Category Archives: Gender

#CSW58- MDG 6: Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases


I saw a headline in one of yesterday’s papers which said: “MDC official succumbs to Malaria.” Yes, Malaria, as a disease only becomes topical when it kills a prominent individual. Outside such circumstances, the media pays it very little, if not, no attention. Yet malaria remains one of the biggest health problems our country has to deal with. Did you know that 50% of our population is at risk of Malaria? And, did you also know that 1 in 12 children die before their 5th birthday of Malaria? Do you now see why we must pay malaria as much attention as HIV/AIDS?

Another disease, well known and feared but with hardly any statistics to tell us what it is and how much it has affected our people is cancer. All we know is that the number of death certificates, with the cause of death written down as cancer, are dramatically increasing. Women are being diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer while the number of men with prostate cancer is also increasing. We have many cases of individuals seeking donations to have surgery done on growths in the stomach, jaws, throat abroad and a vast number are also succumbing to lung cancer. Costs of getting cancer treatment are steep, estimated at $500 per session and government no longer subsidises the patients because they says government has no funds.

Typhoid and Cholera are also killing many people. The annoying thing about the scourge of these diseases in Zimbabwe is that it was purely man-made. Yes, I said that! We brought cholera and typhoid unto ourselves through the failure of our government to provide us with clean water and ensure sanitation for its citizens. Meanwhile, the bosses at the municipal councils responsible for collecting our rubbish bins, repairing our sewer pipes and providing us with clean water were always whining that there was not enough money for it while they paid each other $35 000 salaries.

Tuberculosis is also killing many of our people. Fortunately, the drugs are available for free in our public hospitals so once diagnosed; an individual can be helped and healed. Although about 79% of the people treated of TB in 2011 also had HIV/AIDS, 21 % were just cases of TB-something that a lot of people have lost touch with; assuming that only HIV positive individuals can suffer from TB.

We have been doing well in our fight with HIV/AIDS. Infections reduced from 30% in 2000 to 15% in 2011. However it is worrying to note that HIV/AIDS affects more women than men as prevalence is 6% higher among women (18% prevalence) than men (12% prevalence). And so it is perplexing to understand why some people JUST don’t get what we mean when we speak of the feminisation of HIV/AIDS, or the need for addressing gender relations in ending HIV/AIDS. Can she negotiate for safe sex [with her HIV positive partner]? Can she say no to sex with her [HIV positive] husband? How many of the women will get HIV/AIDS from their [HIV positive] husband in that polygamous marriage? How many of the women will contract the disease from that serial rapist? And so the nature of the relationships [where women have less power] determines the risk [higher] of getting HIV/AIDS and reflects in the prevalence [higher among women].

What have we done well?

  • HIV/AIDS testing has significantly improved. It takes less time to get tested and the counselling services have improved.
  • The roll out of the Anti-Retro Viral Treatment (ART) has been largely successful, with free drugs being provided for patients in public hospitals.
  • The successful implementation of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) has helped reduce new infections in children.
  • The availability of malaria and tuberculosis (TB) drugs for free in public hospitals has helped the fight against both diseases.

What have we not done?

  • We only have 2 public hospitals treating cancer – Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo and Parirenyatwa in Harare.
  • These hospitals have very little in the form of radiation therapy equipment, drugs and manpower in the form of specialists.
  • We have not opened our eyes to the reality of the increase in cancer detections enough to take steps to prevent its outbreak.

What more can we do?

  • We need to allocate more funds to addressing all these diseases. Relying on external partners’ support is unreliable and risky and as proved by the withdrawal of funds by the Global Fund, the plug on such funds can be pulled off any minute. Government must adequately budget so that donor funds become surplus, not the core.
  • More focus needs to be paid to dealing with cancer as cancer deaths are on the increase. Further, awareness efforts on what causes cancer and how it can be cured need to be scaled up.
  • Above and beyond the policy and practice, we need to address our ethos as a people. The reality of the high HIV infections among women lies in unequal gender relations where women are unable to negotiate for safe sex. Without addressing these gender relations, women will remain vulnerable.
  • We must address corruption; Salary-gate is part of the reason why people died of cholera and typhoid. Those who sanctioned and those who took fat salaries home while some poor people drank infected and dirty water to their death bed have blood on their hands.

#CSW58-MDG 5: Promoting Maternal Health


When I reflect on the risk and sacrifices that women make in this world, it makes me wonder when, why and how it came to be that in many parts of the world, they are regarded as second class citizens. What am I saying?

According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) of 2011, at least 10 women die every day due to pregnancy-related complications. Did you hear that, 10 women die every day while giving birth to children, some of them sons, who will then turn on their mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces and cousins and treat them as second class citizens. Isn’t that ironic?

Millennium Development Goal 5 is definitely one of the goals that Zimbabwe will not be able to meet. With maternal deaths estimated to be above 960 deaths for every 100 000 live births, the target of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters can remain an aspiration for now. Given that the 960 deaths are official statistics, which God knows how accurate they are, with the way our government is out of touch with the issues on the ground on so many levels, the rate is possibly even higher.

Let us assume for a minute that these statistics in fact are right, I am still perplexed by the worrying trend that factors such as education, class, location and age are no longer critical in determining who is affected. Uneducated and educated, poor and rich, rural and urban, and older and younger women are all dying in child birth. Clearly there are hidden nuances to the problem and successfully dealing with maternal health will needs exploring these. For instance, cases of celebrities who passed on in child birth, grabbed the headlines, raising the need for a more concerted effort into addressing the issue of maternal mortality.

What are some of these nuances?

  • We simply do not have enough trained health professionals to deal with the delivery of our babies. Our nurses left and we are not doing much to motivate those who remained behind to remain in our service and to be motivated at work.
  • The private health-care system has not been effectively regulated. Just in the past year I have had 2 friends and a relative who have had nasty encounters with private health practitioners. The first friend went to a reputable women’s health centre where she was told she had a growth in her uterus and needed to have her uterus cleaned. Fortunately for her, she chose not to do that and sought a second opinion. Guess what-the supposed ‘growth’ in her uterus was a baby. And to think these people have advanced machines for scans and all that other fancy stuff!!

Another friend elected to deliver her baby through a Caesarean and informed her gynaecologist of her choice. However, he kept pushing the dates for the performance of the Caesarean forward, in what she feared was an attempt to create complications in her delivery, leading to her increased stay in hospital and increased bill=more money for the doctor.

My other relative had had two babies, delivered through normal births without any complications. However for her third baby, the doctor dramatically chose to ‘induce’ her labour prematurely. She could not understand why he did so when her labour was not delayed and her pregnancy was advancing normally. Eventually she found out why when the bill came with a breakdown of:

  1. Costs for inducing labour
  2. Costs for delivering the baby
  3. Costs for doing the ‘stitches’ on the mother
  4. Costs of medication to clean the wounds

She also complained that the same doctor had developed a reputation of forcing women whose babies he delivered to have more ‘stitches’  or proclaim non-existent complications requiring caesarean delivery because doing so meant he would charge more for sewing them back together and performing the surgery. It seems the love for money far exceeds the observance of medical ethics these days.

What have we done well?

  • Our implementation of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme (PMTCT) has significantly reduced cases of HIV/AIDS infections in children at birth. HIV testing has improved and the responsibility lies with the mothers to choose life for their children.
  • The adoption of the National Campaign to Accelerate the Reduction of Maternal Mortality (NCARMM) directly corresponding with the African Union (AU) Campaign on the Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa in itself is an important development as it affirms government’s recognition that maternal mortality is a serious problem that needs addressing.

What have we not done well?

Government admits that most maternal deaths are a result of time taken to seek healthcare because of ignorance or lack of funds to pay for hospital care; time needed to reach a healthcare because hospitals are too far and there is no easily accessible transport to and from the health facility or the cost to do so is high and unaffordable and time taken to access care at the health facility-where there is generally an air of neglect of women in health-care facilities by highly unmotivated nurses.

Generally health services are inaccessible particularly in rural areas where hospitals and clinics are not within easy reach and the transport networks to the major clinics and hospitals are not easily accessible. Increasingly, the service in hospitals, particularly public/government hospitals, has deteriorated and has become poor. Pregnant women suffer neglect in hospitals resulting in some avoidable losses and deaths. Socio-economic challenges, related with the current economic environment significantly impact women’s access to medical services as they cannot afford to pay the user fees. There has been reduced uptake of contraception for inexplicable reasons.

What more can we do?

  • We need to adequately fund all our health institutions. Although a government policy stating that women should not pay user fees exists, it is impractical. If clinics do not make women pay, then they will not have the gloves, medication and swabs to attend to the women at child birth. Until and unless government adequately funds these facilities then the assertions that user fees have been scrapped will remain what they are; mere rhetoric!!
  • We must address religious and traditional practices that deny women access to medical facilities or that delay until patients are in critical condition. Zvitsidzo (Apostolic sects’ version of maternal wards), located in bushes in the middle of nowhere, secretive and denying access to the public, are an example of how maternal care is being compromised. Because of the veil of secrecy that these sects throw over these spaces, it is not clear how many women actually die and whether there are any complications that women have to live with for the rest of their lives for failing to give birth in certified maternal health care facilities.
  • We must maintain our reliable supply of contraception BUT we must find out, through comprehensive research, why there is reduced uptake of contraceptives.
  • We must take measures to motivate our nurses to do their jobs effectively. Without the necessary incentives, women will continue to lose their lives in avoidable circumstances.

Spaces and Power: The story of Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda


On Wednesday the 10th of July, I woke up to the disappointing news that  UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had not appointed Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda as the new UN Women Director. I was disappointed for a number of reasons;

  1. She is a Zimbabwean woman and as one of us I stood solidly behind her just as the African group Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) stood behind her .
  2. I had hoped, beyond hope that her appointment would be the beginning of the recognition of Zimbabwean citizens within the global system as individual citizens of a country with a complex history but also with amazing capacity to hold key and top positions rather than as an extension of our government which is not exactly the most popular nor the most influential within global politics.
  3. But above all, I was disappointed that the process of appointment was mired in secrecy and a general lack of transparency. First there were six candidates as listed here . Then there were seven as listed here . Commentaries such as this ; predicting who would be appointed never mentioned the individual who was finally appointed. But clearly there were eight or more candidates.
    Nyaradzai in conversation with AU Chair Nkosazana Dlamini, Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Thokozani Khupe and GIMAC founder Mama Ruth from Uganda at the AU Women Stakeholders' Conference on Agenda 2063

    Nyaradzai in conversation with AU Chair Nkosazana Dlamini, Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Thokozani Khupe and GIMAC founding member Mama Ruth from Uganda at the AU Women Stakeholders’ Conference on Agenda 2063

Should the UN have been more transparent?  In my view, yes because if the global body that preaches transparency and accountability does not practise what it preaches, what are we to think? I believe I had a legitimate expectation as a supporter of Nyaradzai’s candidacy to know all those who were in the running for the same position?  Surely it is not too much to ask that those who were vying for this position should have been so declared, openly and publicly. Why then this secrecy?  I agree with the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) in expressing deep disappointment in the lack of transparency of the UN in appointing the UN Women Executive Director.

I do have a good idea why things went the way they did.

A couple of months ago, a good friend of mine-Marjoca-introduced me to the concept of people, power and spaces. She gave me an article by John Gaventa called “Finding the Spaces for Change: A power analysis” in which Gaventa analyses the different kinds of spaces in which citizens operate, trying to engage policy processes from local to global fora. Gaventa makes a very incisive observation; that it is not about the presence of institutions that citizens are able to engage effectively but rather about power relations that exist between and among those seeking to engage these institutions.

Gaventa talks of closed or uninvited spaces where decisions are made behind closed doors with no pretence of broadening the boundaries of inclusion. Attempts to try to penetrate these spaces are futile. To mind comes the core of the UN Security Council, what the world has come to know as the superpowers; China, Russia, France, the US and the UK. The BIG FIVE.   Just like the big five within the African context- the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and buffalo- no matter how much the zebra asserts her belonging in the animal kingdom; she will never be one of the big five. Unless of course, maybe one of the big five goes extinct- something that we all hope never to happen for the sake of future generations. But my point is-such spaces are so closed yet they make decisions for and on behalf of others; decisions that are not always for the good of all represented.

Gaventa also talks of invited spaces where individuals can enter by invitation. The rules of engagement are already set. So you may try to change them, but will only make so much headway. To mind comes the UN Secretariat where anyone who works for it goes knowing that they are subject to rules, regulations, codes of conduct and of course the crippling bureaucracy.

Gaventa then talks of claimed spaces where individuals enter into spaces, set the rules, learn how to push the boundaries and ensure that the process of inclusion is not just window dressing. Maybe just maybe, someday the UN will become this space. Maybe the time will come when we won’t ask questions like; who is allowed into that space? Who isn’t allowed into it and why? What can we say and do within that space? How effective are we in influencing that space to cater to our needs?

In my mind, I am clear why Nyaradzai did not make it. She is a radical at heart, the embodiment of activism, heading the world’s largest grassroots movement the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) and tackling girls and women’s issues in the most brazen manner. Why shouldn’t she be radical, when she has worked with women for so long that the work is now her life? Why shouldn’t she be brazen when her life and experiences embody the lived realities of the suffering African child?

Nyaradzai receiving African solidarity from sisters from the continent in Addis Ababa early on in the year

Nyaradzai receiving African solidarity from sisters from the continent in Addis Ababa early on in the year

She walked barefoot to school, braving the cold. She learnt to manage hunger and live on what was available. She knows the value of education for the girl child-she is a living testimony of the results of the value of an educated and empowered girl child.  She knows what it means not have access to clean, safe and accessible water. She knows what it means to walk miles to a hospital just to get painkillers for a headache, only to get back home with sore feet and a headache.

Is this kind of individual not exactly what the hungry, war-torn, sick, education-hungry, battered, barefoot, pregnant, poor women and children world over needed?

Surely if the UN Women Director post had been filled based on popular support and global citizens’ belief  in individual candidates’ ability to best represent the wishes and aspirations of women and children, then I have no doubt Nyaradzai would have made it.

But decisions were made, we know not how; we were just informed after the fact. One of the requirements was that the candidate must be politically astute and able to engage effectively with a wide range of key actors in international negotiations. Clearly, for the UN such politically astuteness means you must have been a politician in your past life if the precedent set so far is anything to go by. Its first Director was the former President of Chile (2006-2010) and its second Director is the former Vice President of South Africa (2005-2008).

When I was a little girl, I had big dreams. I dreamt that one day I would be the Secretary General of the United Nations. Then I grew up and I began to understand that not my passion, nor my dedication to the cause for human rights would get me to where I wanted to go. There were other factors that would determine whether I made it into that space like; where was I born? Was I born male or female because in its whole history the UN has never had a female Secretary General? Instead it has been one male after the other rotating from region to region Ban Ki Moon, the current Sec Gen; Kofi Annan from Ghana (Jan 1997-Dec 2006); Boutros Boutros-Ghali from Egypt (Jan 1992-Dec 1996; Javier Pèrez de Cuèllar from Peru (Jan 1982-Dec 1991); Kurt Waldheim from Austria (Jan 1972-Dec 1981; U Thant from the then Burma, now Myanmar (Nov 1961-Acting, Nov1962-Dec 1971); Dag Hammarskjöld of Sweden (April 1953-death Sept 1961); and Trygve Lie from Norway (Feb 1946-Nov 1952).

Would I make it as an African? And even if the choice was meant to come from Africa would I be from the right region? Would I be from the right country? Which of the BIG FIVE would support my candidacy?

More and more I realise that we are all born people, but as we grow older some are moulded to become more “human” than others because of their nationality, race, ethnicity, gender and so on. The ability to enter different spaces at different times differs depending on who you are. Yet I still hope, for real change, for real equality, for true humanity and for the reinforcement in each individual of true dignity. Someday…for now, the world keeps failing me.


The story of Beatrice Mtetwa: A Red Herring ?


Right in the middle of a historical exercise, the holding of a Constitutional Referendum- something monumental had to happen. Merely a few hours after voting had ended, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) -in its unfathomable and incomprehensible wisdom-decided to arrest Beatrice Mtetwa. Previously I wrote about Beatrice in my Feminist Chronicles, having identified her as one of the most influential women in Zimbabwe, whose bright intellect and sharp and keen sense of reasoning was above many.

Given her history as a strong advocate for the weak, the defenseless and the vulnerable and also given her strong will to take on cases that many cowered away from, it is no wonder that she made it to the top of the regime’s WANTED list; a regime that is scared witless of its own population yet so boastful of its popularity.

The facts of the case…

Beatrice was arrested on the morning of Sunday the 17th of March 2013 in the line of duty, attending to her client Thabani Mpofu. Thabani’s home was being searched (read raided) by the police as they searched for what we have popularly come to know as “subversive material.” But who knows what that subversive material is; it could be anything from radios to smart phones to information packs, but a little bird whispered in my ear that Thabani was in the middle of putting together a dossier with evidence of corruption of some political big wigs, a job that the police believe is strictly theirs to do, hence the charges of impersonation leveled against him.

What is the law regarding search warrants

The Public Order and Security Act in Section 39 provides that the arrest or search of any person or premises shall be carried out in line with the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. The Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act in Section 49 as read with Section 50 demands that the police may only search premises and seize articles suspected to have been used or intended to be used for the commission of an offence with a valid warrant of search issued by a magistrate or judge. Section 50 (4) of the Criminal procedure and Evidence Act states that a person whose rights are affected by the search can demand to see the warrant, AFTER THE POLICE HAVE EXECUTED THE WARRANT, and the police are obligated to produce such a warrant. As the legal representative of the accused, Beatrice had every right to demand to see the search warrant, but the question is did she demand to see the warrant before or after the police were done with their job?

Presumably, the answer is no and we can assume that she demanded to see the warrant during the search before the police were through with their search which is why the police then accused her of obstructing the course of justice. But given that, half the time, the police in Zimbabwe carry out arbitrary searches and seizure and arrests, any lawyer of character would do under the given circumstances what Beatrice did.  This probably explains why Justice Hungwe, a judge in the High Court of Zimbabwe ordered her release.

However there remains no valid explanation as to why Beatrice remains in police custody despite the order for her immediate release. There is also no explanation as to why she has been moved from police station to police station since then in the typical fashion that the police have adopted to deny an individual under interrogation access to their legal counsel and/or relatives. This same tactic was employed against Jestina Mukoko and has been observed in many trends where political activists and human rights defenders have been arrested.

Is this arrest an end in itself or a means to an end?

Theory One…

A week ago IDASA launched the Democracy Index for Zimbabwe, an analysis of the state of democracy in Zimbabwe. In the Chapter on Political Freedoms and Democracy that I wrote, one of the questions informing the analysis was “How free are all people from intimidation and fear, physical violation against their person, arbitrary arrest and detention?”  In my response, I explained that despite Constitutional guarantees for such freedom, the state continues to use its security apparatus to silence dissenting voices, targeting the few vocal and visible individuals to serve as an example and unleash a silent indirect threat to the rest of the faint and weak-hearted. So I would not be surprised if Beatrice’s arrest is just but another example of that.

Theory Two…

When the process of writing a new constitution began, it ignited hope in many Zimbabweans that a new dispensation in which the rule of law would be restored was on its way.  However during the whole era of the inclusive government that particular hope has been dashed and continues to be dashed. Could it be doubted that the arrest of Beatrice is a clear message to the few hopefuls that NOTHING has changed and won’t change. This form of intimidation will continue to be the order of the day even with a new constitution with a broader Bill of Rights.

Theory Three

The arrest of Beatrice Mtetwa could be a red herring. Don’t get me wrong, that is not to trivialise the enormity of what is being done here or what it means for women human rights defenders’ safety and security. But maybe those who instigated this arrest are drawing attention away from the Referendum, with the strange and ironic  contradiction of voter apathy in city centres where people had access to the draft, to the press, to political commentary online about the contents of the constitution as compared to the high (if I may abuse the word -voluminous) turnout in the areas with citizens who had the least access to the media in the form of newspapers, radio and televisions. Were they saying, “YES we don’t know what’s in the constitution but we will vote for it anyway” or  were they forced to say “Yes” or were they genuinely saying “YES we want the draft to be the new Constitution because we agree with its contents”? There is no prize for guessing which it is likely to be! But also maybe Beatrice’s arrest is targeted at drawing the world’s attention away from how a flawed process resulted in the flawed adoption of a flawed document courtesy of political parties’ turnabout from fighting for independence, freedom and democracy to POWER.

Maybe, these are just what they are-theories -but I shall not wait for history to condemn my silence where I could have spoken-and so I have spoken, standing in solidarity with Beatrice and calling for her release- as any law abiding Zimbabwean would.


A Crime Against Humanity


In this modern world of instant information, have we become inured to horror? Every day we are exposed to pictures and films of extreme violence, they flicker through our consciousness, moving on to the newest examples of human propensity for violence. And we forget each previous example as the newest hits the media.

However, one example of this propensity for violence, common to every country in the world, is with us every day, has been going every day throughout recorded history, and seems hardly to evoke the same concern as war in Syria, Mali, South Sudan, or Somalia. But it is prevalent in every country in the world – WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

As UN Women has pointed out:

Violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions. Based on country data available, up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime — the majority by husbands, intimate partners or someone they know.

Consider the following, according to the UN Women report, The Violence against Women Prevalence Data: Surveys by Country, based on data from 86 countries

  • In the United States, one-third of women murdered each year are killed by intimate partners.
  • In South Africa, a woman is killed every 6 hours by an intimate partner.
  • In India, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders in 2007.
  • In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.
  • Women and girls comprise 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation.
  • Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting, with more than 3 million girls in Africa annually at risk of the practice.
  • More than 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.1 million and Sub-Saharan Africa (14.1 million).
  • An estimated 150 million girls under 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002 alone.
  • As many as 1 in 4 women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy which increases the likelihood of having a miscarriage, still birth and abortion.
  • Approximately 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
  • In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence, mostly involving women and girls, have been documented since 1996, though the actual numbers are considered to be much higher.
  • In Zimbabwe, 52% of women reported being victims of political violence, with 2% being victims of politically motivated rape, and 3% reporting that a family member had been raped. A startling 16% claimed that they knew of a women that had been raped.
  • Up to 53 percent of women physically abused by their intimate partners are being kicked or punched in the abdomen.
  • In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds.
  • Domestic violence alone cost approximately USD 1.16 billion in Canada and USD 5.8 billion in the United States. In Australia, violence against women and children costs an estimated USD 11.38 billion per year.
  • Between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace.
  • In the United States, 83 percent of girls aged 12 to 16 experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools.
  • In Ecuador, adolescent girls reporting sexual violence in school identified teachers as the perpetrator in 37 percent of cases.

So, when it is claimed that one billion women are victims of violence, let us be clear that this is an underestimate. If any of us lived in a country where 70% of half the population suffered these kinds of abuses, we would not be happy, and it would be another of those terrible stories flashing through television and the internet. But is endemic everywhere and hence invisible it seems.

No wonder one billion are rising! Actually it should be three and a half rising! But wouldn’t it be wonderful is all seven billion were rising, and these statistics became a thing of the past.

Maybe we need to see all these violent and discriminatory practices as crimes against humanity, fully one half of humanity. Not merely ordinary crimes, but evidence of deep rooted cultural prejudices, and how do we get rid of these prejudices? Perhaps when patriarchy is seen as a crime against humanity?

*This article first appeared on the RAU blog*


No holds barred:This Atrocity Ends Here


It is her core-her being- her most private self-her pride-her DIGNITY

When you violate it you have stripped away her dignity, self confidence, pride & wellbeing

And so with a warped mind, a sadistic spirit that derives pleasure from her pain

He chooses to target it- pushing the dagger into her fresh wound

Society has normalised it-it happens, men shall be men & shall be men

They blame her-she wanted it or she looked for it, her skirt was too short

Why was she walking alone at night?

Was he not her boyfriend & what was she doing with him alone in a closed space?

They make excuses for him-mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts

If she speaks up, they label her

If she does not speak out, she dies inside

She questions if maybe, just maybe-she might have gotten what she deserves

She feels unworthy, dirty, violated-EMPTY

And why does she go through this? Because she is a woman!

Who understands what it means to walk with constant caution?

To be ever vigilant for your safety–

On your way to work, to school, in your office, even in your own home

And yet this is the experience of half the population of the world-DAILY

But repeatedly this experience is, IS belittled? Overlooked?

Underestimated? Misunderstood? Misrepresented? Sidelined?

Whichever one it is, not enough has been done to address it for the pervasive vice it is

We, the women of this world, deserve to live without fear

Fear of death, of terror, of hate and hate speech

Of violence and all other threats to our physical and mental well being

The world needs to understand that—;

Rape IS NOT about sex

Rape IS NOT about a desperate man dealing with constant deprivation of sex

Rape IS NOT illegitimate sex; hence justifying the marriage of girls to their rapists to retroactively legitimise the act is simply cuckoo

Rape HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH a wife reaching menopause, hence justifying a husband pouncing on his child

Rape IS about power and domination; hence as women we need to claim back our power

Rape IS a crime; and as women we must nail the perpetrators

Rape IS an attack on the physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and personal identities of the victim

And for this reason I AM RISING TO SAY-

This atrocity ends here!!!


The Perfect Valentines’ Gift


One in three women on this planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Set against the world population of 7 billion, and a total global female population of about 3.5 billion, it means not a hundred (100), not a thousand (1000), not ten thousand (10 000), not a hundred thousand (100 000), nor a million (1 000 000), but ONE BILLION (1 000 000 000) women shall suffer some form of violence in their lifetime. This is an atrocity of unparalleled proportions, yet it is happening right under our noses.  It needs to stop and there is something that we can all do to change this.

On 14 February 2013, anyone who thinks this is unacceptable can join the global campaign to end violence against women and rise. Imagine one billion individuals rising in unison and solidarity to say THIS ENDS HERE!!!

Spread some love, preach peace and advocate an end to violence against women(Picture credit turnbacktogod.com)

Spread some love, preach peace and advocate an end to violence against women
(Picture credit turnbacktogod.com)

Renowned world leaders such as the Dali Lama have pledged their support and commitment to this campaign. Celebrities such as Jane Fonda , Anne Hathaway , Alice Walker , Thandie Newton, Jessica Alba, Kerry Washington, and many others are rising.

Give yourself and the world the perfect Valentines’ Gift: Rise and play your part. Organise or assist in organising an event advocating an end to violence against women on 14 February. Sponsor such an event. Join an event in protest or dance. Spread the word about the campaign. Blog about this. Sponsor the fight against violence against women. Build a shelter for victims of violence. Counsel an abused woman. Give medical attention to victims. Support a woman to walk away from an abusive relationship. Protect a child from abuse. End child marriages. Fight human trafficking. Educate a boy child not to grow into an abusive man.

A central feature of any event organised to protest the violence against women should be DANCING: as dancing is the quintessential way in which women can celebrate the freedom to own their bodies. It is easy to do, can happen anywhere, and men are REQUIRED (and welcomed) to join in.

Zimbabwe is joining the rest of the world in rising. Like the One Billion Rising Zimbabwe Facebook page, and share your reasons for rising.

*The One Billion Rising global movement to end violence against women and girls is the brainchild of Eve Ensler, an American activist and award-winning playwright.*


The Arrogance or Ignorance of Privilege


Some people believe that enough has been said and done to improve women’s human rights, or to fight gender based violence, or  to realise the goal of gender equality characterised by equal chances for all,  equal access to these chances for all and equal respect among all.Could it be forgetfulness or just a sense of acute arrogance of a privileged few to seriously ask, “What is it that women want?” especially if you are also a woman. But yes some men (and women) ask;

“What is it that women want?”“Don’t they have enough already?”“What more do they want?”

“Do they now want us to live in their petticoats?” “Soon we shall be singing ‘majesty’ and curtseying to the end of the world for them, isn’t that where we are headed at this rate.”“If they have food on their tables and roofs over their heads, what more do they want?”“This women’s rights thing is destroying our moral fabric, our culture and our traditions; we have had enough!”

 Delta Milayo Ndou, a fellow blogger and gender activist, in her article “We are in Danger of forgetting”  said something quite striking when she said,

“There is a period between the worst of times and the best of times in which there is a lull…. The relief of having escaped a horrible circumstance tempts us to ease back for a while and eventually the memory of how bad things used to be fades. We start to convince ourselves that things are fine now because we use the worst circumstance as a reference point instead of using the best of circumstances as an aspirational goal to work towards.”

Are women really making unnecessary noise? Are women asking for too much? Should women be grateful for what they have achieved so far and not demand the ultimate desired and aspirational goal that Ndou talks of? What is it that women have achieved that would make some individuals think that they need not ask for more?

A week ago, a young girl was shot in the head in India because she had confronted a man for urinating in front of her gate. In Afghanistan a young girl of 15 had her throat slitbecause her family had refused an offer for marriage. About two months ago, MalalaYousafzai, a 14 year old Pakistani activist was shot in the head in an assassination attempt by the Taliban for demanding the right of every girl-child to an education.

But to bring it closer to home women and girls are raped each day in Zimbabwe.One in every 3 women will experience rape or some other form of sexual violence at least once in her lifetime; that is about 1 billion women and girls. Each day there are several reports of women and girls raped, battered and bruised through domestic violence. We read in the papers: Woman struck by her husband on the head with a brick for singing happy birthday to him while he was still in bedWoman raped by pastor;   Woman assaulted for dishing the wrong piece of chicken to her husband; and Popular radio DJ and theatre performer, Tinopona Katsande assaulted by her boyfriend Brian Munjodzi.and these are just few of many stories in Zimbabwe

The perpetrators, most of the time are not strangers. They are husbands, boyfriends, fiancés, fathers, brothers, uncles, and even some men that women consider to be friends. Yes the occasional stranger takes a chance, but the majority of abusers are close relatives, individuals that the victims trust; individuals that the victims never imagined would abuse them; individuals whose depravity is unimaginable.

Why would anyone ever ask what it is that women want? You either have to be a ‘blind’ fool, walking around with a pair of dark goggles over your eyes not to see the injustices that women face or you would have to be totally ‘deaf’ not to hear the cries that women and girls are constantly making.

In Zimbabwe, the thought of elections sends shivers down many women’s spines; chills of fear because elections symbolise a time of destruction and loss. Loss of women’s dignity as young men force themselves upon women old enough to be their mothers or grandmothers; loss of women’s control over their bodies as they are raped while sticks, butts of guns, ashes, chillies and all sorts of foreign harmful substances and objects are thrust down women’s genitalia; loss of women’s health as they are wilfully infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; loss of women’s reproductive choices as they are made pregnant, have no access to safe abortions and are forced to give birth and take care of babies whose fathers they do not know.

A cursory look at the legal framework would make it seem as if everything is in order. There is a Domestic Violence Act that prohibits all forms of domestic violence including marital rape and supposedly affords women the opportunity to report their matters to the police. There are supposed to be Victim Friendly Units within the police stations, catering to the needs of victims and attending to their complaints with the requisite sensitivity. There are supposed to be Victim Friendly Courts that allow the victim to tell their story in a safe space without facing a trial as if they were the perpetrator.  There is a Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act that prohibits incest hence one would think a father or uncle would never want to have sex with, let alone force himself upon his daughter or niece or a brother upon his sister.

Yet the reality on the ground is no stranger than fiction. Fathers rape their daughters, brothers- sisters, uncles- nieces, soldiers-civilians.Is there a single soul out there, oblivious to the commission of these horrible atrocities?  If not, then why would anyone think women do not need any more protection than they already have?

But why would anything change when Zimbabwe has a constitution that tells its citizens it is OK to discriminate against women as long as the issues relate to customary law and personal matters such as marriages, custody and guardianship of children, in case of divorce, division of property acquired during marriage, inheritance, access to land and many other instances. Women want to be treated like equals because they are also human beings. Is this too much to ask?

Why would anything change when people still perceive rape as ‘illegitimate sex’-that a woman slept with another man who is not her husband and hence she gets blamed as if she wanted it?-Women want a situation where rape is recognised as a crime, they want perpetrators to be punished in accordance with the severity of their crimes, and not to get a fickle 5 years or to swagger around with total impunity for politically motivated crimes.

Why would anything change when the immediate thought that pops into people’s heads when a woman is battered is  what did she do to deserve it, rather than examining what is wrong with the man to do such a thing to a defenceless woman or often a child? Women want and need a society that recognises that no amount of provocation justifies the use of violence against any woman.

So let those sitting in their high horses of privilege- or maybe halos of ignorance- be they men or women understand that the struggle for women’s emancipation is far from over!


Talk about a Revolution


Every Constitution has provisions that determine the powers that a President has. In the Current Zimbabwean Constitution the President has very extensive powers.

The President has the power to appoint up to 33 Senators: 5 directly appointed as senators, 10 provincial governors, and 18 chiefs. He/She has the power to appoint the Attorney General, the Registrar General, judges of the Supreme Court and High Court, members of the Judicial Services Commission. He/she also has a say in the appointment of Commissioners to the Anti-corruption Commission and the Human Rights Commission. He/she makes all the senior appointments to the security services.

The President has the prerogative of mercy, and hence can pardon any political or other prisoners. Under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures Act), the President can enact laws or regulations by decree for at least six months. By 2001, President Robert Mugabe had legislated 450 times by decree through Statutory Instruments covering various Acts of Parliament.

So, it is no exaggeration to say that he or she that captures that post is the most influential person in the country, and can make an enormous difference to what happens in the country, for good or ill. So think about a possible future development.

The results of the 2011 South African Census show that there are more than 1,3 million more women than men in that country. Zimbabwe currently has 4% more women than men with women constituting of 52% while men comprise 48 % of the population. Effectively, given the estimated 12.6 million total of the population, and assuming that half of the population is under the age of 18 (and thus cannot vote), it means that there are about a quarter of a million more women voters than men.

Now imagine if all the women eligible to vote in Zimbabwe were to agree never to vote for a male candidate?
Imagine if all women voted for a female President.
Imagine if the House of Assembly and Senate all had women.
Imagine if the female President would appoint female judges to preside over all cases.
Imagine if the female President appointed female chiefs to preside over customary law.
Imagine if the female President appointed female governors to decide and execute the priorities of different regions.
Imagine if the female President appointed the Attorney General to prosecute all cases on behalf of the state.
Imagine if the female President appointed a female Registrar General to decide the processes of acquiring birth certificates, passports and other identity documents things that are central to children’s well being and women’s survival as cross border traders.

Also imagine if the female President could change any act of Parliament- on that list would be a repeal of the Termination of Pregnancy Act which limits women’s ability to determine their reproductive health, the laws on loitering (limiting women’s freedom of movement), laws on guardianship (limiting women’s rights in relation to their children), marriage laws (limiting women’s options and rights in marriage).

Imagine finally that no man would ever hold political office of any kind unless he had the support of women.

All this is possible. But only if the 52% women in Zimbabwe are united instead of pulling each other down and with a single purpose decide to empower themselves through the power they hold in numbers.

Talk about a Revolution!!!


Citizenship Rights Under the Draft Constitution


Did you know that under the COPAC Draft Constitution:

  • Persons can acquire/get citizenship by birth if they are born in Zimbabwe AND (if at least one of their parents or grandparents is Zimbabwean), or if they are less than 15 years and they do not seem to have known Zimbabwean or foreign parents (in other words, the state adopts all orphaned children whose parents are not known, abandoned children and all unaccompanied minors as full citizens). This is a very important development for children’s right to citizenship.
  • Persons can also acquire/get citizenship by descent if they are born outside ZimbabweAND(if at least one parent or one grandparent is Zimbabwean by birth or  descent or  if one of their parents is a citizen by registration)
  • Zimbabwean citizenship can also be acquired by registration by any person who marries a Zimbabwean but only after 5 years of marriage, or by a foreign person who has lived in Zimbabwe legally for 10 continuous years or if they are a child and have been adopted by a Zimbabwean parent.
  • Acquisition of citizenship is gender neutral, it can be through the father’s side or the mother’s side and this is a very positive development
  • Getting passports is a right, an improvement from the Current Lancaster House Constitution given the significance of passports for women who want to engage in cross-border trading to sustain their families
  • Getting birth certificates is a right. This is an improvement from the Current Lancaster House Constitution which does not provide for access to birth registration as a right so then the Registrar General will be obliged to make birth certificates available for every child and every citizen as of right and not privilege
  • Both men and women are allowed to pass on citizenship to their foreign spouses after 5 years of marriage and to retain such citizenshipeven after they have divorced. The Current Lancaster House Constitution does not allow foreigners who get married to Zimbabweans to acquire citizenship through marriage; they can only be permanent residents. Previously only men could pass on citizenship to their foreign wives and when women contested this unequal treatment the court then made it impossible for both Zimbabwean men and women to pass on citizenship on to their foreign spouses
  • All citizens are protected from losing their citizenship. The Draft COPAC Constitution does not allow citizens to lose their citizenship if doing so will make them stateless; i.e. if it will leave with no right to citizenship of any country. This is also important because under the Current Lancaster House Constitution the Registrar General has been able to take away people’s citizenship if he thinks that they are not supposed to be Zimbabwean citizens. This has been possible where people were perceived to be dual citizens; i.e. to be a citizen of Zimbabwe and a citizen of another country at the same time. Dual citizenship is said to exist under the Current Lancaster House Constitution when:

-A Zimbabwean applies for the citizenship of another country without renouncing their Zimbabwean citizenship

-A Zimbabwean applies for a foreign passport while still in possession of a valid Zimbabwean passport

-A person born in Zimbabwe to parents of foreign origin; e.g. Zambian, Malawian, Mozambican does not renounce their ‘entitlement’ to the citizenship of the other country

For a more detailed discussion of this issue please tune in to Star Fm tonight at 1830 and listen to Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’s gendered analysis of the Draft Constitution


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