Why women keep out of politics in Zimbabwe
By Makho Precious Moyo
The history of Zimbabwean women’s struggle for peace dates back to our spirit medium, Mbuya Nehanda. She fought alongside men to resist the occupation of Zimbabwe and in trying to stop the white settlers from taking our land. Unfortunately the white regime then sentenced her to death by hanging.
Mbuya Nehanda remains a symbol for resistance in Zimbabwe. Her experiences along with female guerilla experiences have often been used by contemporary Zimbabwean women as a basis for our arguments to gain gender equality in political participation. Women who fought side by side with men remain bitter about their treatment in politics and activism. This is why a century after Mbuya Nehanda, we, Zimbabwean women tend to shun politics and activism.
The liberation struggle for the independence of Zimbabwe from the Smith regime was the turning point for women, however these ex-combatants remain unable to organize themselves as a vocal group due to the gender discrimination that still exists.
When most of the female combatants arrived at training bases in Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania they were turned into s.e.x toys for the big chefs and a few would get combat training.
This is why they are no female commanders from both Zanla and Zipra yet the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda was being used to raise the moral of the comrades. The level of rape and forced marriages in camps during the liberation struggle was so shocking. Actually most women returned from the war with sons and daughters whose fathers they didn’t know.
Due to the level of abuse, it’s not surprising that not a single case of rape or sexual abuse is recorded from all the liberation files. Speaking with women who went to these camps will leave any right minded person with tears flowing.
Three decades after the war, the same comrades who raped and abused those women call them names and accuse them of being prostitutes during the war really. The case of Mandi Chimene comes to mind, the accusations that were thrown at Joyce Mujuru after she was fired from Zanu-PF is among a host of reasons why women stay out of politics.
In present day Zimbabwean politics it’s actually a nightmare for women to participate both in political parties and activism. Most positions of influence are reserved for men and when women try to contest, we are assured that the word hure (prostitute ) will be used on you. The level of female bullying is shocking mostly in political parties and civic society organisations.
The dominant male try to cover it up by giving away less influential roles to women in order to justify gender balance. Why not create a system of rotation for every position starting with that of president of the party and country. Five years we have a female president and next term a male president if men really care about gender balance.
The “tanga wandida phenomenon” is a norm despite the fact one has talent or how educated one is men will always ask for sexual favor in return for support or endorsement. What I have observed is that most women lack financial muscle to use in politics and it’s easily replaced by sexual favors.
Most politician and activists are HIV positive because they asked for it indirectly. Zimbabwean women have advanced in terms of education levels over the last two decades and most of them have migrated to countries with better facilities and protection for them like United Kingdom.
One would think such women are empowered to know their rights and protect themselves from these political vultures and activists but alas the abuse continues. The most abused in the UK is the female activists mostly those who need to sort out their immigration status.
If you are an asylum seeker the UK laws don’t permit you to work. You need to be involved in activism for you to get support letters from political parties and human rights organisations and this is were most women face sexual abuse.
The female doesn’t have money to pay the leaders of these organisations because they are not working and they only way out is you are forced to offer your body.
Some of these men are as old as our fathers and unattractive but because women are desperate they end up having fake relationship with these leaders. The time has come for women to stand up and defend themselves against these sexual vultures mostly in the United Kingdom.
Women are referred to as the weaker sex for a reason. Women cannot afford to physically defend themselves and most political gathering in Zimbabwe are violent and women tend to stay away. The sloganeering at these political meetings and rallies scare away women “PASI NANHINGI PASI NAYE” is a violent term that any normal women should not chant.
Political parties should make rallies politically friendly for women to bring their children and participate not hard hat areas were its very dangerous to go.
Considering what I have witnessed in Zimbabwe and UK in terms of political parties and activism I will never allow my daughter to join these movements as its an open secret she will be sexually abused and bullied. I have resolved to fight to change the environment for women to participate and be counted.
According to last census in 2012 women constitute about 54 percent of the population and if we collectively voice our concern and demand respect in the political parties /activism men will give in. The spirit of Mbuya Nehanda should possess all women as we move towards 2018 elections and demand our own share and a creation of a conducive environment for women to participate in politics and activism.
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I write my personal opinions as a free spirit standing for women rights and space in society