Category Archives: Feminist Chronicles

Feminist Chronicles: Diary 20: Delta Milayo Ndou

Delta Milayo Ndou: Picture Credit Story Times

Yet another young person, very inspiring and set to make Zimbabwe a very proud nation, or should I say prouder since she has already started making strides in achieving that. One of the most inspiring articles I have read written by this remarkable young woman explains who she is, or rather who she isn’t. Entitled kicking out paternalism, in that article Delta Ndou introduces the subject matter by saying;

“I have never been too fond of radical feminism or any form of extremism for that matter; finding it to be an aggressive, usually narrow and unhelpful approach to conflict resolution.

Delta went on to explain how  despite her misgivings towards radical feminism, she supports certain radical steps that women take in countering paternalism. She bemoaned or rather emphatically discredited the underepresentation of women in the constitution making process in Zimbabwe, declaring unapologetically that the men of Zimbabwe, especially those in parliament are quite misguided if they think that in this day and age they can still purpot to speak on behalf of the women.  In her own words Delta said’

“The transition from theoretical gender policy frameworks to the implementation and practice of the same has yet to manifest; and while one can appreciate that it is not easy to reverse the thinking of years and that gender equity will be a process – one expects to see a degree of commitment towards living up to the words enshrined in the treaties, legislative instruments and laws which Zimbabwe has signed, ratified and enacted.”

What I see in her is a young inspiring Zimbabwean woman who knows who she is, what she wants out of her life and where she wants to go. But she wasn’t always this determined and she wasn’t always this focused. She met serious personal struggles in her life, the kind that almost drove her over the precipice. But what makes her remarkable is how she did not let her trials determine her fate. She rose above them and changed the course of her history. She surpassed her own personal struggles and has proved that, as empowered as she is, nothing can stop her from achieving what she wills in her heart and mind.

The one phrase I can use to describe Delta is that when you see her, or read one of her articles, or see another one of her updates on facebook, they speak of a personality that screams  ‘I am woman, hear me roar.’ This roaring tigress is not afraid to challenge patriarchy and male domination that permits men to view women as objects that can be used and discarded.

On her profile on she describes herself as ‘a wordsmith’…one who is ‘preoccupied by the need to challenge the status quo, to de-construct the stereotypes and the myths about what womanhood entails, particularly in patriarchal Africa.’ That is exactly who and what she is!

 Delta has gone past that stage of self discovery, a step that we all need to make in determining who we are and charting the way to becoming who we want to be. She states boldly “ I am a member of the human species, an African by race, a Zimbabwean by nationality, black (perhaps brown is more accurate) by color, a woman by sex, a Venda by tribe, a Christian by religion, a feminist by choice, a journalist by profession, a writer by design and an activist by default.”

 Delta is a journalist, a writer, a blogger and a gender activist. She is not scared to put her thoughts into words, unminced, uncensored and what you see on paper is what you get when you meet her face to face.

 In the Echo of silence  a captivating story of a woman who commits suicide after she finds her abusive husband of many years having sex with his own daughter, Delta speak to three issues. First, how women are expected to stay in marriage no matter how bad things get. Second, how relatives and society in general do not spare their precious time nor lend a listening ear to women who are suffering from abuse yet when these women die they all find the time to attend the funeral. Third, Delta speaks to the inhumanity in some men, to not only be so evil as to abuse their wives but also their own daughters. This problem has increasingly become a menace in Zimbabwean society with cases of fathers raping their own daughters appearing more and more in the courts, despite harsh sentences. The Echo of Silence story was published in the “ African Roar 2011” series by a South African publishing house “StoryTime Publishing.”

 On her blog , Delta explores many issues and is not scared to challenge the perceived normal and ordinary. In June 2011, because of her role as a blogger who advocates social and political transformation, Delta toured Washington DC and Minneapolis after she was chosen by the Washington Foreign Press Center as on of the world’s top 20 emerging Global New Media Leaders.

 Not only is she a fierce feminist but a patriotic individual who values her nation and defends its name against unjustified vilification. In her article ‘I met a Zimbabwean’, Delta addresses one of the issues that many of us have a problem with, especially when we travel outside the country. That problem is of defining oneself as an individual with their own views juxtaposed to the role we assume as ambassadors of our countries. We are challenged by individuals who have never been to our countries, have never met a national from our country but claim to know what the country is about, even claiming to know more than we do because they have access to some classified information gathered by lone researchers or stashed in some secret place by their intelligence bureau.  As Delta aptly says  it is  annoying when you have to constantly defend your country “in the face of half-truths, gross misrepresentation of facts and the supercilious know-it-all attitudes” by people that you meet wherever you go.

 Delta also blogs on Genderlinks where among other things she comes to the conclusion that any woman in an abusive relationship should ‘flee’ . In 2010 she was part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, Red Light Campaign which was fighting human trafficking in light of the world cup games that took place in South Africa. In that campaign Delta castigated the role that women play in facilitating the trafficking of other women.

She is an Alumnus of the Moremi Leadership Initiative, no wonder  she displays such strong leadership skills.


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Feminist Chronicles: Diary 19: The Women of Doors of Hope

I suppose for some people, when they have never worked with real victims of certain circumstances, they just can’t understand the gravity of the situation you are talking about. The first time someone made me extremely upset was when my colleagues and I presented the documentary ‘Hear Us’ to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Gender and one traditional Chief said. “They are lies. This film was staged and these women were lying. Men are not dogs that can sleep with one women one after the other without using protection.” There we were, with one of the victims who had volunteered to accompany us to make her appeal to the representative body of the people of Zimbabwe, Parliament and she had to listen to such nonsense and get re-traumatised. I get equally upset every time I hear people ask “what was she wearing” when they hear that a girl was raped by a random attacker. What women wear, or how they dress does not rape them, it is the warped mind of the perpetrator that conjures up images of the person before him naked that causes him to then take advantage of the victim. More so, in the case of politically motivated rape, the victim’s body is used as a tool of war. She is raped to spite her husband, father, brother or uncle with whom the perpetrator will have bad relations. So why would she lie that something so terrible happened to her if it did not and why would someone who has no idea what forensic evidence the woman gathered after her rape, deny that she was ever raped?

 Many a times, I have talked about the nature, the causes and the consequences of politically motivated violence and rape against women in Zimbabwe. I have written articles on it which those of you who have not had the chance to read can read on my worldpulse journal. My colleagues at RAU and I have consistently documented these violations in many reports such as ‘Preying on the Weaker Sex: An account of Violations against women’, ‘Forced Concubinage in Zimbabwe’, ‘Women and political violence and update’ all available on the RAU website. We have also produced documentaries, ‘Hear Us’ and ‘What about Us’ in which the victims themselves have told their stories at great risk to themselves and their families.

Some excerpts of the accounts of victims from the political rape report RAU, together with Doors of Hope and the Zimbabwe  Association of Doctors for Human Rights produced are as follows:

A woman from Manicaland testified that, “On the 22nd of June 2002 at 1pm three men came to my homestead. They entered the kitchen where I was and stood by the door. The policeman said they had come for a final search for the gun. They started searching for the gun everywhere. They did not find anything. One of the men said,” let’s burn the house. I pleaded with them not do so because my husband was away and I would not have anywhere to stay. Then one of the men covered my head with a cooking pot and told me not to remove it. Then they kept beating me with sticks me on my left leg around the hip area.  I fell down and the pot fell off my face and they put it back and continued beating me. They said, “You refused to give us the information that your husband is hiding, so we are going to make you our wife.”

Another woman from Manicaland stated that, “When I woke up the following morning on the 26th of June 2008, they had put a skirt on me and a ZANU PF t-shirt, I had blood all over my skirt and my thighs were swollen. My vagina was full of semen; I had wounds and cracks from being raped continuously. I could not walk because my legs were swollen. At around 5 am 5 men came to me and told me I could go. They carried me and left me by the road near a primary school. Two of my friends found me lying down by the road. I told them to go and get my husband. My husband came back with a wheelbarrow and carried me home. I told him that I had been raped

But even as we continue to do our work one thing bothers me. That thing is the inaccessibility of justice for the victims of such violence. The women of Zimbabwe just like the men have suffered so much at the hands of political parties and many of them live with their wounds both psychological and physical with no access to trauma counselling, medical care and medicines.

 However there is a group of women, who took their own initiative to find their own form of justice. These women began their Foundation in 2009 and called it Doors of Hope Development Trust. It operates as a non governmental organisation and a support group giving hope to victims of rape. The members are mostly victims of politically motivated rape some who have contracted HIV/AIDS from their rape as some of the rapes were gang rapes and most of the perpetrators did not use protection. Politically motivated rape has unique consequences apart from the usual stigma attached to rape. Mainstream institutions that assist victims of rape are intimidated and scared to address victims of politically motivated rape. The victims are therefore forced to find somewhere else for help or get the help in those institutions but suppress the political element in their accounts of the incidents. This amounts to re-victimisation and hence the victims never get healed.

 The strength that the women of Doors of Hope have within themselves and the willpower they yield to pick up the pieces and continue to rebuild their lives never fails to amaze me. Each time I interact with them I wish they could get the assistance they need to set their support group for victims of rape running as smoothly and be as well established as the support groups for people living with HIV/AIDS. And so today I want to recognise their resilience and celebrate their strong spirit.

 Currently Doors of Hope operates in ad hoc meetings of members. Their vision is to bring life and hope to rape victims. Their mission is to empower women victims of rape from the victim to the survivor mode. Their objectives are to find and attract other victims and encourage them to speak out, to assist women to access medication and counselling and to provide emotional support to victims. They have specific needs for capacity building including how to communicate with funding partners, identifying victims, separating partisan affiliations and professional space, proposal writing skills and organisational management skills.

 They also need empowerment workshops that will help them to find their voice as Doors of Hope. Currently Doors of Hope does not have proper office space or equipment to create a database of their members. Any well wishers, moved to assist these women to find new meaning in their lives and rebuild their crumbled castles let us know so you can help these women.


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Feminist Chronicles: Diary 18: Sr Theresa Camillo

Women of cloth; that is what we used to call them. Often they were and still are misunderstood. People ask; why would a healthy woman choose to live a life of total celibacy in the name of serving God. Others think these women are living a lie, purporting to live a saintly life, married to Jesus yet they are not half as good as they seem to be.

When I was young, I was also of this mindset. I expected nuns to be perfect in their ways. My ideal nun was a gentle person, calm in temperament, never the one to get angry even when wronged, never one to shout even when exasperated and never one to punish mischievous children (and if punished we perceived it as cruelty). But now I realise that expectation was very unfair and unwarranted. After all nuns are human beings just like me and surely they are entitled to a little anger from time to time. Looking back at my expectations I realise they were outlandish, childish and very selfish.

Regina Mundi High School: Picture credit Tendai Madenyika a former student at Regina Mundi

Sr Theresa Camillo (Click here to see her image dressed in grey) is a catholic nun in the (SJI) Sisters of the Child Jesus Sect. She was the headmistress of Regina Mundi High school in Gweru, Midlands province of Zimbabwe where I spent 6 years of my secondary and high school. She recorded amazing pass rates for many years in her all girls’ high school. We did better than all the boys’ schools in the region such as Shungu and Fletcher academically yet she also nurtured in us the sportswomen, the basket-ballers, the hockey players, the soccer players (like I was), the great debaters, public speakers, musicians and dancers that we became.

Our motto mens sana in corpore sano‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’ was her preoccupation and she always wanted us to be fit in both mind and body. She taught us to eat all our meals hence meals were compulsory (and then we hated it). She also demanded that we walk briskly and purposefully from one point to the other, something I have made into a habit in my adulthood, after all loitering is a sign of complacence and laziness.

The main school block with the headmistress's office the first window to the right: Picture Credit Tendai Madenyika a former student at Regina Mundi

Sr Theresa was a loving woman, maybe even more loving than some of the mothers people left behind in their homes. She was a also a very liberal woman, accommodating of our very many misdemeanors, little temper tantrums and mood swings.  We spent 9 out of the 12 months of the year at school and she was the grounding force when we were developing from adolescence into adulthood at that boarding school. Imagine being mother to 700 teenage girls all aged between 12 and 19 years. Surely you would be pulling your hairs out each day until you had none left. But she did it. Each year she let out 100 students and took in another 100.

The fruits of the kind of women she nurtured are self evident. One only needs to look at the women who emerged out of the girls she received many years ago. She raised doctors, models, television presenters, beauty therapists, chartered accountants, human rights activists, occupational health practitioners, dentists, biomedical laboratory researchers, veterinary surgeons, engineers, pharmacists, medical surgical nurses, movie directors, lawyers, writers, lecturers, among other and some of them are wonderful mothers and wives too. Indeed she can boast of rearing numerous generations of capable women who are doing wonderful things for the development of Zimbabwean society.

The continuation of generations of women that are still being raised by that school is also the fruit of her work. In 2008 at 14 years of age, Makhosazana Moyo groomed at Regina Mundi was picked as the overall winner of the 2008 cover to cover short story writing competition. In the 2014 class of the US students achievers, three of the girls profiled for their amazing achievements, Senzeni Mpofu studying at Yale university, Rudo Esther Mudzi studying at Mt Holyoke university and Rumbidzai Vushe studying at Smith college were all from Regina Mundi. Thabiso Machingura in 2011 won awards in the American Black History Month write ups for her short story.

The Convent in which the nuns lived: Picture Credit Tendai Madenyika a former student from Regina Mundi

When we were still students guided by her, we began a youth HIV/AIDS awareness group called ‘Worth the Wait’ which advocated abstinence among young girls to refrain from sex. Today that club has been transformed into the ‘Youth Against Aids club.’ and it gives these young girls life lessons on how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS.

As ‘Worth the Wait’ members we made this vow:

I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my future husband and my future children to stay sexually from this day forward until the day I enter a covenant marriage relationship.

I made this vow in 1999 and I have done my damnedest to keep it, at a cost of course. I have been dumped unceremoniously in relationships for holding on to this commitment which many will argue is very old-fashioned but I will always be grateful to Sr Theresa for that value she inculcated in me. I have lost friends who I went to school with, to AIDS and I believe I am still here because of this vow which she taught me.

To date I carry two things that she always emphasised:

1. Greet visitors with a smile

2. Throw away all your litter in a bin

She has never been celebrated but I feel she deserves that history should remember her with pride, admiration and reverence for all she has done to uplift and empower the girl-child in Zimbabwe and beyond.


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Feminist Chronicles: Diary 17: Emilia Njovana

When most men, at least in my country, hear the phrase gender equality, they think you are talking about women and how women want men to cook for them, change diapers, clean the house and basically dance to women’s tune. You know why, because the men in Zimbabwe assume what women are doing today , that is cooking, changing babies’ diapers, cleaning the house and looking after the family is what we want them to do, and that it is what we mean when we talk of equality. But let me be clear and let all those who are this misguided know that gender equality is about recognising that we are all human beings and should be treated equally with dignity and respect regardless of our sex.

Gender equality is about men and women having the right to education; with equal opportunities to pursue the furthest studies available as long as the individual, be they male or female is yielding the relevant results to proceed to the next level. The inequality comes when societies assume that educating a girl child is a waste of money or when preference is given to boys in pursuing certain subjects, with the sciences such as medicine, engineering, and veterinary science being the most commonly stereotyped fields where it is believed women will not cope.

Gender equality is about recognising and valuing the work that both men and women do equally, hence within a marriage a working husband and a housewife both contribute in their own unique ways to the running of the house. The man is usually boss of the finances while the woman is usually boss of the welfare of her family. The inequality comes when the man and society in general thinks that the woman’s job as a housewife is of no value and hence upon separation or divorce she should be chased away with nothing.

Gender equality is about giving equal pay for equal work and awarding promotions to both men and women for equal performance. The inequality comes when men ask for sexual favors to promote women who deserve to be promoted anyway.

I can go on and on giving examples of when inequality is gendered. The examples are too many especially in patriarchal societies, as Zimbabwe is. But there is a woman, a Zimbabwean woman who defied the odds and shattered these stereotypes. She proved that women are capable of doing what they are deemed incapable of doing. She is a trendsetter, the most notable woman in Zimbabwe’s aviation history.

I am positive that when most Zimbabweans saw today’s feature, the first question they asked was “who the hell is she?” Indeed despite her groundbreaking achievement, very few people know about her.

Her name is Captain Emilia Njovana and she was the first female and black commercial pilot in Zimbabwe. Educated at Monte Cassino Girls High, a Catholic Mission school in Macheke, in the Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe she is living proof that when individuals and institutions invest their confidence in women, women can make it to the top.

Today she trains other women AND MEN how to fly aeroplanes, AND jets AND helicopters.  And oh what a wonderful job she does. I mean yes, Air Zimbabwe has a reputation of being unreliable in terms of being on time but NEVER before have we heard of inefficiency among the staff in that little closed cabin. The only accident recorded occurred in July 1984 when a Vickers 756D Viscount, registration Z-YNI, was damaged beyond repair in an incident on the grounds of Harare International Airport. No one was hurt and the plane was immediately withdrawn from service and transferred to the airport fire department for use as a training aid. Zimbabwean pilots are sharp and extremely good at what they do and guess what, some of them were trained by this woman, the same woman whom society PROBABLY thought would not be worthy of an education, or would not be capable of achieving anything and would not turn out to be as good as a man.

And now there are more Zimbabwean female pilots

She believed she could do it, she worked hard at it and indeed she did it. She set the first foot forward in making strides into previously male-dominated spheres and has done exceptionally well, maybe even better than the men she found there. So yes a vision coupled with determination are the two ingredients to success and Emily Njovana is living proof of that. Indeed Emilia is one of the women who have made it possible for women to be seen in their own eyes and in men’s eyes as individuals capable of achieving a lot.

Gender stereotypes that placed men in a superior position to women designated the role of pilot to the men while women could only be aboard planes either as passengers or airhostesses. Today women like Emilia have turned the tables and sit in the cockpits of huge airplanes, while men attend to passengers. The term airhostess has been removed and we have flight attendants.

And she flies the planes and flies them well

Growing up, I wanted to be a pilot but I could not. I am too short, my eye sight is not good enough and I found a new passion as I grew older. Today I am lawyer and I suppose I did not turn out too bad. But, for the little girls that are out there and want to be pilots and think it is unattainable, here is an example that it can be done. And the rest of society should learn that our society can only improve if we inculcate in our children positive mindsets rather than hammering negative stereotypes into their little brains.


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Feminist Chronicles: Diary 16: Sally Mugabe

Forgive me if my story is a bit tardy today but as I was writing, lions-real lionsthe kind born in the bush and lives in the bush, were roaring a few hundred yards from my bedroom. Of course that made me very excitable and a tard bit distracted. I could not help appreciating the beauty of my country that I and all Zimbabweans are so privileged to have right in our midst, the beauty of the natural, and the splendour of living in untamed Africa.

 But to get to the business of the day, in Zimbabwe my generation, born in the 1980s and all other generations that follow are called maborn free, a term that is often backed by the assumption that since we were not born during the liberation struggle we were born free and therefore we do not understand what the struggle meant and do not value what it achieved.

 But what we really are is a generation born after a liberation struggle from colonialism but born into a struggle for democracy. So we were not born free. However, I feel particularly empathic towards the generations born after 1990s. These generations were born into an era of lies and distorted accounts of where our country came from and where it is going. Most of them are unable to critically analyse the socio-cultural, economic and political landscape to move towards progressive development for our country. But most of all they were unfortunate not to grow up nurtured by a caring mother of the nation.

 Born Sarah Francesca Heyfron in Sekondi, Ghana to Ghanaian parents, but fondly known as Amai (Mother) Sally by Zimbabweans, she was Zimbabwean having married the current president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe.

Amai Sally Mugabe

 In my entire life, only the deaths of two celebrities have moved me to tears. One was Diana, the Princess of Wales and the other was of my first lady, Amai Sally Mugabe. These two women, one white and the other black were married to royalty, for Diana a royalty born out of long standing tradition and for Amai Sally a royalty born out of the casting of ballot papers. Amai Sally was the wife of the then legitimate leader chosen by the people of Zimbabwe. Although her royalty was not meant to last forever the way Diana’s was, Amai Sally held her own in perfecting etiquette and executing her duties with dignity and the calm composure that was befitting of her grand role.

 Amai Sally was the embodiment of true motherhood as the mother of the nation – one who carried herself with dignity and decorum and related with the nation with humility and compassion. If ever there was a harsh word that proceeded from her mouth towards another Zimbabwean, then that person has not come forward to say so, even 20 years after she passed on.

 Her most inspiring quality was how she cultivated her own identity, not just as the wife of the President but her own persona, mobilising communities to stand against discriminatory practices on the lines of race, sex, gender, disability, and age among other statuses.

 During the liberation struggle, while her husband was enclosed in prison for his activities, she was arrested many times by colonial police for campaigning against white rule. In 1961 she spent six weeks in prison. She was charged with sedition and sentenced to five years imprisonment after she had led a group of women to the Prime Minster’s office protesting against the 1961 constitution which still perpetuated racial discrimination. She appealed this decision and after being subjected to house arrest pending appeal, she escaped to Tanzania then to London. Between 1967 and 1974, when she studied and worked in London, she constantly campaigned and lobbied the British government for the release of political detainees and prisoners of conscience in Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia.

 She also organised and urged other women to join the struggle. Her immense sacrifice in taking upon the liberation struggle of a country she married into makes her one of the most selfless people I have ever known. As she lies today at the Zimbabwe National Heroes Acre, where individuals who contributed towards the liberation of our country are buried, I can say with confidence that she is one of the few most deserving individuals lying in that shrine and indeed she was the first heroine to be laid to rest there.

Amai Sally with women in the grassroots. Picture credit L. Schoonmaker Keeler

 Amai Sally advocated the dignity of women and inspired many women to be like her; strong and capable. She founded the Zimbabwe Women’s Cooperative in the UK in 1986 and supported Akina Mama wa Africa, a London-based African women’s organisation that focused on women’s rights and development issues. She was also moved by the plight of the underprivileged and started or supported many initiatives that lifted the burden from the suffering’s shoulders. In 1981, she became the patron of Mutemwa Leprosy Centre in Mutoko, in Mashonaland East Province of Zimbabwe, where she worked tirelessly to remove the social stigma attached to leprosy.

 Her empathy towards children, when she had none herself, just exhibited her for the true gem that she was. Her only child, a boy named Nhamodzenyika, (meaning: the troubles of this world) had died of cerebral malaria aged 3.

 Amai Sally established the Child Survival and Development Foundation, an initiative that was greatly supported by the UN Children’s rights body- UNICEF. She also set up an orphanage in the Goromonzi district of Zimbabwe to give shelter and a home to many children who would otherwise have been destitute. Sadly this orphanage has become rundown in her absence.  The infrastructure is dilapidated because of looting and vandalism by so called ‘war veterans’ some of whom claim to have fought the liberation struggle but have never seen the barrel of a gun in their whole entire life.

 One thing she taught me is that even though the whole 7.5 million Zimbabwean women can not all be the first lady of Zimbabwe at a time, 192 of us could be first ladies. You know why, because being Ghanaian by descent, she married a Zimbabwean and became a better first lady than some Zimbabwean woman ever will. Maybe 192 of us could be the first ladies in the 192 nations of the world, and trust me if we become first ladies of a calibre as she was then the world will always remember us with respect.

 But the greatest legacy I got from her is to realise that we do not have to be the first ladies, we can be the Presidents and Prime Ministers ourselves as women.

 She was 60 years old when she died from a kidney disease and what a sad day it was, the 27th day of January 1992 when the whole nation lost the mother of the nation.

 I also thank her for cementing the relations between Ghana and Zimbabwe because it is one of the few African countries I have visited where I did not need a visa upon entry and can you believe they gave me a 60 day visa on my first entry when I only needed to stay for 8 days.

 What lovely people this phenomenal woman came from.


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Feminist Chronicles: Diary 15: Netsai Mushonga

Here we are. halfway through the Feminist Chronicles and I could not have chosen a more opportune moment to talk about one of the most revered, respected and influential women fighting the cause of women in Zimbabwe.

 Even amongst the grassroots Netsai Mushonga is well known.  I can understand why. Zimbabwe is a very patriarchal society where a woman’s place in her home and in the general public sphere is carved by societal norms and expectations. The expectation is that every woman should marry, should have children and then only after that does she become recognisable as a full human being.

Netsai Mushonga

Women’s rights are perceived to be totally discordant with traditional cultural values and any woman who fights for the rights of women is presumed to be either single and bitter or divorced and bitter-BITTER being the leading assumption.

 It is hence quite perplexing for men and exhilarating for women when a woman who has done the expected and lives the perceived ‘normal’ version of a life stands boldly and preaches gender equality, women’s emancipation and women’s equal rights. That is why many people LISTEN to Netsai Mushonga when she fights for the rights of women.

Whereas if I were to go and advise abused women to report their husbands, they would likely ask if I am married and the moment I, (the old doddering spinster that I am) said No, then they would ask, so what right have you got to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do in my marriage when you have never been in one.

 There are some of course who will accuse Netsai of double standards, saying that she is misleading women to take a path that she has not taken, for instance telling abused women to walk away if they so wish, a misunderstanding of course that comes from people’s ignorance about the concept of gender equality. Most Zimbabwean men, and some women are of the misguided notion that gender equality embraces values that are anti-family, anti-marriage and anti-men.

 Despite these mindsets, Netsai’s strategic placement has seen her emerging as a role model for rural women. She has taught women to fearlessly stand up for themselves and to challenge abusive cultural practices and traditions.

 In 1996, Netsai joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Zimbabwe, and later served as the Chairperson of the International Committee of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR). In 1997 she started the women peacemakers program. Currently she is the National Coordinator for the Women’s Coalition, an umbrella organisation of more than 60 women’s rights organisations in Zimbabwe.

 Netsai has published an advisory booklet for the church community on violence against women on how to rehabilitate survivors to continue with their lives. In another one of her articles ” Democracy in the eyes of women in Zimbabwe,’ Netsai emphasises that women can not fully participate in a democratisation process when they do not have access to resources, when the decision-making sphere is marred by violence, and when restrictive laws and regulations prevailing over the exercise of their fundamental freedoms are in place. One striking point that Netsai makes is that there can not be democracy in the public sphere when its not there in the private sphere. She aptly argues that if decisions at the family level are made for a woman about whether she gets employed, where she is employed, where she travels, whether she will undertake further studies, as well as the kind of car she can drive then this is tantamount to a dictatorship. That woman will not find it any easier to challenge dictatorship at the level of the state.

 Under Netsai’s tutelage, the Women’s Coalition is currently working with government officials in drafting a new Constitution for the country. Lobbying for policy change is her passion and she was one of the leading figures who were instrumental in pushing for the enactment of the Domestic Violence Bill in 2006.

 Netsai has also been very vocal in pushing the Inclusive government to redress gender imbalances in the management of the Parliamentary led constitution making process. She has demanded that every decision that the government takes should adhere to the commitment in the Global Political Agreement to ensure gender parity.

 She is constantly challenging the lack of political will by politicians to achieve real gender equality as the state abdicates its targets set by the Millennium Development Goals.

 Netsai, over the years has faced resistance from the state for the work she does. On 8 November 2005, she got arrested for convening a meeting at a local hotel where she trained women in using non-violent means as a tool for dispute resolution under the banner of Women Peacemakers International. She was charged with contravening section 24 (6) of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) a piece of legislation that civil society organisations have been fighting to get rid of. Although she was later released, this arrest was a negative development given that the discussion was a crucial one in light of the elections that had just passed and were characterised by violence against women.

In November 2011 she, together with a group of women marching for gender parity in the constitution making process were barred by the police. The march was meant to be peaceful but obviously the police does not care about that, all they do not want is the free expression of people’s will.

 Netsai sits on the Spiritual Alliance to stop Intimate Violence (SAIV) Council together with the likes of Emilia Muchawa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. She is also a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.


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Feminist Chronicles: Diary 14: NoViolet Bulawayo

To use the language of the wrestling world, or at least what I hear them saying when introducing a wrestler on television when I watch WWE Raw, this woman ‘hails’ from the second largest city in Zimbabwe, Bulawayo. In Ndebele, one of Zimbabwe’s local languages we would say ‘Uvela koBulawayo, konthuthu ziyathunqa’ “She comes from Bulawayo-where everything happens.”

 She wrestles with societal prejudices that limit the potential of women and with boundaries that restrict the horizons women can reach. Her weapons – words; leave inerasable imprints on the self esteem of women, uplifting them in their spirit and giving them a new hope. She creates new dictionaries full of ‘I can’ words, she paints new pictures reflecting hope and she draws new borders with her magic pen and paper, borders that call out and say any woman can reach me.

A violet is believed to be the flower that symbolises modesty, virtue, affection, watchfulness, faithfulness and love. I have always wondered why she calls herself the opposite of a violet, or maybe given my limited understanding of the arts, she means something different from what I understand her to be saying . Her name is Elizabeth Tshele but her pen name; NoViolet is what many people know her by. Although she claims English is not her first language I am confident in her mastery of the language that I would bet my (to be acquired in the future) million bucks that she knows it better than the current British Prime Minister.

NoViolet-A true African woman who does not wither despite the hardships surrounding her

The recipient of the 2011 Caines Award, considered to be Africa’s highest literary award, she makes me proud to be a Zimbabwean woman. Her award winning story Hitting Budapest  is a moving tale of the journey of six starving and poor children who decide to steal guavas in a residential area for the affluent. The story is a clear illustration of social classes and how they shape the givens and granted of one class differently from the other class. Food is a given for the rich and guavas can rot in trees, but guavas are more than a delicacy for the poor-they are survival itself and the poor will go to great lengths to get them, even stealing as the characters in Hitting Budapest do.

NoViolet has also been recognised as a finalist in the 2009 SA PEN/Studzinski Literary Award for her story Snapshots.

Yes, we all write with our own pens but the quality of NoViolet’s pen just seems that much better than most because the marks it leaves behind, in her words, are indelible. A read of just one or two of her stories will tell you that she is at a level of her own.

Her stories have been published in collections of short stories. The story  “Snapshots” appeared in Where to Now?, “Shamisos” appeared in Writing Free, “Hitting Budapest”  appeared in To See The Mountain an Oxford Publication, “Main Street”  appeared in African Roar while the story ‘ Flag’ appeared in the Warwick Review.

Last night, I read her story Red and I could not help shedding a tear or two afterwards. This story of a Zimbabwean man who walks barefoot, hungry and destitute in the streets of Johannesburg in South Africa where he meets a street child left a hollow feeling in my stomach. The vivid images that NoViolet’s words evoke of the man as he holds the little girl, sings and imagines he is holding his son whom he head to leave behind in search of greener pastures stirred deep emotions of sadness and yes anger in me. Many Zimbabweans are in Shepherd, the character in Red’s shoes. They have been forced to leave their homes by poverty, difficult economic circumstances and hopelessness. They hope for better lives but across the border all they face is rejection, segregation, a worse kind of poverty than the one they left home, bereft of human warmth and understanding of their circumstances. As NoViolet says in the story all they know is “hard laughter, sarcastic laughter, angry laughter, hollow laughter, fleeting laughter, dry laughter.”

On her blog she discusses real life issues and how they affect real people. The topics discussed on her blog range from HIV/Aids where she laments the loss of her brother to the disease, to the challenges of life as a migrant in which she expresses her surprise and discoveries living abroad in a foreign land.

I know people say that art is a talent that one is born with, and writing being one form of art is a natural talent, but I will never give up hope that someday I will be able to put words together in the indelible manner that NoViolet does. Since she holds a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Cornell University in America specialising in creative writing, I would like to think these studies honed her unique voice. Maybe if I become one of her students at Cornell where she now lectures, I may learn to write as well as she does.


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