Finding my sunshine: A Tribute to Amos

“Pain demands to be felt.”

– John Green (from the passage written for the movie “The Fault in our Stars”)

Perhaps the most common thing people have said to me since my dad’s passing has been, “Be strong.” It’s a strange thing to say, I think. I know they mean well, and they mostly want to prevent me from going down a path of self destruction, but it doesn’t help. I’m already strong.

I was raised by an independent, thoughtful and kind father who wanted nothing but the best for his family. He raised me to never give up and to keep swinging, even if I was lying on my back, my opponent standing over me. He taught me to hold my head high and never take no for an answer. He taught me to fight for what I believed in, even if no one else was on my side. My whole life I’ve been strong. Vulnerability has never appealed to me, and showing my full emotions to people is still something I struggle with. But these days I find myself weak and lost – using only my father’s words to find my strength.

When I was a little girl, my father would come to my room every morning and scream “Goood morning Nestle Cerevitaaaaa!” (I was obsessed with that advert, and I loved cerevita more than VP Mnangagwa loves saying “Pasi nemhandu!”) It was the first thing I heard every morning and he was the first person to make me smile. On the way to school he would tell me jokes, explain things I didn’t understand in the paper, and would smile at me periodically through the rear-view mirror. His voice was always so soothing. Unfortunately, he did the Cerevita thing until I was in Form one. It annoyed the crap out of me and I told him to stop doing that. He did, for about a day, and then he went back to doing it for at least another year. Ha! He was my sunshine.

Around the time of my first period pains, love interests and obsession with basketball, our relationship grew even stronger. We had heated debates about ZANU and its corruption, its disregard for human suffering, and mostly its culture of violence. He knew and loved a ZANU that had fought for the equality of all and the liberation from whiteness as the normative standard of what is good, correct and desirable. He understood ZANU as a party that cared deeply for the welfare of all people, and whose members were ready to die, that Zimbabwe might live. Unfortunately, greed and excessive privilege tainted many of his colleagues, and the party wasn’t what he had known it to be. Alas, he loved his job, he loved people, and he loved what the core values of the party were. So I supported him. I would go to rallies once in a while and marvel at the amount of people who were there just to hear him speak. For a few hours I forgot my skepticism and I went along with the slogans. His words inspired people, and that made me happy. He was their sunshine too.

One day when we were arguing (again), I asked him why he continued to pursue such a precarious career path in politics. He said, “Vimbai mwanangu, we must try. We must try and fix the things that have gone wrong in this country. Even if we fail here and there, we must keep trying. Our existence depends on it.” That just about sums him up. He was a man that kept going, until the very end. He was determined to see Zimbabwe be better, do better for its people.

Pain demands to be felt.

During his funeral, I told the members of ZANU that they should be ashamed of what they did to him. That their words, like his, carried power and weight. Their words hurt him deeply, and for that I will never forgive them. I am certain that my anger will not subside any time soon, and that Karma will come knocking on their doors one day. I am also certain that there are people who are hurting with my family. People who miss him and who remembered his amazing personality. To those people – hugs all around.

My father was a man who cared deeply about those around him, and whose legacy can never be erased. He lives in me and through me. I am weak now, but I know that one day I’ll find my strentgh. I’ll find my laughter again, and I’ll find the courage to finish the work he started. I’ll never stop loving him.While this pain demands to be felt, I demand to feel love and happiness again as well. i will find my sunshine again, and I’ll rest in the strength of my father’s memory. RIP Comrade. Save me a seat next to Palestinian Jesus.

Waiting for God(ot)?

Tomorrow, when I wake, or think I do, what shall I say of today? That with Estragon my friend, at this place, until the fall of night, I waited for Godot?”
Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

I remember waking up one day on a Saturday around 11AM. My headache woke me. I crawled out of bed, glanced at the club stamp on my left arm and silently apologized to white Jesus for drinking so much the night before. Half asleep still, I went to find something to eat in order to send my horrible bhabharasi back to Lucifer.

I went through the fridge. Nothing. Then I came across an ice cream container – the good, Kefalos kind. I vowed that after my KFC run, I’d come back and treat myself to some. When I returned and opened the container, I found a heap of frozen meat. Nyama yembudzi to be precise, which I hate. I stood there for a few seconds, utterly disappointed. The container looked brand new and the label hadn’t started disappearing from all the washing. I had seen this same container a week ago, and it was full of ice cream.

I suppose one could use this incident as an indicator of what my life here often feels like; expectation, followed by disappointment. Now, the fact that I could even ‘do a KFC run’ in the first place says that I am privileged. I recognise this privilege, but it does not mask the deep dissatisfaction that comes from being young, driven, female and living in a state that is seemingly self-destructing. I live in a country that largely frustrates me, and that gives out false hope narratives (nyama yembudzi) wrapped in optimism and flowery language (the Kefalos ice cream container).

I also live in a country of great contradictions. A country that hopes in the face of despair, that trusts in the face of uncertainty, and that largely remains silent about the everyday injustices and violences that erode our joy. Yet, we wait. We are expectant. We wait endlessly for God(ot) or some kind of leader or higher being that will fix all our problems. We allow the narrative of “So far so good” to wash away our doubts and keep us going. We let this narrative control our past, our present and our future. The rough edges of our crisis are smoothed over by the sweet narrative of constant victory in the face of colonialism, constant gratitude to our liberators and incessant praises to white Jesus.

Recently, Afrobarometer released a report that everyone is having a say about. According to the report, 63% of participants trust President Robert Mugabe – 70% in rural areas and 45% in urban areas. A whole 54% trust the ruling party. Only 34% trusts the opposition parties, showing just how well they’ve done in letting citizens down. What is puzzling however, is that 63% of the participants do not trust the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that is responsible for conducting national elections. Strange that we trust a leader we elected but not the institution that facilitates that election. Surely that would mean that we don’t trust the outcome of an election because of our mistrust of ZEC? Hameno.

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50% of the participants trust the police, and 64% trust the army. 67% of the former however, were urban dwellers and did not trust the police, most likely because of their generally poor services and insatiable desire for bribes from motorists.

What shocked me most however, was that leading in trustworthiness at 75% were church leaders. (I really shouldn’t be surprised. I have plenty of relatives that would give their left arm as an offering if persuaded) The church, especially the rise of the Pentecostal miracle hubs, has attracted the support of tens of thousands of Zimbabweans. I mean, would you rather trust a man who says he’ll grow your economy and empower you at some point in the future, or a man who makes money magically appear in your pocket? Tough choice.

Now, to understand the condition our country is in, let me add some more stats. The FinScope 2014 report showed that 66% of participants did not have piped water in their households. 67% use firewood as main energy source for cooking. 36% had gone a day without a meal because they could not afford one. Another 36% had not been able to send their children to school that term. 40% are excluded from financial institutions because they cannot afford bank charges, while 45% of the people that do have some savings, spend them on living expenses only.

Like I said – contradictions. On the one hand, the huge amount of people without access to basic services like water supply, electricity and sanitation services  should tell us that support for the ruling party should have diminished. The stagnation in our economic growth is worrying. Our growing government expenditures on the back of no production and very little FDI is a recipe for disaster. Our informal economy is creating wonderfully talented and driven entrepreneurs and alternative job opportunities, but is also hurting formal business, the environment, and the tax base.

But we have expectations even in the midst of despair. We seem to always be waiting for something or someone to change things. For a miracle from Papa Angel to fix the mess we’re in and usher in a season of blessings and favour for all. We wait on white Jesus to see and hear us, and remember that we’re just as ‘chosen’ as the Jews, and to rid us of our problems. We hope that the ruling party will stop its bickering, look down on us and keep fighting for the empowerment it fought for 35 years ago.

We wait, we hope. Endlessly, for better days.

Being an ‘other’: Identity and belonging in Zimbabwe

*This piece was first published on Her Zimbabwe*

I went to a workshop recently. It was the kind of workshop where youths are encouraged to speak about the problems they face in society and how to fix them. Usually, these kinds of workshops bore me to death. We talk about the same issues we’ve been talking about for years, the government is informed of our pleas, they do nothing, and we come back, have a go again and convince ourselves we’re making progress. It’s exhausting, really.

But this time was different.

I walked into the building, signed a register, and was greeted by a young man who, every time he finished a sentence, flicked back his locks and mentioned something about liking my outfit. He showed me to his table and complained about the heat, laughing in intervals and barely letting me get a word in. He was delightful.

The discussions started.

It became evident that there was a sizeable group of members from the queer community taking part. Queer meaning either gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-gendered. I felt slightly taken aback because this is not the kind of thing you see often in this country. What was even more striking was how nuanced the discussions were. Health matters didn’t just refer to the stigmas of teenage pregnancy and the usual PowerPoint on HIV and AIDS. Instead, they included the added victimisation many members of the queer community face when speaking to medical practitioners about methods of safe sex, STIs and their treatment.

I listened to them speak about the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia coming up on May 17th and the worldwide movement to have voices of the LGBTiQ community heard in matters of policy-making. Most importantly, I heard stories of grappling with identities, being ostracised, assaulted and excluded from society because of their identities.  At that point, my heterosexual and its attendant privilege stared at me in the face. I understood for the first time just how much we can ‘other’ and silence those in our society whose stories we seldom hear or even seek out.

An ‘other’ is a person on the outside – someone who doesn’t fit into our ‘normal’ understanding of what it means to be human.

An ‘other’ stands on the edges of society, barred from belonging in the community, chastised and ridiculed for being ‘different’. By virtue of your identity, you are either more or less of a human being in the eyes of society. This made me think more about which identities in our societies are seen to be the norm, and which ones are side-lined and victimised.

Belonging

Recently, our President made a comment about the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. He said Kalangas in this country are known for being uneducated people who cross over to South Africa in droves and once there, they engage in petty crime, hence the backlash against so many Zimbabweans in South Africa. The irony of this statement is that in addressing xenophobic attitudes and violence in South Africa, he in turn discriminated against an ethnic group in Zimbabwe. Whether the president was only referring to the stereotype or was indeed making xenophobic comments has been debated in the media. But the point is that the stereotype exists; and it is damaging as these are believed to be true by more people than I am comfortable with.

And this begs the question of how our identities and perceived identities ‘other’ us in our very own societies.

During the xenophobic attacks, President Zuma asked one of the most telling questions that touches on the issue of belonging in the African context. “Why are their [surrounding countries’] citizens not in their countries and in South Africa?” Now, there are many answers to his question which highlight some of the failures of other African states to cater for the basic needs of their own people, including our own.

But what Zuma is really saying is “You do not belong here”.

You may be just as human as us, you may be here legally, you may even be contributing to the economic growth of South Africa, but as someone who does not have citizenship, you do not belong. You are an ‘other’.  Your identity is incongruent with the requirements of belonging in South Africa. Your identity is the fundamental barrier between you being an ‘other’ and you being included.

Belonging means you have a sense of security about your acceptance in a group or society. It means that you feel like your life, concerns, goals, passions matter to the group and that you do not have to prove your humanity to anyone there.

It is, in our context, the spirit of Ubuntu – ‘I am because we are’.

Is it more important to ‘belong’ in Zimbabwe as a Zimbabwean even though you have no source of income, or is it more important to be financially stable, even if they say you do not belong in South Africa? How much value do we place on belonging? Who decides for us who belongs?

The queer community could argue that they may be Zimbabweans by citizenship, but that many do not believe they really belong. To be an ‘othered other’ therefore means to experience layers of discrimination based on your identity. To be Zimbabwean and foreign in South Africa, to be Kalanga and female, to be young and gay, or white and gay, to be Zimbabwean, female and foreign. And so while many of us are said to ‘belong’ here because we are Zimbabwean, or because we are African, many of us are ‘othered’ for one reason or another – standing on the edge of humanity, looking in.

Women: The ultimate scapegoats.

(n.) A scapegoat is an event person or object that is used to lay the blame on for all that goes wrong, regardless of the contributions of others. This will usually carry on until the scapegoat has gone, or has managed to successfully defend itself against the arguments presented to it.

 

When I was younger I was a pro at scaring the shit out of people. I’d hide behind corners and jump out at you while you walk past, much to the dismay of my parents and anyone else who fell into my hands. There was even a time I hid in a box for a good 30 minutes (you can’t rush these things), and asked our helper to tell my cousin there was something in the box for him. I popped up like a Jack-in-the-box and he (all 2metres and 90kg of a man) let out a small scream that I still laugh about by myself sometimes. My parents both worked, and my brothers were at that stage where they’d stay late at school for sports and activities and go out on the weekends with their friends, so none of them were home much. As a result, I’d end up scaring either our domestic helper or our gardener. The latter was a little more forgiving, while the former often shouted out half her totem narrative and mentioned something about Jesus needing to save her, so I mostly went with our gardener.

One day, in my usual fashion, I hid behind a large wooden plank in the backyard, close to our dog kennel. I waited for our gardener to get close enough before I jumped out from behind it. His eyes widened, he laughed uncomfortably, and then he did the strangest thing. He told me not to scare him again, or he would lock me in his room and “we would see who would be the scared one”. There was something about the look in his eyes that made me uneasy, and so I ran back to the house. My mother had told me not to scare the help, not to play with this young man where she couldn’t see me, and so I didn’t mention it. I still feel uneasy when I bump into him in town once in a while.

Now, you may say that I was a naughty child – this is true. You may say that someone should have been watching me – perhaps this is also true. You may also say that I was lucky that young man didn’t do what he said he would, and worse – this is very true. But some people may say that because I had a working mother (and father as well, but the emphasis would be on my mother) I was subject to the dangers of potential abuse by our helpers at home. This was the argument made by one Superintendent Ethiua (I dare you to pronounce that out loud) Muzvidziwa, head of the Gweru Urban Women’s network, according to an article in The Chronicle. She said that “all mothers (not fathers) must bear in mind that their primary responsibility is to offer parental guidance to their children”. She went on to say that because of the economic slump we find ourselves in, women are having to work longer hours at the expense of their family life and safety of their children. I have a few problems with this article and with Superintendent Muzvidziwa regarding her remarks.

Firstly, the headline reads “Career mums ‘fuel child rape'”. Firstly, what the fuck. That women who are pursuing their God given and constitutionally given right to have a job and earn an income, as well as pursue their passions are the ones fuelling child rape is ridiculous. The same way our society blames women for being raped, is how we blame mothers for ‘allowing’ their children to be raped, with no mention of the real problem, which is the rapist. Are women not supposed to aspire to more than marriage and children? Is having children a sign that I should drop everything I have dreamed of before this child, and cater only to it’s needs? It is my experience that my mother was a better mother because she worked. She gave me the inspiration I needed to not sit around and expect things to be handed to me in life. She taught me how to fight for what I want, to strive for excellence, and to be all I can be, even in a society that sees me as a second-class citizen.

In the entire article, Sup Muzvidziwa makes no mention of the partners of these women. Are fathers also not tasked with the protection of their children? Are they, more often than not, not away from the house for the bulk of the day and sometimes even the night, only returning to have a meal, take a shower and climb into bed? We need to stop framing mothers as primary care givers and fathers as primary bread-winners, as if the two cannot step outside these boxes. Fathers must actively be a part of their children’s lives, and I refuse to let patriarchy tell me otherwise. Sup. Muzvidziwa also encourages women to play more of a part in the curbing of rape and sexual violence. Excuse me? Are we not the ones standing and shouting at the top of our lungs, demanding the end to this violence? Where are the men? Surely most fathers would not want their child to be subject to sexual abuse? Why are they silent about their fellow man’s abuses? And where is her criticism of these rapists?

In 2014, Zimbabwe National Statistics (ZimStat) said that 15 women are raped everyday in Zimbabwe. Lawyer and Harare West MP Jesse Majome said that the majority of rape cases last year were thrown out often because victims were too afraid to testify due to pressures from family and society. Our society needs to change. But women don’t need to stop working. Yes, we must ensure that the people we leave our children with are trustworthy, and that we take care to speak to our children and create an environment that makes it easy for them to open up to us if abuse happens. Notice I said ‘we’, meaning all of us. Mothers, fathers, politicians, police officers, health workers, NGOs, the media – all of us. We need to start framing the discussion on rape and sexual violence in a way that criminalises and chastises the rapist, not the victim of rape and not the mothers of the victims. That we live in a society where women are working longer hours is not an inherently bad thing. We should be overjoyed that women are entering spaces they were shut out of a decade ago; this is progress and I applaud these women. So stop blaming women for violence that is not perpetrated by them. Stop making this discussion about anything other than our need to condemn and eradicate every form of sexual violence and those who carry out this violence. Let us achieve our goals, raise children and thrive in a society that looks to empower us and not tear us down.

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Source: http://www.zimbabweelection.com

 

 

Spare a thought for the youth,Gushungo.

I met a young man the other day in town. I parked in front of Karigamombe centre and he waved frantically at me from across the road and jogged towards me. “Ndakatarisa mota sister, musatye,” he said. I forced a smile, making awkward noises and glancing at the Easipark attendant a few metres away. For fear of paying the clamping fee, I ended up handing my dirty, crumpled up dollar to the Easipark dude. When I came out, the young man was still there, and he explained, quite painfully, how he would take any job I could give him. He offered to braid my hair, mow our lawn or wash the car  – all in about 20seconds as I backed out of the tight parking space. He came right to the window and said he couldn’t find a job and didn’t have the money for university. He was hoping to earn some money so he could start a small business. I handed him another crumpled dollar, drove off, and glanced back at him through my rear view mirror. He jogged over to his next customer.

This incident happened just before I clawed my way through First Street, almost missing vendors’ cardboard tables and zambias filled with vegetables, phones, books, airtime, accessories and much more. I watched as people my age and younger called out to passers-by, advertising whatever they could so they could make a couple dollars. As I left, I thought about the millions of youth that are in their same positions – hustling on street corners, pulling together what strength they have to make it through the shambles of an economy that has done nothing but lowered their expectations for the future. Again, as I backed out, I glanced back at them, guiltily, acutely aware of my privilege. The people forever in my rear view mirror, almost out of sight, reduced to a loud mass shouting marketing gimmicks at and pleading to be noticed.

Tomorrow marks President Mugabe’s 91st birthday. This year’s 21st movement celebrations are set to be held in Victoria Falls and, as usual, the Youth League is pulling all the stops. The movement was established in 1986 “to encourage Zimbabweans, ‘the youths in particular, to emulate Mugabe’s revolutionary ideas, charismatic leadership and selfless policies”. The Youth League is aiming to raise $1million for the event, and many a well-wisher and private company are dishing out buckets of money that’ll most likely be declared ‘missing’ in next year’s audit. So what’s in it for the youth, you may ask? Well, 100 children who were born on the same day as Mugabe will be attending the event, free of charge. They’ll most likely have their share of the elephant, buffalo, lion, impala and sable meat that’s being served there (*Cue cringe from animal conservationists*). Oh, and we’ll all undoubtedly be inspired by the ‘supreme leader’s’ revolutionary ideas and ‘selfless policies’. So what actually is in it for the youth, you ask again? Nothing, really.

For perspective, here are a few fun facts about where we are financially as a people from the 2014 Finscope Consumer survey:

  • 26% of the population is made up of youth between the ages of 21 and 30.
  • 36% of the population has primary education, 51% high school education, and only 6% a degree/diploma (So no, not everyone has a degree, let alone a grade 7 certificate)
  • 65% of adults in Zimbabwe earn $100 or less a month, and by the looks of things, the bulk of that number comes from the youth.
  • 74% of adults have said they do not have bank accounts because they can’t afford the charges. This may have a great deal to do with the $100 that 65% of us are earning a month.

These stats are pretty sobering. This does push me to side with the MDC (not sure which one out of the million of them) in saying the birthday bash is slightly ‘obscene’. But I’ve also thought of a few ways we could use the party as a platform to empower the very youth the event is meant to inspire:

1. Don’t have it. No money spent, no elephant-killing, no strain on hotels that probably won’t get the money they were promised, no endless articles in the press about how terrible Zanu is.

2. Since number 1 won’t go down so well with the die-hard Gushungo-ists and may rob us of the potential the event has for transformation, perhaps the money raised for the party could be used to start a youth fund. A real youth fund that isn’t premised on party connections and boot-licking, but on the bright business ideas and hardworking youth that churn them out daily.

3. Share the money with companies that will develop their apprenticeships and internships for young people who need industry experience and who are forced to defer their degrees because companies won’t take them on.

4. Have ‘pitch events’ for young entrepreneurs from different sectors of the economy who have ideas for businesses that need funding. Hold these events in each of the ten provinces, throughout the month of February. Get the private sector involved and make your Minister of Youth take this on and ensure its success.

5. Make education a priority. There is a significant gap between primary school goers and high school goers, and between the latter and university students. Invest in schools and restore the pride and joy we had in our educational institutions. Give kids a fair chance to be great.

These are a few suggestions I thought of today. No longer should we be in the rear view of the government, almost out of sight, trotting after mediocre, low paying jobs. From what I’ve been seeing, we’re trying. But we need you to try too, Gushungo.

Kind regards,

Your ever obedient daughter of an ordinary card-carrying member.

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Of wars and women’s bodies.

“…and to make matters worse – some of us, and some of the other women – when there is a rape, there was no mother to tell that somebody abused you. There was no law, there was no justice where you could report to, there was no court of law…You are hurt, that’s it. You just had to keep quiet.”

Margaret Dongo, co-founder of the National Liberation War Veterans Association

 

Narratives of liberation struggles are what this country has been built on. The glory of beating the white man, taking back our humanity, sticking a middle finger to colonialism and mapping out our own destinies is what this country was built on. The euphoria of newly found freedom from oppressive laws, exclusion, daily violence, racism, segregation and murder was enough to mould a narrative of liberation that spoke only of courage in the face of danger, fierce and unwavering patriotism, and powerful feelings of ubuntu. If anything, those that spoke against this narrative were traitors – ungrateful souls that didn’t understand the sacrifice that went into waging this war and that should be silenced immediately, lest we offend our comrades. And so only certain truths were accepted, and only one narrative was adopted. The rest were thrown into the ocean on the banks of Mozambique.

This morning I read an article in The Sunday Mail about female ex-combatants demanding compensation for their suffering during the liberation struggle. Women who sacrificed their dreams, risked their lives and fought for what they hoped would be a better Zimbabwe. A more equal, a more inclusive, a freer Zimbabwe. In the book Women of resilience, nine ex-combatants speak about their lived experiences of the war, and the toll it took on their lives and their ability to exercise the freedom they fought for. The book documents the conversations these women have about female soldiers being raped, harassed and marginalised. Some of the women were impregnated, shipped off to secluded camps, and expected to fend for themselves and their children, with little more than a gun and their training skills.

Today, almost 35 years into independence, the women who survived the ordeal of being ‘othered’, abused and sidelined after independence, have come out to have their say and to demand the slither of compensation that they deserve after such an ordeal. In comes patriarchy on the back of patriotism and nation-building with its single story, selective memory, all wrapped up and packed tightly in a Zanu-branded car. I’ll give you two major reasons why these stories of rape and sexual harassment won’t make even the tiniest ripple in the public sphere (unless we make them visible of course, and actually speak openly about them and about ways of resolving them).

1. Women either aren’t heard, purposefully ignored, misunderstood, or simply not given the space to speak.

Last year, Twitter was ablaze with conversations around the young woman who was stripped at a kombi rank in Harare’s CBD. A number of men and women blamed the assault on her ‘indecent’ dressing, basically saying that she asked for it because of how short her skirt was. This is a point columnist Sisonke Msimang speaks about, saying that the stripping of women in public spaces has very little to do with their clothing, but everything to do with where they are going. Increasingly, women have occupied spaces that have been reserved for men in the past. Their presence goes against every damned little stereotype patriarchy has created about women and their inability to lead and excel in professional environments. Is it therefore a surprise when women ex-combatants are sidelined, silenced and forgotten with regards to their abuse in the war? Of course not. If anything, the silencing of the ex-combatants is chillingly similar to the silencing of women today, young and old, whose bodies are constantly under attack.

2. Women in positions of power have added to the silencing.

Like I said, it’s been 35 years. The recent political upheaval aside, women that have sat in government have sat with this information of abuse and rape of their fellow comrades for 35 years. The lone voices here and there such as Margaret Dongo’s have been a breath of fresh air, but have unfortunately not been taken on, even by other women in government. Power is a tricky, consuming thing. To be part of a patriarchal system, and to thrive in it, often means to take on its characteristics. Some of those include not speaking about the rapists in your midst, who fought tirelessly and fearlessly for the freedom of Zimbabweans, but clearly didn’t give a rat’s ass about the very women that fought alongside them, cooked their meals, hid them, lied for them, died for them, and bore their children. Again – the single story of liberation and the silencing of other narratives.

And so the war on women’s bodies rages on. My hope is that we take these stories seriously, that we understand the pain we cause by silencing those that have given up so much and have been denied their dignity and humanity, and that we continue to speak up and out about abuse; even as we’re overshadowed by crafted collective memories of glory and liberation.

 

The roar of women’s silence.

Back when our African leaders and freedom fighters were fighting for a universal humanism and basic rights, Thomas Sankara was also fighting for the equality of women. The Burkinabé revolutionary was everything I would imagine a freedom fighter should be – forward thinking, passionate and a believer in the intrinsic equality of all human beings. His quote, “I can hear the roar of women’s silence”, was enough to push me to start this blog. Interesting quote, isn’t it? I’m not entirely sure of what his own explanation of this quote was, but for me, it speaks to the silencing of women in my society. Particularly women of colour. Where the world of patriarchy and male supremacy hears silence, I hear roars. Big, scary, echoing, jarring, wholesome, inspiring lioness roars that shake me to my core.

As a young Zimbabwean woman, I often feel silenced. I also often feel as though I’m at war with the world. Every broken street light that lines my road, ruining thoughts of night strolls; every kombi driver that sexualizes me as I take a jog in the morning, every relative that thinks my lack of children and/or a husband means I must be damaged in some way; every political rally that portrays women as mothers and support structures but not as leaders in their own right; every snide comment made by the woman at the musika who thinks my jeans are too tight; every magazine that screams the normative standards of beauty – and leaves me out; every man that says no man is faithful and so I should forget about trusting mine; every international headline about my country that relegates me to the group of the helpless, victimized women. It’s exhausting really.

But through all this, I have heard the roar of women’s silence. I have seen women come together and march for the right to dignity and against the war on women’s bodies. I have seen them lead families with nothing but an informal trader’s sporadic income and a little faith in their hearts. I have seen them strut confidently to receive their degrees at graduation ceremonies. I have seen them embrace change, and adapt to technological advances and use them to their advantage. I have seen the kick patriarchy square in the balls, re-adjust their pencil skirts, and skip into the sunset.

In many ways, the roars are what I want to write about. I want to stick a megaphone in front of all the silenced women’s corners in society and let them speak for themselves. I want them to tell the story according to them, and through their lens. I want the Zimbabwean ear to be trained to hear what we say, and to engage with it. And lastly, I want my own voice to be heard, to be relevant and to make some sort of impact for the good.

*roars loudly, shakes mane*

Merci mille fois, Monsieur Sankara.

 

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