Category:

Opinion

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.

 

0 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

A lot of women find it difficult to accept the reality that just maybe, they were never meant to be mothers. Funny right? I sometimes have the lingering thought that not all wombs are meant to carry an unborn child. Past traumas, feelings of inadequacy, failing to meet the right partner, and even freewill are other determinants of uninhibited motherhood. We all have that inner child who’s there to constantly remind us that maybe we will be sucker mums, so if you fit into any of the following categories, appease your spirits by saving your eggs from the little growth (just yet…)

  1. If you are career-oriented

The possibilities to motherhood are probably endless since nowadays there are a lot of ways to conceive other than the conventional two-way man and woman street. There’s artificial insemination, where one just books an appointment with their gynae and bravo! a baby is planted in the womb. One can even opt for adoption if need rises which ideally takes the “mating” out of the equation if one is really not up for carrying a whole baby for 9 months. Either way, being a mother to that child brings the optimum satisfaction one can get. But some women are just not into all that charade and feel as if they are better off as career-oriented beings who spend most of their time working, crunching huge deals, handling corporate affairs and drinking loads of success champagne afterwards. If you’re this type of woman, do you Mammie, and never feel the need to explain your choices to anyone.

  1. If you just don’t want to be a mum

Society is quick to judge such women, as they usually feel as if choosing not to be a mum is an act simply brewed by selfish tendencies. Far from it: NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO BE A MUM, because motherhood is a real commitment, and is more of a 24-hour on and off the clock job that is cut out for SOME but not restricted to all women. I was listening in to a conversation not long ago of a certain lady who decided to forego child-bearing with the blessing of her husband, and the reaction she got from her peers were astoundingly all negative criticism. I then wondered if child-bearing is supposed to be forced or expected of everyone, and I came to the realization that just because a woman chooses not to be a biological mother, it doesn’t necessarily imply that she lacks that motherly instinct. Nonetheless, it’s just a choice which people have to respect.

  1. If you’re not ready, yet

I’m almost 31, and sometimes I feel as if my eggs play table tennis with my uterus whenever I pass through a baby clothes boutique. I so badly want to be a mum (chuckles) yet I strongly believe in all earnest that sometimes, being a parent requires wholesome preparation. If you’re still a singleton, wait until you’re 100% sure you can actually take care of that child alone before you get pregnant. Hormones are deceiving: you don’t want to be a charity case a few months down the lane when reality strikes that you really can’t sustain motherhood. To newly weds who’re yet to find financial rooting: take the time to know each other instead and start saving for the child. There’s no need to rush into parenthood just so that Uncle Tom and Aunt Maria’s spirits are pacified, yet in reality you’re still struggling to make ends meet.

So before getting your egg pumped up, remember that fertilization is just the beginning of a really long journey. Take your time, decide if you REALLY want the child, and never compromise yourself so as to meet a societally constructed expectation.

1 comment
5 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

It has come to my attention that when most activists speak about violence against women and women empowerment they hardly or never mention the patriarchal system which is still one of the most prominent societal norms in Zimbabwe. I find this very disappointing because the patriarchal system is deeply rooted in the causes of violence against women and girls and has been used for many centuries as a tool to put women ”back in their place” and to silence them against any resistance. We need to start drawing our attention towards putting an end to this system if we plan on winning the fight against gender-based violence.

Patriarchal systems have been described as “the world historical defeat of the female sex,” and as systems that “distribute power unequally between men and women to the detriment of women.” Patriarchy is therefore orchestrated by gendered roles whereby males are dominant and have authority over women. As a result women are oppressed and become powerless to rescue themselves from the risk of violence.

Looking at the typical Zimbabwean example; in a household, the father is the head of the house, the decision- maker and what he says goes. If the wife attempts to challenge him he silences her either emotionally abusing her with harsh degrading words or by physically abusing her by beating her up.  Another typical example is that the patriarchal system gives men the role of being a “breadwinner” and the women as being the one that does that day to day household duties including cleaning, taking care of the children and cooking. There are many households where because of the “breadwinning” role given to men, the father of the house prohibits the wife to get a job leaving the wife solely financially dependent on the husband resulting in the wife being in a vulnerable position because she has to ask the husband for everything including for money to buy her own underwear- mind you this is a form of economic abuse. My next example is more common in the rural areas where many people are living in extreme poverty, because of poverty a household is unable to send all the children to school, automatically the system disqualifies the girl child and favours the boy child to be the chosen one that goes to school without even considering both children’s intellectual capacity. The girl child is then seen as a burden and the father marries her off as a way of getting money via lobola and to also get rid of the “burden”- mind you this is child marriage and is a form of abuse towards young girls.

Believe me, I can go on and on with examples that you will find very familiar, because these are the things that have been normalised in our society, the same society that cries out for the violence against women and girls to end.  For many years society has acknowledged this dehumanizing tool called patriarchy and behaves as if men are entitled to treat women in a degrading manner. It’s a cycle that boys learn from the time they are born. Have you noticed the reactions from the extended family when a male child is born? Everyone is excited and some even start to call the male baby by the “mutupo,” this baby grows up being praised and even at times referred to as the head of the house from that age. We have normalised this system to the extent that even though we cry against the violence against women on one hand, on the other hand we teach our boys to dominate and maintain a “boys will be boys” mentality, whilst teaching our girls to tolerate male aggression or change their behaviour to avoid it. Boys then grow up feeling entitled to women such that they inflict violence on our bodies in order to assert themselves. Patriarchy is our major obstacle to free ourselves from the violence and the discrimination we face as women. GBV is entrenched in the strong patriarchal ideologies of control, subversion and subordination of women and girls and we have to start focusing on ending this system for us to be free. Enough is enough!! We have carried this burden for many centuries and like anything that has a beginning; it can also have an end.

 

0 comment
6 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

I love being African, and my black melanin rocks! But, the gruesome reality is that not all black is bold and neither is celebrating blackness always a glitz and glam affair. If it all goes unnoticed, black might be the epitome of darkness. Your head might now be spinning as you are probably getting lost in your thoughts as to why I have such notions. My views are neutral, and highly based on my observation of different individuals. After studying my fellow brothers and sisters, I have come to the realisation that:

Actions matter MUCH more than words…

Yes, Black Lives Matter, and our own African culture advocates for brotherhood and having your neighbours back at all times. But the ugly reality is; being black is not all rosey and with the advent of injustices, the lines of its beauty are slowly fading. I have observed with shock how black on black exploitation is taking a toll on many people. If you are an employer, ask yourself how many times you have cared for the welfare of your employees. Needless to say, the economy is in turmoil, but some employers are blessed to be sailing in the storm. The painful reality though is that: most employees are living lives of endurance whilst sitting at a fellow brother/sister’s table. So, what matters are your thoughts and actions, not words. If you can give to Ceaser his dues, extend that same hand to your brother/sister too!

The SOUL has an outer radiation…

Being a keeper is also being real and doing reality checks from time to time. Just because your business partner X believes that a person ‘s existence is highly dependent on basics doesn’t mean that you should use that same standpoint. A lot of house helps are being exploited left, right and centre and needless to say, those girls and women have families too. As you’re reading this, I want you to step back a bit, stroll to the supermarket and assess the price of sanitary towels. Afterwards, calculate just how much that lady’s salary is worth. Just remember that the soul has an outer radiation, and no matter how good your speeches are, if they’re not put into action: you sound like a Broken Record.

 

0 comment
1 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

 

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.

 

1 comment
0 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Prostitutes are no longer just the women on the street after hours. Between transactional sex and lobola, JLo owes us an apology for that, “my love don’t cost a thing” song. Transactional sex is closely linked to cross-generational sex which is one of the leading attributions of the HIV spreading.

My heart bleeds and my blood boils when school girls in uniform are smiling ear to ear riding shortgun in a kombi. From woman to woman, don’t let them ride a body that’s yours to get rides on a car that
aint his. For young women its usually company cars in the place of kombies. We have all heard the stories about hunger, poverty, fees, and I personally am yet to hear a story worthy of me jeopardising my health and forfeiting my dignity.

The hardest hit are tertiary students who are considered fringe benefits by lecturers and easy targets for married men looking for a thrill. The transaction here is simple, a man going through a mid-life crisis desperately trying to salvage his youth convinces a young woman to concede her youth for groceries, rent and all sorts of material things. Ladies, please don’t make a permanent decision based on a temporary situation.

0 comment
2 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Gone are the days when a private affair remained behind closed doors. Private parts have now become public viewing. Pokello Nare’s sextape went viral whilst she was on the Big Brother reality show in South Africa and just as the dust was starting to settle, Tinoponda Katsande’s sextape also leaked. What is this world coming to and what example is this setting to young girls?

In Zimbabwe, the people are highly conservative and sex is a taboo topic which has posed as a threat to sexual health education. Resultantly, when Nare’s sextape was made available on the internet, people took to social networks to blast her behavior. Pokello was branded ‘un-Zimbabwean’ and a petition was created on a Facebook page to advocate for her eviction from the Big Brother house.

In America, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian both shot to fame after the leakage of their sexual ‘home videos’ and this has further aggravated the stereotype that for a woman to make a name for herself she must be naked. Coincidentally, Halle Berry was the first black woman to win an Oscar award after getting bare-naked in a movie. This is a clear sign of moral degradation and sheer desperation for attention.

Dealing in pornographic material in Zimbabwe is against the law. This further emphasizes how conservative we are in Zimbabwe and yet there was no legal retribution for the two ladies. Allow me to highlight the loophole I personally identified. According to the Oxford dictionary, pornography is, “printed or visual material intended to stimulate sexual excitement.” Based on this definition, the sextapes by the two ladies were firstly, intended to be a documentation of their ‘good times’ and secondly, their videos were neither stimulating nor sexually exciting. They were simply disgusting.

These sextapes are hindering the cause spear-headed by the feminists. It is worthy to note that these sextapes are never named after the male participant. This resembles the story in the bible about the adulteress who was brought to Jesus for stoning whilst her married male counterpart was not mentioned.

B-Metro once covered a story about school children that were recorded having sex by their peers through an open window. Clearly the situation is already out of control and now they have contraception from as young as ten years of age. Zimbabweans need a resurgence of role models that did not have to undress to be addressed by the titles they earned through honest hard work. Women play an important role in society as mothers and nurturers. They instil values into children and reprimand them to make respectable individuals. It used to take a village to raise a child but nowadays the global village has assumed that role in the form of the internet and Western media television programmes. Mothers are the best weapon to counter moral degradation and they must play their role viciously and instil values of self-worth in young girls to be somebodies not somebody’s.

0 comment
2 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

Have you ever seen how people go through your trash?

Well, they do.

Due to poor service delivery in some places in Zimbabwe, garbage can lie unattended to for days if not weeks. This leads to dogs ripping through the trash which litters the street and the community and ultimately the country as a whole. Some people have resorted to placing heavy rocks to make sure that the bin doesn’t topple over but that is not full-proof. Here in Harare residents are erecting these iron structures outside their gates where they place their trash far from the reach of the canines and felines.

Even when your trash is collected on time, there are people at the dump sites that make a living out of scrounging through your trash. As unhygienic as that sounds, it’s happening. During my time at Miss Earth Zimbabwe, I visited the dumpsite with one of the pageant’s contestants. I took a couple of pictures but security made me delete them. You need high level clearance to take pictures there. We met people of all ages that scrounge through the garbage for all sorts of useful junk. This one guy makes a living from picking up plastic at the dumpsite and turning it into plastic animal statues.

Now you’re thinking of all the gross things that you threw away.

For women it’s different, we need to consider the disposal of our sanitary wear.

When I was in primary school, we had an incenarator. In Grade 5, you’d move to a new set of toilets that had incenarators. They taught us how to effectively and discreetly dispose of soiled sanitary wear. The incenarator is like a furnace that would burn your sanitary wear never to pop up again. It was a great way of getting rid of used pads. Nowadays I don’t see toilets that have incenarators. How are young girls disposing of their used sanitary wear?

Most public toilets have a bin specifically for sanitary wear. Some will even go as far as to provide the little plastic bags for you to wrap your pads in before placing them in the bin. But does that mean for me to get rid of my pads I must travel all the way into town to throw them away securely? Surely there must be another way that doesn’t end up with my dirty pads strewn all across the street. Note that dogs are carnivores, they smell blood and assume that its meat.

What must happen now?

Well, the issues that need to be addressed lie in the hands of the country’s policy makers. We need more efficient service delivery to start. Trash must be collected in a timely fashion. We need new ways of handling the trash crisis. Yes, it’s a crisis. Last timeI checked, the landfill where all the trash goes is almost full. We need to start teaching people to recycle. This starts with separation at source, the source being the home. Each home must start to sort its trash according to glass, paper and biodegradable. The first two can be recycled whereas the last will go back into the earth without harming it. Once the trash is sorted, at least even the scroungers will pick up the trash that’s useful to them without having to sort through all of it. The unemployment rate needs to be addressed to deter people from resorting to these unhygienic income generating activities.

While conducting research on this topic, respondents stated how some of them wash the used pads before disposing of them, some girls have resorted to reusable pads instead of disposable ones. Reusable pads are cost efficient and washable for reuse. They are made of fabric instead of plastic. Some girls use menstruation cups and the ones that use tampons and disposable pads often burn them in the yard but pointed out that pads are hard to completely burn and get rid of.

What are some of the ways that women can dispose of used sanitary wear?

0 comment
4 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail

These streets aren’t safe for women all over the world. Knowing how to drive or even having your own car has a multitude of benefits for women and girls. If you don’t have your driver’s license, here are some of the reasons why you need to look into getting one as soon as possible. You will thank us later.

1.Most job adverts nowadays require the applicants to be in possession of a valid driver’s license. The company could have a pool of cars at it’s disposal and it would be more convenient and faster if you could drive everywhere. Living in Harare, it could take an hour to commute between places to run errands. Having someone that can drive simplifies the logistics of the company meaning more can be achieved during the day.

2.Having your own car means that you can now work longer hours. When I was studying journalism at NUST, my lecturer explained to us that girls do better than boys in school but boys are the ones that get the jobs. His argument was that women had curfews and couldn’t work certain hours for their safety. I could relate because when I was working in advertising, I couldn’t work overtime like my male peers because I had to be home before sunset to avoid getting mugged or worse. You don’t want to find yourself in this tricky situation.

3.Having your own car gives you the freedom to move around as you please. Imagine you’re at a party, something happens and you no longer want to be there. It’s late and dark outside. The person that brought you is still having the time of their life. Now you are held ransom by the driver. The driver dictates when the party will end. The driver is probably drinking meaning with every minute you spend at that party, they are becoming more and more incapacitated and unfit to drive. Whereas, if you had your own car, you could drive off when you feel like it or be the designated driver if the situation calls for it.

If you plan on having a family you’re going to be a mother. Children spend more time with the mother than the father. In case of emergency, you need to know how to handle a vehicle to get the child emergency health services. Ambulances are unreliable and it would take a shorter time if you rush the child to the hospital yourself.

It costs $5,00 to buy the Highway Code from the Traffic Council of Zimbabwe. There are free Provisional Tests apps available for download on the Google Play store. You’ll need to carry your Highway code with you when you go and write your provisional test, along with your ID and license photos. To register to write your provisional costs $20 and you need to pass 23/25 questions in a short test that is 8 minutes long.

0 comment
2 FacebookTwitterPinterestEmail