Statement for International Women’s Day


 

This year’s UN theme is Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” and it is a call for people to visualise a present and a future in which all of humanity is empowered because women and girls have been empowered. It is recognition that the energy, talent and strength of women and girls represent humankind’s most invaluable untapped natural resource. It is a call to the individual responsibility to imagine the world as it could be, and to do what one can to achieve that vision. It is also, more pertinently, a nudge and reminder to governments, civil society and public and private sectors to commit to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls – as a fundamental human right and a force for the benefit of all.

Working for equality for women and girls around the globe is the key to fighting poverty, political instability and social injustice and all the evils that beleague society in its broadest sense. Over the years, the struggle to get women’s rights integrated into the general human rights framework and to have key decision making institutions recognise the importance of issues related to women and girls have been fruitful. Every major institution and government has at the very least acknowledged that ending discrimination and violence against women are fundamental to achieving gender equality. Many have committed to working on these issues.

This year as the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), we commemorate International Women’s Day in Zimbabwe, by reawakening a call to all actors to remind us of where we ought to be. For when we empower a woman we empower a nation. Empowering the women of Zimbabwe means we must strive to provide educational opportunities for all girls and women of all ages, for them to be able to realise their full potential. No girl child should be deprived of this opportunity for any reason.

It means ending gender based violence in the private and public sphere. .We must strive with every breath to eradicate all traditional, cultural and social practices that continue to discriminate and dehumanise the women of Zimbabwe.

All laws must be aligned to International human rights standards and the Constitution to ensure that every woman has full and equal dignity as well as have equal opportunities with men.. Until we all make this commitment, we cannot move forward as a nation.

For until we all acknowledge in word and in practice that women are the core of our humanity we will never change our reality. Let us continue to work together to make this world a better place for all women. Together we can make it happen!

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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.

Monitoring everything but ourselves


by Daniel Mususa

We have been fighting to end Gender Based Violence for some considerable time now. From the early “we don’t need men anyway” radical feminist approaches in the 1970s, to the contemporary “together as men and women” approaches, we have seen a plethora of programs, projects and schemes aimed at fighting Gender Based Violence. Each one has had its rationale, merits and demerits. And I believe, we have learnt a lot from these phases and have sharpened our arsenal to more effectively understand and address GBV. Gender and Development (GAD), Gender in Development (GID), Women in Development (WID), Women and Development (WAD) etc. the list is endless, as we have incorporated into new designs the strengths of the previous versions and dropped the weaknesses.

In Zimbabwe, in some regards we have moved quite quickly in our acceptance of plans to improve the situation of women, than many countries. The majority of women are allowed to drive, to go to work, get paid maternity leave, can wear what they want and can be  whoever they want to be and do what they want with their lives, with a good education. Zimbabwe is a signatory tothe Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)-a canon international instrument in the fight against GBV, Domestic Violence and other discriminatory ills that pull women back. Zimbabwe has adopted and quickly operationalised CEDAW and other international conventions and guiding frameworks. In fact, Zimbabwe seems to be ager to become aa signatory to most of these international instruments and codes. Resultantly, the civil movement in its pursuit of women empowerment has been buoyed by the relatively pacy adoption of these codes into actual legislation. From self-help schemes, village level and nationwide micro finance lending schemes, cooperatives and psycho-social support groups, Zimbabwe has benefitted from an array of programs tackling gender issues and addressing the marginalisation of women.

There is every reason to applaud the adoption of international instruments such as CEDAW, the Beijing Conference, efforts to punish perpetrators of GBV, efforts to facilitate dialogue and improve communication between intimate partners. All approaches toward women empowerment have some weaknesses for example, Linda Mayoux discussing microfinance schemes, argues that increasing the money available to women does not necessarily equate to their empowerment. There still remains the question of who, within the household, controls that money? That is the man, the husband from whose clutches and power we are trying to help wrestle the woman. Each approach has its given problems.

We have successfully identified most of the factors and processes responsible for GBV and have evolved strategies to deal with them, to change the wider societal structures that house these processes and to monitor that change. However, we have not dentified and utilised strategies for monitoring our own role as activists/human rights defenders in defining the problem, developing the project design and our Monitoring and Evaluation plans. We can astutely monitor all other variables except this one: Us. We have not developed plans to monitor our personal biases, baggage, our values, beliefs, incompetencies, misconceptions and most importantly, our willingness or lack of it in seeing actual change in our own behaviour, attitudes etc. towards Gender Based Violence.

I have heard civil society actors whisper a “but izvi zve gender nemadzimai hazvinatsoshanda”[…but this gender and women empowerment thing does not really work]. Women’s rights organisations struggle to get their issues prioritized in fora that have so-called human rights minds gathered. In other words, gender concerns are marginalised by those in development work, making the work an industry in which the actors are not sincere, as Hancock puts it.

With this current campaign to end gender based violence coming to an end, we need to address how we are glossing over our deficiencies in ending all forms of GBV by:

  1. Project mentality

We have had an abundance of projects/programs aimed at empowering women to stand up against GBV. Each project has been implemented by one or two organisations on limited funds. Durable solutions can only come out of a process of sustained community engagement to establish contextually, the causes and manifestations of GBV and the best implementation and M& E strategy. Lone projects are just that; lone projects. They end at the end of the money

  1. Lack of co-ordination

There is just an appalling clustering of work on the same thing. In the same communities you find two or three initiatives addressing GBV. The only difference is that one takes a microfinance angle, another on participation, another on constitutional/rights awareness and another on cross border trading. Why not combine forces and come up with a comprehensive thing whose impact and change can be noted over time. After all, GBV is supported by forces such as culture which cannot be moved easily? I remember a Shona adage “Rume rimwe harikombi churu.” Cooperation is key!

  1. Taking one case study as signifying larger societal change

Perhaps because everyone has to show that they are doing “something,” we are guilty of over-glorifying one case/project in we which we think we are doing well. That one “successful” initiative is glorified, put in annual records, pasted on social media, quoted in conferences as if that one case proves everything and shows that we are succeeding in ending GBV. Individual contributions matter, but our combined efforts are what will change the status quo.

  1. We lack studies giving evidence of how social relations that put different people at risk of GBV have changed because of the work we do. There is no literature with substantive numbers and qualitative explanations on how the relations have changed and where. Gender Based Violence has deeper structural foundations than we have been willing and able to monitor. A project cannot change people (both men and women who are benefitting from the current status quo) to suddenly let go of their privileges. GBV is based in culturally ascribed privileges and benefits that present GBV (and Domestic Violence) as ok when perpetrated under certain circumstances e.g. a woman’s refusal to have sexual intercourse with a cheating husband. We need research; a simple feedback report to say one had a meeting with a chief is not proof that the chief’s perceptions and attitudes have changed.
  2. We still have not yet come up with effective measurement mechanisms that tell us how much of our own baggage/beliefs and stereotypes have been reduced in designing, planning, implementing and evaluating our efforts to reduce/eliminate GBV. What we have become so successfully skilled at is measuring how our preconceived variables or “Objectively Verifiable Indicators” as we call them, are changing in the target populations/ among project participants or beneficiaries. We need to evaluate how our own biases taint our approaches to the work we do.

Going forward, we now need to target GBV where it is in the communities, not just where just it is easiest to reach. This includes developing tailored strategies to reach marginalised populations more effectively to gather their views on what we do including those who drop out of our projects. We need to hear why they think what we do is not worth their time, because it really may not be worth anything to them. Are we willing to hear these stories? To make durable change we need to stop monitoring everything else but ourselves. Our eyes should be on ourselves just as they are on our project beneficiaries. We cannot end Gender Based Violence if we are unwilling to look at our own shortcomings as men, women, communities and women’s rights defenders.

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!