Zim women movement losing steam

HARARE - It is the movement that, among its many triumphs, won women the vote.

Yet, for the average modern woman, the women’s movement is dead, stymied by political polarisation in Zimbabwe.

Rudo Chigudu, a prominent Zimbabwean women’s rights activist, thinks political divisions and tensions have set in within the women’s movement. 

“It doesn’t matter what the name of the head of state is — the girl who is being raped will still be raped,” she said.

“If we become distracted from the issues that concern women because of partisan politics — women will continue to die while we debate who is going to be head of state in the next

The women’s movement has become divided along Zanu PF and MDC party lines, abandoning the women’s agenda.

Luta Shaba, a lawyer and women’s advocate, said the women’s movement had lost steam and its agenda.

“It is a well founded observation that the women’s movement is no longer vibrant,” Shaba said.

“Personally, I attribute it to the increase in unemployment rate.

“Traditionally, development work used to attract social entrepreneurs with a voluntaristic nature. They felt a passion for social issues. “But due to unemployment, it attracted another form of people who are there for money, who want to earn a salary.”

Shaba said being an advocate for women calls for commitment beyond the call of duty. However, she said the movement has become too elitist for its own good.

“On one hand we have become experts and very academic and in the process we have removed ourselves from the woman on the ground," she said. "We have become too technical for our own good.”

She also feels the movement has now become polarised along party lines.

“Part of the movement support MDC or Zanu PF, it has become the political agenda not the women’s agenda,” she said. “During the constitution-making process, we lost a lot of
potential success because we were following either the Zanu PF or MDC agenda without our own agenda.”

Shaba, now a spirit medium, said women need to admit these weaknesses.

“We need to be mature about our differences,” she said. “We should now concentrate on protecting our gains. We should go back to identifying ourselves as citizens with breasts.”

But Judith Chiyangwa, a women’s rights activist,  believes the women’s movement in Zimbabwe is still vibrant  but that women are not visible.

“The movement is at work every day, for example, during a funeral or burial, women work hard but they are not recognised,” she said.

“It starts from these minute levels to the top.”

Edna Masiiwa, director of Women Action Group (WAG) said the movement was vibrant but  lacks exposure.

“I can say, the women’s movement is lively and it is doing a lot of work for women,” she said.

“Women and Aids Support Network advocated for the female condom and it was introduced on the market, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association provides legal services, and other
organisations are engaged in different work elsewhere.

“Women’s organisations are reaching out to women in rural areas and I can say we are quite vibrant.”

Masiiwa pointed out the Domestic Violence Act which was enacted because of the vibrancy of women’s movements.

She also noted the increasing voice of the women’s movement in condemning rape and ensuring that rapists are jailed. She cited the case of Robert Martin Gumbura, the RMG Independent
End Time Message Church leader who was jailed for an effective 40 years on five counts of raping his congregants.

Masiiwa said they were currently engaging women living with disabilities and those in the Apostolic sect, informing them of their rights and how they can access them.

Masiiwa said Zimbabweans are stressed economically and they do not have time to listen to women’s issues, including their plight.

“In the early years of Independence, people had time to participate because they were not affected by bread and butter issues.

“At the moment, if you call a meeting in town, only a few people attend.”

Comments (2)

The women's NGOs finished all the donor funds on salaries and personal comforts. No ordinary women benefitted.

Mwana wevhu - 14 August 2014


mariyeti Mpala - 15 August 2014

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