Author

Anesu Neckler Chiremba

The past few months in Zimbabwe have been extremely heart-breaking with the news of the untimely death of a 14 year old girl at a Marange church Shrine. The death being caused by child birth. A picture spread on social media of a young girl, with a belly you could clearly see was too heavy for her small stature. At the time, there was outrage from many individuals as well as NGOs spreading awareness and comments under the campaign #JusticeforMemory (it was later revealed that the girl’s name was actually Anna) and #EndChildMarriages.

In our little teapot country child marriages have always been a concern.  Think about the stories you have heard from friends and family regarding young girls being married off.  According to a study made by GirlsNotBrides about 34% of girls in Zimbabwe are married before they turn 18 years old. That is about 1 in 3 girls who are not able to fully live out their childhood in Zimbabwe! With the stories I have heard from several people, this number in 2021 (during a pandemic) is most probably increased. The girl child is in trouble, young girls in rural areas, orphans and those in societies that do not look down on child marriages are most vulnerable.  Girls are unable to  fight for safe sex, they are unable to receive adequate sexual reproductive health care such as contraceptives etc, they are unable to go to school and are prone to physical abuse because of the power dynamics in these ‘marriages’ . The situation is appalling and it really makes you wonder what is causing marriage to underage girls. I believe that amongst the many reasons such as socio-economic hardships and religious beliefs, we are to blame. Yes, you and I should be blamed.

The law in our country is somewhat clear on child marriages as of 2016 going forward. There were some dubious judgements in the past, which would leave anybody in 2021 very confused.

The accused was charged with having sexual intercourse with a young person (a fifteen year old girl)…received the following sentence….24 months of imprisonment…. the remaining 8 months further suspended on condition that the accused marries the complainant

-S v Ivhurinosara

 

However, with time, decisions in the courts have shown that marriage to an underage girl is clearly against the law. The Constitution (the most superior law of the land), in section 26 explains that children are not pledged in marriage and in section 78 it further explains (in case you missed it) that every person who attains the age of 18 has the right to found a family. In 2016, the Constitutional Court in Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi v Minister of Justice, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs N.O and Others, declared that it was unconstitutional for boys and girls to marry if they were under the age of 18 for civil or customary marriages. The very essence of marriage is a union entered into FREELY by two CONSENTING ADULTS. Children are not allowed to drink alcohol, they cannot enter contracts and they sure as heck shouldn’t be wives or husbands before their prime. Section 81 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe also explains that every child has the right to be  protected from economic and sexual exploitation.  The act of lobola where the girl child is married off to somebody for economic gain of her parents or relative is exploitation. The Domestic Violence Act [Chapter 5:16] explicitely mentions that child marriages are a crime, and any person found guilty of such crime,

shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level fourteen or imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or to both such fine and such imprisonment”

More recently, the Marriages Bill that combats  and outlaws child marriages remains to be passed into law. This stalemate continues to derail the move to ending child marriage.

It perplexes me how any individual of society can look at the marriage of young girls as anything but abuse. Children, like Anna, do not marry these men freely. It is extremely unfortunate that there are congregants that believe their religious leaders to the extent of consenting and enabling paedophilia.  In such sects, it is the parents who encourage the abuse of their own children, from coaching children on what to say in the presence of authorities to never attaining birth certificates thus making it difficult for authorities to verify the age of the minor.

With all these laws in place, the enforcement of such laws is still so little and a real disservice to the girl child.  There are many stories where families we personally know consent to child marriage-either actively or passively. We turn a blind eye to paedophilia, but are shocked and vocal on Twitter and in WhatsApp groups. So many of us have memories of being at family functions and being told not to dress a certain way or be overly friendly towards a certain uncle. Why is it that we can identify that something is wrong, but we fail to address it?  What is required of us as citizens is to ask ourselves why we condone this clear infringement of a child’s right to be a child. Does being ostracised by the congregation mean so much, that we are willing to abuse children for it? Also read, Child Rape and Sexual Abuse: The Unspoken Concern…

This is a community dilemma that affects us all, how can you as an individual ensure that a child below the age of 18 is able to finish and enjoy their childhood, and have a fighting chance to make a future for themselves?

  • As a community we can lobby for changes in society. We can persuade lawmakers to criminalise child marriage and set proper, enforceable mandatory minium sentences
  • If you know a child in a situation of this nature, educate her on her rights and urge her to report this.
  • There are organisations that are there to help girls who leave child marriages to get back on her feet through entreprenurial and social support. Shamwari YeMwanasikana is one such organisation, special thanks to the the Advocacy and Influence Officer, Rudo Magwanyata who took some time to explain the actions in place to assist the girl child.
  • A person who knows of the abuse can report the crime to the police by making a tip off to the victim friendly unit who accept these with high confidentiality
  • Make noise online #EndChildarriages, follow movements and contribute where possible
  • Donate your time, money or necessary  resources  to these organisations helping young girls to get back on their feet.

 

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I’m sure we are all crawling into the indefinite lockdown. I had the mindset that new beginnings, new chapters and revival start in January. But knowing what I know now, the planning and aligning starts now, in the lockdown. Let’s face it 2020 has not been the girl we all thought it would be. Our travelling plans were discarded of months ago, our (well at least mine) trainers for that fitness resolution haven’t seen the light of day and it can be a little depressing thinking the second lockdown might end with not much being achieved. Fortunately for us with time at home comes some hope and some time to realign ourselves. Consider these subtle lifestyle changes to get your mind right for this year.

Declutter 101

Decluttering is a therapeutic act that will get your mind right for the year. I’m sure you have heard the saying “cleanliness is next to godliness”. My own interpretation of that saying is that, when you have a clean, decluttered environment you are able to refocus your mind and set achievable goals for yourself. Now, I am no saint in the decluttering world, and I have a long way to go to achieve my ideal fung shui environment but these few tips have been helping me get there.

1.So to start off with you can pick a place that you really know needs some cleaning up. For me its always my bedside drawers, a lot of junk resides there so that’s where I would start.

2. See what you would like to keep and what needs to be thrown out. You can also make a ‘maybe’ pile. When weeding out the maybe pile try ask yourself if you really need whatever it is and you will never find something like it. If no…throw…it…out/give it away!

3. Phasing yourself is also a great idea for big projects like your house, wardrobe etc. You can find one item that you havent used in months each day. If you give away or throw out one item each day, in a year you have decluttered your life by 365 items.

 

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I found a place where we could all sit. I was on time, as usual, so I twiddled on my phone while I waited for everyone to arrive. The live band was playing and the place was buzzing with people and excitement. I was distracted by the sultry guitar strings; I didn’t even notice Panashe had arrived. I jumped up and hugged her. It had been weeks since I had seen her.

Panashe was the person you pictured when someone said “free-spirit”. I was the shy, wall flower type but she was the life of the party. She was loud and unapologetic. I’m sure everyone has that friend who just turns heads. Her effervescent personality was contagious. She knew everyone or if she didn’t know you, you’d be best friends by the end of the night. Although I rarely got to see her because she was on an adventure every other weekend, the times we did meet up we knew we would have fun. She was always trying to get everyone together for drinks or a movie-hell she’d suggested we meet at the restaurant today. From the time we had met at a mutual friend’s party, I can truly say I had come out of my shell in strides. She sat down and ordered a drink, “Why are these girls always late?” she asked and we both laughed.

It wasn’t long till Samantha and Gamu arrived. Samantha and I had been friends forever, I can’t remember when we actually became close friends, it just happened. I believe everyone should have a Samantha at one point or another in their lives. She was understanding and trustworthy-my confidant. With all friendship groups there is always that one person you tell your deepest, darkest, embarrassing secrets to. Samantha was that friend. She always had a listening ear when I had to talk about my boy drama, my crazy African household or an annoying colleague. I was so grateful that she was in my life because despite all my terrible decision-making, she remained in my corner. I could depend on her. That’s not to say that she didn’t have her own problems, but she had taught me to be positive even when your house is on fire and there is no ZINWA.

I had met Gamu just a few months . But she was those people who grow on you and you have no control over it. She had older sibling vibes. That girl who just seemed to have her life in order. She had a good head on her shoulders and the best part is that she wasn’t afraid to motivate you to be the best version of yourself. She had done everything expected of us-gone to school, graduated and started working at a top company in the CBD. What I admired the most about her was that besides following the straight and narrow she had opened her own business and she was following her dreams. In so many ways, I admired her and I wanted to emulate her. There were occasions where I would run ideas past her and she would prod and poke holes in my plans-assisting me to modify what I had come up with. After she had showered me with a multitude of “you can do this” and “believe in yourself” I was planning on starting a little side hustle of my own.

So we sat and ordered drinks while we waited for the last of our little gang to join us. And as is the custom where women gather, conversation turned from the best boutiques to buy clothes to gossip. Samantha expressed her dismay in how an old friend only looked to her when she needed something-be it money, a dress to go out or a business favour. Panashe chimed in about toxic friends-the truth is good friends are hard to come by. At a certain age you realise that some friendships don’t serve you anymore and you have to let go.

Finally, Bongi arrived, late as usual with a detailed explanation about how she had woken up late and all her plans had been delayed. We all laughed, rolled our eyes and told her we were starving because of we had been gracious and waited for her. Bongi was the sweetest, kindest person-till you crossed her. She had a big heart and protected her friends fiercely. In life you need people you can call to a fight. You know how sometimes you want to confront your man about his cheating ways, she was the friend who would drive the getaway car and probably speak up for you when you couldn’t. I also appreciated her honesty. She would tell you the truth if you were making questionable money decisions or if you were compromising your self-worth for a man. Honesty and loyalty are qualities we all need in our friendships.

The chats continued well into the afternoon. I was so glad to be spending time with my friends finally.

 

Sadly it’s still Corona time and I just had to let my imagination run wild for International Friendship Day. The characters are completely made up but I have based them on some of the best friendships I’ve had in my life. I believe everyone should have:

A Panashe-someone who will push you out of your comfort zone, and make you enjoy life

A Samantha-someone who will keep your secrets, and comfort you in tough times

A Gamu-someone who motivates and inspires you to achieve the goals you put in place

A Bongi-someone who is brutally honest with you

 

Which friend do you think you are?

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It has been extremely difficult for me to sit down and write for a while. It hasn’t been writer’s block (trust me, in fact I have too much to say on the subject) but more an attempt to gather my thoughts and not come across as “a crazy black woman” or “a feminazi”. I truly believe as a country and a continent we must continue to address the elephant in the room. The truth is the war on women’s bodies is so glaring-it’s difficult to live your best life in this environment. From a very young age the Zimbabwean girl is told how to behave, how to dress and be afraid of men. And this caution is with good reason.

What’s GBV?

Gender based violence is violence directed at an individual based on their gender or biological sex. The list of violence include sexual, physical, emotional, verbal, psychological abuse and/or economic deprivation, threats and coercion. We can’t rule out that men may also experience this violence, but, unfortunately, there are more cases of such a nature towards women. Reports of such abuse have increased and the lockdown has resulted in even more cases as, women find themselves stuck with their abusers at home.  In November 2019, Zimbabwe Gender Commission released horrifying figures:

1 in 3 women aged 15 to 49 years have experienced physical violence

1 in 4 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15 years

22 women are raped daily in Zimbabwe

1 in 3 girls are raped or sexually assaulted before the age of 18 years old

Rape cases increased from 4 450 in 2010 to 8 069 in 2018

https://zgc.co.zw/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Zimunya-16-DAAGBV-speech-by-Chairperson.pdf

We clearly have a problem and now the question is what do we do to protect women in Zimbabwe? The most important thing is to support those who survive these ordeals. Many people don’t know what to say/do when someone reveals that they are experiencing gender based violence at home, in the workplace or anywhere really. I remember when I was in University, a friend of mine came to my room to tell me that the guy she thought was a sweet, kind gentlemen had assaulted her. I supported  her during the process and in the end she was able report the matter. She managed to write exams without the fear of running into him at the exam venue. Sometimes all someone needs is a listening ear with no judgment.

I Believe You

Women have described surviving such an ordeal can be dehumanising and paralysing.  Many people don’t report their cases because there is no support from our immediate family and society. Sometimes it’s other women you confide in, who victim blame you into silence or make excuses for the abuse. “But what were you wearing, when he commented on your butt?”, “You shouldn’t have even been in his room”, “He insults you cause he likes you, that’s what guys do sometimes”, “Ndozvinoita varume, dzimba dzakaoma idzi” (that’s how men are, marriage is tough).

So the next time a friend, a sister, a colleague, a daughter, musters up the courage to break their silence:

  1. Listen Sincerely– if someone has come to you with such a personal encounter you need to listen. Listen to what they want to say. The fine details of what has happened to them is not relevant, you just have to listen to what they feel comfortable with sharing.
  2. Believe– accepting someone’s story and showing them support is letting them know that you believe them. Confidentiality is also important to survivors and you should not push to know the perpetrator. Things you might be able to say could be “I am sorry this happened to you”, “What happened is not your fault”, “How can I support you, if you need my support”
  3.  Respect her wishes-supporting someone means respecting their decision, whether it is to report the abuse or not.You are there to support and not pressurise the survivor.
  4. Provide resources-Many of us are not counsellors or trained to help people with their healing process. In truth, its a personal journey for someone. There are a few places someone can contact for legal advice and counselling. For help you can call:

Victim Friendly Units at police stations

Zimbabwe Women Layers (ZWLA) 08080131

Musasa Project 0775442300

Adult Rape Clinic 0775672770

Phoebe Zimbabwe 0714396012

5. Continued support-if you are able to accompany this person to receive the help they need, then you can support them through the process.

It is necessary to start fighting the mansplaining and excuses-its women’s’ responsibility to do so. Its necessary to talk to our male counterparts and explain that this war on our bodies is unacceptable. It is devastating to realize that 1 of the the 22 women raped daily in Zimbabwe could be a close friend or family of myself. I truly believe that creating accepting environments (in the communities, the workplace and especially in the home) for people to be comfortable to break their silence is the best way to make sure that legitimate cases are reported and people are punished for these abuses.

 

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So apparently, there are several negative connotations when someone reveals they have taken the online dating path. Online dating is basically just that-getting to know someone, romantically, without physically meeting them. In the past, dating online was viewed as the last resort for the 35-plus ‘spinsters‘ who couldn’t find anyone in their dating pool and had to resort to the internet.

Of course, there is still resistance to going the online route, and with good reason-there are married men trying to get a girlfriend, cat-fishers (people who look like supermodels on their profiles but  look anything but in person) and predators on the internet. But if you are anything like me, a reserved lady of a certain age still living in a very African home, this might be a way to meet some interesting people.

  1. Your profile is everything

Right! So you have decided to go online and meet some people. Your profile is everything on these sites. If you join Tinder its the only thing your potential matches get to see (just a picture and a little bit about yourself). That first impression is all he has to go on. In the few years I have been in the game I have seen some really interesting profiles. If you are really being genuine about making true connections a simple, friendly picture will do. It could be a picture of you doing something that interests you or a sweet selfie. The last thing you want to post is a filtered picture-it gets awkward on the first date when he can’t recognize you.

2. Be Ruthless With Your Choices

Your profile is up and running and you have met a few guys who seem intriguing. Off the bat you should be weeding out what you like and don’t like. Most websites sort of do it for you, you can communicate, exclusively with people you have shown interest in. I can’t stand shorthand, its a serious pet peeve, so as soon as someone greets me with a “Hi hw u duin?”, I’m unfriending, or unmatching, or blocking. One problem we have as women is that we have been conditioned to be nice and sometimes we are forced into entertaining advances when we really aren’t interested. But when you are online you don’t have to keep a conversation going, or keep up pretenses.

3. You must Investigate

A huge issue various people complain about with online dating is that people love to lie! Trust me, I have seen married people on these websites and it pains me. It’s fine in the initial stages of getting to know each other for conversations to be carefree, but at some point BEFORE you catch feelings please do some digging. Usually you have just a first name and a face to go by so you can ask friends if they have heard of your person of interest. If you are on Tinder (where most people are just looking for a good time) you could sift through profiles, usually men who pay for the passport are on the more serious side.  I personally recommend meeting the person relatively early on too. Firstly, you can establish if the profile matches the person and secondly you’ll see if you are wasting your time. Sometimes sparks are fling online and then you meet and its a sad disaster. Meeting in a public place the first few times is also essential. There are creeps out there so you want to weed out the “Babe, let’s Netflix at my place” types. Although the experience might be thrilling, you always have to remember to keep yourself safe.

4. Never Compromise Yourself

Stick to your values. It sounds obvious to say stick to your values and all but when you are busy texting a love interest sometimes you get carried away. Have you met girls who then regret sending the guy nudes, or lending an online bae money that she is never going to get back?  That’s what you need to avoid! In some cases its a form of grooming. Be careful of people who try to isolate you from your friends and family, it begins with an innocent friendship so be on your guard.

 

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On the 25th of May every year, the continent celebrates the liberation of Africans from colonialism and the formation of Africa Union. The AU recognises that for the African woman, there is a multitude of problems that still need to be addressed for us to get to the top. I could write a book! I like how the character Mai Shingayi in Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga put it,

“with the poverty of blackness on one side and the weight of womanhood on the other. Aiwa! What will help you my child is to learn to carry your burdens with strength.”

With that in the back of our minds, there are a few ways that the ‘blackness’ is being celebrated in our daily lives. We are in an age where the blackness is slowly becoming a symbol of power and wealth rather than that of poverty. Our African identity has become a more predominant aspect of our lives. There is a sense of pride in being African. I took to the Instagram streets to find out what makes women proud to be African in the 21st century.

What a time to be African – “my kinks and curls”

It’s a pity that it has taken us so long to accept our natural hair. Individuals my age were subjected to hot stones and relaxer for as far back as we could remember. But the natural hair revolution that started in the 60s in America, has also been accepted here in Africa too. It is weird when you think that the Anglicised version of our hair was glorified for so long. I remember a time when I walked into the complex of my former place of employment and one of my female bosses asked me why my natural hair was out and her assumption was – I wasn’t getting paid enough to get my hair done. It hurt, but I didn’t blame her, purely because so many women are told natural hair is not professional. I’m glad we all know better now, we know that that our hair is our crown (even the Bible says so) and we accept the kinks and curls on our heads.

What a time to be African – “when the drum beats”

African music is one of the biggest aspects of our daily lives. The comedian Trevor Noah once joked about how South Africans express their anger through dance and song -a complete paradox. But that is how Africans are, music was a great part of liberation across the continent. It is a large identifier for us and it’s clear that there is an appreciation worldwide. Coincidentally on the 21st of May, the Interactive Google Doodle was in celebration of the Zimbabwean instrument, the Mbira. People across the globe were able to practice their skills through the doodle and learn some interesting aspects of Shona culture. Music was one of the most prominent responses I received from my follows citing the great works of Oliver Mtukuzi to Babes Wodumo, from afrojazz to house to amapiano, we can all agree that the heart of Africa is our music.

What a time to be African – “the arts”

It’s so great to see that we Africans have found a voice for ourselves in the arts. From my first Literature lesson I have tried to soak up as much African Literature as I can. African women have found a voice in literature – a few names from the top of my head: Noviolet Bulawayo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi (you might recognise her prose from Beyonce’s song, Flawless ), Petina Gappah and so many more. With the filming of Black Panther in 2018, there were even more searches regarding Africa. Although the city of Wakanda was purely fictional, it reflected black excellence and tried to incorporate different African cultures and beliefs. The most important aspect, in my view, was the depiction of African women as strong and resilient people, able to occupy positions of authority (our own Danai Gurira made us proud).

African expression is also depicted in our fashion. The epitome of occupying spaces was when Nigerian women were full force at the Vienna Fashion Week in Austria showcasing fashion and dance. Bright patterns and colourful fabrics are now incorporated into our formal attire.

What a time to be African – “the continent”

We have a beautiful continent, we have Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mosi-oa-Tunya (or alternatively known as Victoria Falls) and the Red Sea Reef for crying out loud! If you have a bit of cash to spare (and after the lockdown of course) the best investment you could make is exploring the beauty Africa has to offer by travelling. In Zimbabwe alone there are so many places to visit and appreciate the wonder that is nature. There are various lifestyle blogs that document trips around Zimbabwe, and it can be surprisingly affordable. Personally, I have a little bucket list drawn up and I try to visit as many places as my pocket can allow.

 

These are just a few reasons why we are proud to be African. In some ways it is now easier to be a woman and African and express yourself as such. There is so much that still needs to be addressed such as patriarchy, gender parity and the empowerment but for now we will enjoy these milestones.

Anesu

 

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With all of us confined in our homes due to the COVID-19 lockdown, getting a Mothers’ Day Gift this year was a little tricky. If you are a procrastinating queen like me, its usually easy to go to the nearest store and grab a box of chocolates, some flowers or a cute card – but this year it was not as easy to travel to the CBD. What’s more, considering the economic situation it will definitely be difficult to break the bank for that special gift.

Here are a few ideas on how to treat your mom for Mothers’ Day:

1. Gift Delivery Shops

If you have some money in your piggy bank, you could consider getting a gift delivered straight to your doorstep. Several companies are resorting to delivering Mothers’ Day gifts to their clients’ homes. Gift stores are delivering cupcakes, flower bouquets, accessories and more. To start you off you can check out Amazing Creations Zim, Lindsays Cuisine, The Lily Pad, Nematombo Events, Love Visibly etc.

2. Breakfast in Bed

The oldest trick in the book, but very effective. Mothers work so hard and deserve to be pampered on their special day. Making a hearty breakfast for mom might be the best gift to start her day and make her feel special. You might have to wake up pretty early to prepare the meal because most Zimbabwean mothers wake up at the crack of dawn! If you are gifted in the kitchen you could also bake cupcakes or a cake for her sweet tooth.

 

Smartphone, Phone, Call, Iphone, Mobile, Technology

3. Check Up

If you are away from your mom during the lockdown the best gift might be to have a video call with her. It’s good to put some time aside for a special call where we can remininse about the good times when we were allowed to leave the confines of our homes. Communication is key for many mothers, if you are in good books with her neighbours, you can ask them to check up on her. In the case that you don’t have that much data, where you and your siblings are scattered around the globe, you can compile a video of well wishing messages.

4. DIY Spa Day

If you are good with your hands, a personal spa day might be the way to make her feel appreciated. You can set up a mini spa area for mani pedis. For a foot bath all you will need is a warm water bath, epsom salts or apple cider vinegar. To scrub your feet brown sugar goes a long way. Then you can paint the nails to your mom’s desired choice.You can use ingredients right from your kitchen for facial masks, such as avocado or a tumeric and plain yogurt mask.

 

5. Affirmation Jar

For a really sentimental and soppy gift you can try make what I call affirmation jars. All you need really is a jar, a pen and some paper. You will proceed to write a special message for your mom and you determine when she gets to read the messages. Leave a little note specifying “Read one when you need to smile” of “365 notes why I love you Mom”. The nice thing about this gift is you can write whatever you want.

 

 

6. For the Mom Who Loves to Read

You’ll need a bit of data for this one. When the lockdown began various online book providers announced that they were allowing users to subscribe and download books for free. If your mom loves to read, be it romance or fiction, you could consider gifting her with a personalised online library on her phone. For starters, you can check Wattpad, or peruse a wide range of free ebooks on pdfdrive.net.

Mothers’ Day this year was quite different with all of us in our homes. But you can make the most of it in your own little way and make her day special.

How did you spend your Mother’s Day? What did you get for her?

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