committed against another human being can be hidden forever.

You can’t defeat gender violence without solidarity amongst women.


By Tony Reeler 

Women discriminate and degrade one another, they are overcome by jealousy and dont like other women to be promoted.” (Woman from Chivhu)

One of the major problems that blocks effective action in stopping gender violence is the lack of solidarity among women, what some have called the PhD syndrome – “pull her down”. It is not a trivial problem, and, over the years, Zimbabwean women have raised this as a problem. Some of this lack of solidarity seems to be derived from women’s lack of confidence in themselves. In the Mass Public Opinion Institute gender survey in 2002, only 29% of women stated that “women are more receptive to women leaders.”And in answer to the question, “in your opinion, do women pull each other down?”, 75% of women answered in the affirmative.

So, women are not in favour of women leaders, and, those that are, probably cannot count on the support of their fellow women. But maybe things have changed since 2002?

Actually, no!

In 2013, a majority (94%) of the sample of women stated in research done by RAU and The Women’s Trust (TWT) that they would vote for a woman candidate, which is encouraging, but this was minimised by their responses to two other questions. There were differences between rural and urban women, but the trend was apparent. Nearly half (49%) of rural women, and more than half (58%) of urban women, felt that there were so few women parliamentary candidates because of the PhD syndrome. As for support, only 38% of rural women and 21% of urban women felt that older women had done a great job in supporting younger women.

Added to this picture, the Afrobarometer survey in 2012 demonstrated quite dramatically that nothing had changed since the MPOI survey in 2002. 89% of rural women and 91% of urban women stated in the affirmative to the question, do men make better leaders than women?

So, how can solidarity work when women hold such contradictory views? They want more representation, but do not believe that those women that they might elect will be as good as the men. They want to elect women, but believe that women won’t get elected because women themselves will not only support other women, but will actively undermine them. And they don’t believe that older women do much in encouraging younger women.

Why should this be the case? Well, we see the symptoms. The disease is diagnosed quite simply by some women from a focus discussion group in 2010:

Usually in our culture women dont decide for themselves, youre supposed to seek permission first from your husband so that you can do something. Secondly those women who participate in politics mostly are labelled prostitutes. So you wont feel comfortable if youre a woman and say you want to become an MP or something, they will say, “look at that prostitute so it discourages women from participating. And in our culture we always know that men are leaders so its another factor which discourages us. The other problem is our patriarchal societies, the cultural beliefs in our society, women think that they are inferior and cannot stand on their own. Sometimes its fear of the unknown and sometimes it is ignorance.” (Women from civic group)

Excerpts from my diary


By Lindani Chirambadare

Dear Diary…

Today, as I was walking along Robert Mugabe Way, I witnessed sudden commotion as women balancing wares on their heads and carrying babies on their backs ran for dear life. I heard; ‘kanzuru, kanzuru! ‘(Council police! Council Police!). I looked back and saw a man’s wares being taken away. I imagined he was a family man; and that his family was waiting eagerly for him to provide for them. I imagined hope- the hope that he could be the kind of father who can provide for his family die in his eyes like a smothered candle wick. I imagined that one of those women, running for dear life was a widow, or a single mother, or an orphan heading a family.

One thing is certain, these women and men were trying to make an honest living the only way they know how. They were struggling to provide for their families. I remember how my own widowed grandmother raised her own children through vending. I, as other members of my family, benefitted- directly or indirectly- from that labour of love. Just like my grandmother, the women and men I saw today, were trying to make something out of their children’s lives, for them to be counted among others.

I am asking myself many questions as I write. Have the people in Council forgotten why they were elected? Have they lost touch with the reality that they were chosen to make the lives of these very same people they harass each day better? Are their actions making these women’s lives more secure or have they become the cause of their insecurity?

My heart bleeds for these men and women and yes I am shedding the solitary tear. I ask myself, what can I possibly do to change their lives? Right now, today, all I can do is tell their story but maybe someday…

Dear Diary…

On Fridays I finish work early. I usually cannot wait for Fridays because I just rush home to sleep and wind down. Last Friday however, I could not go home early because the combi (commuter omnibus) fare had risen by 100%. I had to wait for those mshikashika combis because they charged me less. To say that I was angry is an understatement. To say that I was pained is to belittle the emotion I felt. I stood there with many people who were as stumped as I was that the kombi fare had risen dramatically because the City Council in its wisdom required them to use the Coventry road terminus. I approached City of Harare representatives at the terminus and asked them why the fare had been hiked. They said it was none of their business. They said they were there just to implement what they had been told to do. They instructed me to talk to the combi owners. I did. The combi owners told me upfront; they were not passing a chance to  fares was and since there were no gazetted fares from the Road Motor Transport regulator at Mukwati Building, they were going to charge what they want.  I, the consumer, had no recourse whatsoever.

I looked at the old men and women around me who were stranded.  They were already cash strapped. Paying the usual five rand required by the Mshikashika combis was already hard for them. They were already too broke to go home, too broke to buy food or even water. Asking them to pay extra was milking them dry.  For a moment I thought; just pay the damn dollar and go home to rest. Heck, I needed some rest. But then again paying that dollar meant allowing this madness to continue. The right thing to do was to be part of a small civil resistance group, to stand in solidarity with others against the madness and refuse to pay the extra amount. And that is what I did.

Dear Diary…

Our very lives are trouble. Some may think there are bigger issues out there that I should worry about but these are the things that happen every day and in one way or another, they compromise my security. They make me feel unsafe. I wonder, does the Harare city council understand what the theme for the 16 days of activism really means? Do they know what it means to create “safe spaces” for women? Do they know that all these things they are doing compromise women’s safety and security?

What should I do? What can I possibly do? Today I will tell the story but maybe one day…

My sister’s keeper: her esteem in my hands!


By Caroline Kache

Scenario 1

A woman walking on the streets of Harare; stripped naked for wearing a mini skirt. She boldly continues to walk whilst a huge crowd jeers behind her. Someone gives her a wrap (zambia) to cover herself but even that is taken away from her. Others say she is crazy for continuing to walk like that, but she continues with the little dignity she has left. They have damaged her but have not completely broken her.

This sounds like a script but it actually is the content of a video that has been circulating on social media in Zimbabwe in which a woman was stripped naked for wearing a mini-skirt. The level of intolerance and lack of humanity by those who did this to another human being is unbelievable. She is someone’s sister, mother and aunt! Have we lost all respect for other human beings? Where is the Ubuntu/hunhu we once prided ourselves in? I for one could not believe the number of women in the video who were jeering and following the naked woman. I asked myself, if I had been there what would I have done?

The attack on this woman prompted the #MiniSkirtMarch in Zimbabwe which got social media buzzing. Of particular interest were the comments from women, who felt that a woman should not show her body in that way on the streets. Others felt that the #MiniSkirtMarch was a worthless cause; “couldn’t there have been amarch against child abuse or something more meaningful, hapana mukadzi wemunhu anoita zvakadaro” (no married woman would be part of a march to wear miniskirts in public) they said. This is despite the fact that a number of women have been subjected to sexual harassment on the streets of Harare; married or not.

Scenario 2

“I said her dressing in front of a young man was inappropriate. I was not impressed especially for someone of her stature…That’s when I said she was inappropriately dressed, inappropriately attired. Displaying the thighs,” – in Parliament women approached me about her dressing, saying they had talked to her but she persisted without mentioning any names… – “She wears mini skirts. She must change her style of dressing. Even some of us who have attractive bodies don’t wear mini-skirts that show our thighs, especially in front of children. As mothers who have young growing daughters what lessons do we pass on to them? That is all I was unhappy about.

A few weeks ago the First Lady Grace Mugabe made headlines with her public attack on the Vice President Dr. Joice Mujuru. AmaiMugabe attacked not just the office of the Vice President but she attacked her person and this left many with jaws dropped at the inappropriateness of her actions and words.

If the other female parliamentarians did go to Amai Mugabe to complain about Dr Mujuru’s dressing (though I believe how Dr Mujuru dresses is not anyone’s business) I don’t believe the female parliamentarians’ expectations were that Amai Mugabe would address this issue during her ‘Meet the People Tour” or that she would publicise these concerns in the manner she did. Could she not have handled this issue with the same measure of discretion they did?

Sister’s keeper

My definition of a sister’s keeper is best illustrated by a typical scenario in any gangster movie. There are usually two rival gangs in an area and when two individuals from these gangs get into a brawl, the rest of the members from both gangs will join in the scuffle. Most of the members may not know what the cause of the scuffle is or who is to blame for starting it, but in a heartbeat they jump in to assist their fellow gang members.

That to me is the epitome of sisterhood. Imagine if all men knew that they cannot mess with any woman on the streets of Zimbabwe because all women would join in? Imagine if women walked on the streets in miniskirts and when all the hwindis (touts) started whistling and shouting women would come together and dare the men to touch any woman! Sisterhood is not about right or wrong or whether you feel strongly about an issue. It is about something in you refusing to remain silent when a fellow sister is being humiliated, assaulted or abused.

A friend once told me that true friendship is hearing people say something about a friend and you publicly defend your friend even without verifying if the issue is true or not. I am not saying women should not be admonished or reprimanded when they do wrong; quite the contrary. I am saying it should be done in sisterly love to build each other up instead of looking for a public platform and humiliating a fellow sister, Wisdom says you call her to the side and address your issues in a private space so that when you come out in public no one will know there was a private matter between you! Was it necessary, for Amai Mugabe to address issues of gossip and what happens in Dr. Mujuru’s private life on the public state broadcaster? Dare I say Amai Mugabe painted a picture of herself far worse than that of the person she meant to discredit.

The women who came before us, worked too hard for women’s empowerment for us for us to tear each other down in this way. Being our sisters’ keepers means we protect each other in the public domain; it also means we stand up for each other because for generations women have been said to be cruel to one another. In Shona we say mhandu yemukadzi mukadzi (a woman’s enemy is another woman). We have become our sisters’ enemies. We subject each other to emotional and psychological abuse, force each other to endure painful situations, humiliate each other and break each other’s spirits.

As we commemorate the 16 days of activism against gender based violence this year we must remember that violence is not perpetrated by men alone but can be by other women who have forgotten the true meaning of sisterhood. May Jodi Picoult’s words resonate within our hearts that ‘you don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.’ Let us be our sisters’ keepers!

 

 

Women’s privacy no longer guaranteed


By Fortune Madhuku

As Zimbabwe joins the rest of the World in commemorating the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, it is time to reflect and check how much has been done to empower women so that they do not continue to be victims of violence and abuse.

While great strides have been made in many facets of women’s life, which is quite commendable, there is one area where women are worse off. This area is about the invasion of women’s privacy. It is quite disheartening to note that with the advent of technology and high use of social media, many women have suffered as they have found pictures of themselves in the nude exposed to all and sundry on the internet without their consent. In most of the cases the perpetrators are jilted lovers who post photos and videos of their ex-wives and girlfriends in their birthday suits just to fix them. Such behavior is quite disgusting. A woman’s body is sacred and there is no amount of hatred, disappointment or bitterness that warrants displaying a woman’s naked body on the internet for the whole world to see.

While many people may be quick to blame the women who pose for the photos, knowing fully well the risk involved, the greater portion of the blame should rest on the men who post the photos on the internet. These actions should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

A case that quickly comes to mind is that of Desire Luzinda, a Ugandan songstress, who made headlines recently when her former boyfriend posted her nude photos on the internet in a bid to fix her, a bad trend referred to as ‘revenge porn.’ The songbird has had a colourful music career that saw her releasing several chat topping songs and being regarded as one of Uganda’s finest contemporary musicians. But with her bathroom photos going viral on the internet, her reputation has suffered a major hammering and her ego seriously undermined. Imagine her walking on the streets and everyone she meets knows everything that is behind the skirt and blouse, all this because of an ex-boyfriend who failed to stomach rejection. Very disappointing.

It was quite disturbed to hear the Minister of Ethics and Integrity in Uganda calling for the lady to be arrested as she participated in the shooting of the photos, appreciating that this is seriously prohibited under the East African country’s conservative laws. What is sickening is that no one said anything about the mischievous ex-boyfriend who posted the photos despite that the songstress had posed for the nudes.

The world seems to judge women harshly without apportioning the same amount of blame to the men involved. It is clear that the poor lady allowed her lover to take photos of her in the nude, in private, hoping that the photos would remain the private recording that they are. However, not all love relationships live until the end of times and it is during the rocky times of a relationship that the character of both parties is tested. Some people go to the extent of washing all the dirty linen in public, but it should be emphasised again and again that there is no amount of hatred that can justify displaying photos of naked women to the public, dampening their ego and reputation. Every person has a right to privacy and this should be respected.

While some people may argue that there is no bad publicity as any publicity, good or bad, can propel someone to greater heights, citing the Pokello Nare case where her leaked sex-tape seems to have made her even more popular, there are numerous other cases of women whose careers were seriously shattered by the exposure of compromising recordings on the internet. Think of Tinopona ‘Tin Tin’ Katsande who lost her celebrity status and job as a presenter at ZiFM radio station following the leak of her sex tape. The young and vivacious lady has found it hard to stand on her feet again and is now a pale shadow of her former self.

It is clear that women’s privacy is no longer guaranteed. Many women now live in fear as they have no assurance that tomorrow could be the day that the world will be watching their nude bodies via the internet and social media. For a country whose laws prohibit pornographic material it is strange how the men who expose these pictures and videos are never arrested nor the cases properly investigated. Instead the inclination is to castigate the women and slut-shame them. We clearly live in a patriarchal world!