Women groups should get real

HARARE - I thought it was natural that my mother who lives in the rural areas seems not to be bothered with news about women groups fighting for equality and equity.

She was born a long time ago, when white settlers prescribed Victorian values on the African societies they colonised.

Victorian values confined the life of women to the home, it was the men who were allowed to do certain tasks and the role of women was to stay at home and give comfort to the men who would have experienced a torrid time outdoors looking for family sustenance.

Despite being able, women found themselves playing second fiddle, some of these women include the celebrated 19th century English fiction writer Marry Ann Evans who had to write most of her novels  such as The Mill on The Floss using the pseudonym George Elliot.

European women have the First World War to thank as it allowed them to work in factories as most men in Europe had gone to the war front.

Gradually women began to be viewed as people of worth and gained acceptance in many circles and professions.

My mother was also acculturated in the African way, where she is expected to respect my father.

As a good mother, she must raise her children in a way that makes them morally upright, be able to accept the otherness — the prerequisites for a progressive and harmonious society.

My mother knows she has rights but she is clear how the oppressive narrowness of society sets boundaries on those rights.

Her views on the life-threatening scourge of domestic violence are difficult to understand.

She has seen a lot of women being beaten up for very silly things.

However, many of the victims of such abuses do not report these cases, either to close relatives or to law enforcement agencies for the sake of preserving marriages and fear of the unknown.

She has seen women who endured these kinds of experiences until old age and she thinks if one finds  herself in such a situation there is little that can be done but endure the pain.

If a woman opts out of an abusive relationship especially in the rural areas, negative social sanctions become the order of the day.

Even one’s own relatives in the extended family system will urge one to stay on with the hope the man will change for the good.

Even if my mother has seen cases where women were beaten to death, she is conditioned by the view that if you kill a person then reparations will be paid after all.

The fact that men would have paid bride price somehow makes my mother think that to a larger extent women should just listen and keep quiet.

This is the scenario that most rural women find themselves day in day out.

My mother reacted angrily when my sister was battered by her husband. She threatened to revenge and blamed my sister for not fighting back.

I was relieved that at least my mother knows women have rights and they should be treated with respect.

She surprised me when I told her there are women’s groups who could help troubled women and that there is a law which protects women from such abuse.

She professed ignorance of the existence of the Domestic Violence Act or any women’s groups except Ruwadzano.

Where the hell are women groups whilst mothers suffer from ignorance in rural areas?

Women are suffering in silence at a time “fatty” women parliamentarians seek for 50 -50 representations and only plan demonstrations after a “celebrity” has been battered by a live in boyfriend.

Should rural women continue to suffer because they are not celebrities?

Women’s groups should go where their services are needed instead of stampeding for media coverage and creating an illusion of progress. - Wellington Gadzikwa

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