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?

photo accredited to http://www.goldcoastadvertisingagency.com.au/ad-of-the-day-lexus/

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?