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.