By Lloyd Pswarayi
Recently the leading story in the local media was about the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe on her “Meet the People Tour.” The assumption I had was that the primary role of the Secretary of the Women’s League was to advance the cause of women at both party and national levels. I expected her on her tours to address issues that affect women and what her grand plan to address these would be.
But alas, the real agenda was revealed when the First Lady began to talk about the Vice President, Dr Joice Mujuru. Amai Mugabe went on to attack Dr Mujuru and all her “demonic” clan, declaring that she (the VP) is incompetent at her job of 10 years. The first lady also ‘exposed’ that the Vice President is corrupt, an extortionist of the highest order, wears ‘short’ dresses in front of boys in her house and has been doing this since her husband, the General was alive.
There is something seriously wrong with this scenario.
First, we the ‘povo’ have castigated the President in the past for recycling incompetent ministers since Independence. We have raised the issue of corrupt ministers in past and present governments who have plundered the nation’s wealth with some owning whole towns and neighbourhoods. These people remain in office today, “advising the President.” Perhaps Amai Mugabe forgot all the others and only remembered Dr Mujuru?
Second, as Secretary for Women’s affairs in the party, we expected Amai Mugabe to use her position of influence to campaign vigorously to promote the rights of women and children in Zimbabwe. One of the issues currently affecting women and children is child marriage. 3 in every 10 girls get married before they turn 18. Societies keep using the excuse that it is their culture or religion to abuse children by forcing them into marriage.
In a case study we conducted as RAU in Goromonzi early in 2014, we established that most of the children in these marriages come from poor families. Most of them drop out of school due to lack of funds. Having dropped out of school, they are forced to marry early. In some cases, even the traditional leaders are perpetrating this ugly practice. Perhaps with her influence, Amai should have used the “Meet the People Tours” to tell perpetrators of child marriage to “STOP IT!!” She could have concentrated on figuring out how to raise funds for women so they can send their children to school. Perhaps she should have applied her mind to how the economy can work again so that young girls are not pushed to marry out of desperation to escape poverty.
Child marriages compromise the position of women in society. They rob children of a chance to an education and to pursue their dreams. It denies them a chance to be equal members of society competing fairly with men in contributing to society.
Young girls and women are looking up to people like the First Lady to use her position to ease their burdens. As a leader, “Amai Mugabe should have used her Tour to address these challenges.
All hope is not lost, however, there is still the 16 days of activism against gender based violence- an opportunity for her to stand up and say to everyone responsible for violating Women and Girls “STOP IT”!!!