Are we becoming a Zhing-zhong nation?

Activism, Human Trafficking, Zimbabwe

I am not only alarmed but also disappointed to see the depth and manner with which the “Look-East Policy” has pervaded so many aspects of Zimbabwean society. I am told the “Look-East Policy” is a lucrative alternative to the West, it is supposed to be about fighting neo-colonialism and resisting Western Hegemony over our sovereign affairs and welfare as a society.

Yes, I can understand the need to unshackle ourselves from white imperialistic tendencies. Indeed the British reign in Zimbabwe was a terrible tyrannical reign-no wonder they are adamantly refusing to release all public documents relating to their conduct in  their colony of Southern Rhodesia , which is now our own Zimbabwe.

What I can not understand however is the direction my government is taking us when it makes a deliberate effort to remove us from one form of colonialism and chains us to another form of bondage.  We have been exposed to a cunning, ruthless and amoral slave master-the Chinese. I sound quite xenophobic, don’t I? I do not mean to. The point I am driving home which is also the reality on the ground is that the conduct of most of the Chinese in Zimbabwe is unacceptable.

Just as I do not need expert evidence to show me that colonialism and neo-colonialism have been exploitative of African populations, I also do not need experts from Europe or China or anywhere else to tell me what I see with my own eyes. All I see is that what the West did in Berlin in 1884-5 when they partitioned Africa and their conduct in most of their African colonies since then is exactly the same thing the Chinese are after, going after Africa’s natural resources, to feed the Chinese industry and huge population, to largely exploit the continent, and in some cases develop infrastructure and industries which benefit the Chinese themselves more than the locals.

Each day I hear stories of Zimbabwean workers abused in Chinese factories and mines. I have received cases of summary dismissal without notice and without any compensation of Zimbabwean workers from Chinese firms. Reports of Zimbabwean female employees getting pregnant by their Chinese bosses and giving birth to Chinese babies after being coerced to have unprotected sex have also filtered through.

Many workers in Chinese owned companies complain of long working hours, very little pay, unsanitary working conditions in clear violation of Zimbabwe’s labour laws and with clear disregard for the rights of these workers.

One man even mentioned in a gathering in which I was present that his nephew spent two days denied compassionate leave to go and bury his dead mother because the Chinese man in charge could not understand his request. Only when another one of his colleagues with a little extra knowledge of English arrived was he allowed to go. He could not up and go because his livelihood depended on that job.

All that being said and done; this made me very angry

A service booth with directions written in English and Chines at the Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe

This to me is a crime we are committing against ourselves. It is a betrayal of the liberation war gains. It appears like a move towards us becoming stooges of the East. If we are shunning the English language as an imperialistic tongue, why then are we embracing Chinese.  Why did we not put these signs in Shona, Ndebele and all the other dialects that are spoken by Zimbabweans?

Who reads Chinese anyway besides the Chinese themselves in Zimbabwe?

Now of this I am sure- if Lobengula’s alleged actions of selling over rights of land ownership to John Moffat did not cause Nehanda to spin 360 degrees in her grave, I am sure this Chinasation of Zimbabwe will!

51st CEDAW Session: Part 1

Activism, Africa, Development, Emancipation, Gender, Governance, History in the making, Human Rights, Human Trafficking, Politics, Sexual Violence, Transitional Justice, Violence Against Women, Women, Zimbabwe

A less jittery me, an hour before I was set to make my presentation

Monday the 20th of February it was. I would think the exact time was 1525 hrs, Geneva time. The Session had begun at 1500hrs. I was the 7th speaker among 8 designated speakers; 3 from Algeria, 2 from Jordan and 3 from Zimbabwe. Each speaker was given 3 minutes to say all they had to say.

What would I say in 3 minutes? What was the most crucial message for me to get across to the Committee members? What if I ran out of time before I said it all? What if my words failed me?

My delivery was obviously on the issue that is dear to me; the physical, mental and finacial integrity of women and the one thing that I was fighting in that Committee Room in the Palais des Nationes on that cold Monday afternoon in Geneva, Switzerland was violence against women. The government delegation of more than 18 people was listening attentively.  All 23 members, except for one of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women were listening to hear what Miss Rumbidzai Dube from the Research and Advocacy Unit from Zimbabwe had to say to them.

Was I nervous, of course! This was not a moot court competition. This was the real deal. A deal breaker. Women in Zimbabwe depended on me to make the Committee know how much they suffered at the hands of violence. They needed me to be brave to respond boldly to the questions of the Committee when they asked me who were the perpetrators of political violence. I had to name the Police in the presence of a top police official. I had to say political parties in the presence of all representatives of the political parties. I had to say the military  and war veterans in the presence of the  Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Switzerland. Yes I had to say it. The women I was representing needed me to tell the Committee what they want, what they have always said they want to address violence:

  • Prosecution of offenders
  • Psycho-social support
  • Trauma Counselling
  • Compensation
  • The truth of what happened
  • Public and sincere apologies

So, I did as the women asked as best I could in the 3 minutes I was given and this is what I had to say…

51st Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women

 ZIMBABWE NGO Statement and Delegation

 The following text will not be read out:

 The Zimbabwe Civil Society Delegation wishes to present the NGO Report which has been endorsed by 27 CSO organisations and is the result of wide consultations in Zimbabwe.

 Presented by:

Zimbabwe Civil Society Report

Emilia Muchawa, Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association

Rumbidzai Dube, Research and Advocacy Unit…

 Rumbidzai Dube

 Violence against women

a) Madame Chair, we acknowledge the positive development of the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act which has provided a framework for addressing violence in the private sphere.

 However insufficient resources to ensure the effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act have been provided. In particular the state has not allocated adequate resources to the effective function of the Domestic Violence Council or for public education and awareness raising. There are only 4 formal shelters in the whole of Zimbabwe to cater for the thousands of victims that seek refuge each year.

 We recommend that:

  • The state allocate adequate resources to the national gender machinery and the Anti-domestic violence council for the effective implementation of the Domestic Violence Act
  • Further that the state builds adequate shelters to give women a refuge  and safe space when subjected to domestic violence

 b) We also note that violence in the public sphere has been on the increase especially in times of elections. Politically motivated violence plagues Zimbabwean women.  In 2008 alone, civil society organisations documented the use of an organised campaign of violence against women in the period towards the Presidential rerun which violence resulted in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission deeming the election not free and fair.

 Women human rights defenders are persistently targeted, arrested, detained, tortured and subjected to inhumane treatment. In 2012 alone 27 women from the activist organisation Women of Zimbabwe Arise were arrested for demonstrating peacefully.

 The state has not adequately protected women from sexual violence including politically motivated rape, and targeted rape against sex workers and LBT women. This has also led to increased HIV/AIDS infections where women comprise 56% of people living with HIV/AIDS as these women are forced to have unprotected sex. Social and cultural norms limiting women’s control over their sexual and reproductive rights including negotiation of safe sex, also increases women’s risk of exposure.

 The state has acknowledged the severity of the problem of politically motivated violence by setting up an Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration and the 3 Principals in the Inclusive Government have also acknowledged this.

 However cases of politically motivated violence remain largely uninvestigated and unprosecuted leading to a culture of impunity which feeds the cycle of violence. Existing institutions such as the Organ on National Healing, the Joint Monitoring Committee (JOMIC), and the Human Rights Commission which has a prescriptive mandate are not adequately capacitated to effectively address this form of violence.

 We recommend that:

  • The state should prioritise the sensitisation of bodies such as the police, the courts and other key bodies facilitating the protection and access to justice of women victims of politically motivated violence with a view to ending impunity in line with UN Resolution 1820 as part of a comprehensive approach to seek sustainable peace, justice, truth and national reconciliation;
  • The state should set up a multi-sectoral investigation into politically motivated violence led by the Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with the Ministries of Home Affairs and Justice and other stakeholders before the next elections to ensure that politically motivated violence does not recur
  • The state should not only condemn but also hold accountable those responsible for the perpetration of politically motivated violence.

    Minister of Women Affairs, Honourable Olivia Muchena and Minister in the Organ on National Healing, Honourable Sekai Holland at the 51st Cedaw Session

Feminist Chronicles: Diary 9: Auxilia Chimusoro

Activism, Feminist Chronicles, Gender, Human Trafficking, Tolerance, Women, Zimbabwe

‘Homosexuals are worse than pigs and dogs.’ I am sure you all know this famous quote and the owner of it, none other than the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the Commander in chief of the Defence Forces, the Chief of Police, the Chancellor of all universities, he who appoints [with ceremonial consultation] all judges of the High Court and Supreme Court, and also appoints the Attorney General, the Registrar General, the Ombudsperson, the Reserve Bank Governor and anyone else whose position influences the fate of our country.

And from the day that he made this speech, all and sundry in Zimbabwe were given a free pass to hate gays and lesbians and to express their hatred freely and openly without censure. After all Zimbabweans and their political leaders are such morally upright people that they have a right to hate gays, right?

Given this background, you can imagine how much valour it would take for any gay person to stand up today and publicly announce that they are in fact gay. If lawyers representing gay people can be assaulted how much more so will the gay person? I am not here to start an argument about the moral implications of homosexuality, a debate I have had with many Zimbabweans before but I raised this issue to make a point.

The extent of the hostility of the society towards gays and the stigma attached to being gay in Zimbabwe today is no different from the way anyone with HIV/AIDS was viewed 20 years ago in Zimbabwe, and in some circles even up to date. Some of you may disagree but I am sure that is just because of short memory. I remember that the moment someone was known to be HIV positive they were shunned. It was assumed that they were promiscuous and that is how they got it and preachers would find a reason to talk about sex and morality. Many people would stay away from the HIV infected person, not share a room or a bed (without having sex of course), not share a cup or plate with them because it was believed they would pass on the[ir] virus. Most people assumed the HIV positive person was going to die a painful death and quickly too. Some people believed the disease was linked to witchcraft and associating with HIV people would bring bad luck. What hogwash it all was!!!

Due to the closed nature of society, many people living with HIV were afraid to live openly. Families with loved ones who got sick claimed it was witchcraft. Many AIDS patients in the urban areas were shipped to the rural areas once their health deteriorated, not because they would have better medical care in the rural home but to take them away from public scrutiny and the ensuing million questions, stares and whispers instigated by their deteriorating health. People would not dare publicise their HIV status because it would mean losing friends, jobs and even church membership.

So it was an amazing moment when a woman, [note: a woman] named Auxilia Chimusoro stood up and told the whole nation that she had HIV. This was in 1989 and of course she was shunned, segregated, stigmatised, and alienated. Not just her, but her family too. (Un)naturally, she lost friends, associates and even some of her relatives did not want to be associated with her.

A happy Auxilia Chimusoro

But Auxilia was a woman with a vision. In fact, she was one of the most intelligent people in the country who realised early on that HIV is not synonymous with death.

In the Rujeko Township suburb of Masvingo, where she came from, she initiated the first HIV&AIDS support group in Zimbabwe and called it Batanai (unite).

Her support group later joined hands with others to form the biggest provincial support group in Zimbabwe today, the Zimbabwe National Network of People living with HIV & AIDS (ZNNP+). Today, Auxilia’s support group now revamped into Batanai HIV & AIDS Service Organisation (BHASO) operates in Gutu, Chivi, Bikita, Zaka, Mwenezi, Chiredzi, Masvingo Rural and Masvingo Urban Districts, thus covering the whole of Masvingo Province

The Support organisation runs education, empowerment and support programmes focusing on post test support,  gender dynamics, orphans and vulnerable children, youth empowerment, behavioural change, community home based care, anti-retroviral treatment literacy, food security, water, hygiene and sanitation. It is because of Auxilia’s work that home based care for AIDS patients has become one of the country’s best strategies to deal with the scourge of AIDS at a time when hospitals and other public health institutions are overburdened and failing to cope with influxes of HIV/AIDS patients.

HIV has been demystified so much so that pregnant women are expected to get tested to prevent the Mother to Child Transmission. Persons living with HIV are largely viewed in the same way as cancer or diabetes patients; just another incurable condition that can be managed. A few close minded individuals of course still choose to say HIV/AIDS is unique but that just shows their unique myopic worldview. Thanks to Auxilia and the work she pioneered to raise awareness on the nature of HIV, many people are not afraid to publicise their status.

In today’s Zimbabwe every year an award is given to individuals fighting to stop the spread of HIV/ AIDS. This award is called the Auxilia Chimusoro award. She may have died in 1998 but her legacy lives on.

Debra Messing at the 2009 Auxilia Chimusoro Awards talking to some star struck youngsters

The amazing work of Zimbabwean women!

Of course; they have a lot to hide!

Activism, Africa, Gender, Human Trafficking, Sexual Violence, Violence Against Women, Women, Zimbabwe

When I first heard this piece of news I was shocked, then I became angry and then I turned defiant and decided that I would chart my own destiny. The piece of news is that out of the 192 member states of the United Nations, Zimbabwe has decided to declare itself so special, setting itself apart by changing the theme on the Commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence to suit its own ‘context.’

The official United Nations and global theme for this year’s commemorations is supposed to be:

“From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!”

The new (Indigenous) Zimbabwean theme now reads:

“From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge All Forms of Gender-based Violence.”

To back-step a little bit let me start from the beginning…

The 16 days of Activism against gender based violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. The 16 days begin every year on the 25th of November which is earmarked as the International Day for the elimination of violence against women to the 10th of December celebrated as International Human Rights Day.

This year’s commemorations cover five (5) sub- themes namely;
 Bringing together women, peace, and human rights movements to challenge militarism
 Proliferation of small arms and their role in domestic violence
 Sexual violence in and after conflict
 Political violence against women, including Pre/During/Post-election violence
 Sexual and gender-based violence committed by state agents, particularly the police or military

The 16 days’ campaign is a time to educate one-self; to spread the word; share knowledge, to organise events and activities, to engage with the media; celebrate women human rights defenders and activists, advocate for women’s human rights, and lobby the government. Usually these things are done with the particular theme for the year in mind. What this means is that during this year’s commemorations we must educate ourselves on militarism, spread the word about it, share the knowledge we have on it, celebrate the women who have been subjected to it and lobby the government to end it.

Is anyone wondering why the Zimbabwean government changed the theme?

Maybe this should bring us to the question of what militarism is, in the context of gender based violence.It is an ideology. That ideology creates a culture of fear. It condones violence and induces fear by cultivating a culture of terror among populations through the use of military warfare, aggression or other forms of violence.

Why must we reject it?

Militarism has grave consequences. It is coercive, intrusive on the dignity of people and poses a huge challenge to human security. Since it is a way of looking at the world; it influences how we perceive those who surround us; family, neighbours, the general public and the rest of humanity. If we embrace militarism then we are condoning a culture that perceives every individual as the enemy and embracing violence as the only effective way to resolve disputes. That is unacceptable!

Why is it important for Zimbabweans to discuss militarism?

If there ever was a more appropriate for Zimbabweans to talk about this issue, then this is the moment we should seize. Our past experiences with politically motivated violence in the context of elections need to be aired. Militarism has been used to suppress dissenting voices and those who think that they have an inherent right to take this country to its purported historic destiny feel the need to rid it of any contrary views and positions. Violence has become an instrument for these people to achieve their grandiose end.

In 2008 when Zimbabwe had its combined municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections, violence was used to force people to vote for certain political parties. Such violence wrought havoc on the lives of many. The killing, maiming and scarring of children, women and men, traumatising and shattering their lives was never accounted for. The women who contracted HIV/AIDS from the rape now have to live with the disease and the wounds on their hearts remain fresh to date. Mothers bore children whose fathers they do not know consequent of gang rapes during elections. Homes were burnt and destroyed. The memories of the insertion of sharp objects and hot substances such as ash and chillies into the private parts of women remain vivid yet no one wants to talk about it loudly.

Elections are in the pipeline. Probably the campaign plan is to do in 2012 as was done in 2008. Why am I not surprised that the theme for the 16 days of gender activism has been distorted. Of course talking about militarism will bring the dirty linen into the public (as if we already don’t know it all). What is in play is the realisation that talking about it will lead to calls for action to end it, and address its past occurrences, something that those who hold our nation by the horns do not want to see happening. Without militarism they lose their political stranglehold.

So no, there shall not be discussions of militarism in Zimbabwe these 16 days.’ Before we have started speaking to this theme, the government of Zimbabwe has hijacked the process and has distorted the theme to prevent the concept of militarism from being fully explored in the discussions taking place. Of course, there is a lot they have to hide.

Join me in rejecting this blatant abuse of power by speaking as loudly as we can against militarism in Zimbabwe.


Activism, Gender, Human Rights, Human Trafficking, Migration, Security, Sexual Violence, Uncategorized, Violence Against Women, Women

Imagine a young woman. I will call her Lily.

She lives with her mother and her little boy. A man comes into her life. He can see how she is struggling to make a living, working two jobs to support her family. He courts her and convinces her he is in love with her. He then invites her to visit him, promising to marry her and end her miserable days of never having enough. Enough money, enough food, enough rest. Innocent as she is and totally besotted with him, she goes. Little does she know that it is all a lie…

Somewhere else lives this beautiful and intelligent creature. I will call her Rose.

Barely sixteen years of age, she is innocent, hopeful and dreaming of a glamorous future as a model. A modelling agency visits her school. Excited to finally realise her dream she auditions and of course she is taken on board. She accepts the offer to travel to a new land and is thrilled to have made it into the career of her choice. She expresses her concern that she does not have a passport and is told by the modelling agency that they will take care of everything. She creeps out of her house in the middle of the night, leaving her father whom she considers old-fashioned and unadventurous, oblivious of her destination or her fate. If only she knew…

Another little girl, only nine years old is on holiday with her mother. I will call her Orchid.

She is excited to be soaking in the exotic surroundings of their chosen destination. She is fascinated by all that she sees around her when suddenly she finds herself being dragged away by huge burly men into a truck. And so ends her days of innocence…

The last girl I want you to meet is really young. I will call her Daisy.

Pretty and really tiny she lives on her family’s plot of land surrounded by wild vegetation and the sound of the sea. They are a poor family and they struggle to make it from day to day but she does not care. Why would she when she is surrounded by so much beauty. A man comes to her house and convinces her father to sell her to him. And so her father does sell her to this man because he has too many mouths to feed. The man takes her away and she will never return…

Suddenly these women and girls find themselves as sex slaves. They are drugged, used, abused, and assaulted. They are forced to sleep with 12 men each, every day. Rose is forced to be the ‘star’ in a pornographic movie. They all cannot escape. They are threatened with the death of their families if they even try. They become pieces of property for the owner of the business. This man makes a quarter of a million, yes $250 000 US per week out of selling the bodies of these young women. They get nothing. All that remains is just bruises; wounded and destroyed souls.

Indeed these are but some of the scenarios that victims of human trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation face. It is a horrible crime against humanity that is committed by people with no heart against innocent women and children. It is an industry for sexual perverts, pedophiles and vile spirited individuals. Most of them look just like the normal person on the street, you would not suspect them of harbouring such evil thoughts and intentions in their heads. The people in this industry make a lot of money to such an extent that trafficking is regarded as the second largest industry, next to drug trafficking.

The important thing is to know that human trafficking could happen to anyone- rich or poor, educated or not. Any one of these girls could be your sister, your daughter, your friend, your niece or just any girl. Young girls and women aged between 15 & 21 face the greatest risk because the business demands that they be young, attractive and therefore marketable.

As the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in persons, especially Women and Children defines it, trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons for the purposes of exploitation. This can be done by threats or use of force, coercion, abduction, deception, abuse of power by a person in a position of authority against vulnerable individuals or paying off someone who has guardianship rights over someone else to give you access to the person they should protect. Trafficking occurs usually because there is an abuse of trust by a lover as in Lily’s case, a potential employee as Rose’s  experience shows, society in general as shown by Orchid’s abductors and close family or friends as was the case in Daisy’s story.

Trafficking is not only conducted for purposes of sexual exploitation. Women and children can be trafficked for purposes of domestic servitude, forced marriage, forced labor in mining, fishing, and agriculture or some other industry.

A few lucky victims of trafficking manage to escape or to get rescued but even then they still face many problems. They may have nightmares, partial memory loss, or suffer from dementia as a consequence of their trauma. Usually they face enormous difficulties fitting back into the ‘normal’ society life because often we alienate, stigmatise and exclude them socially. Many of us do not tolerate them and dismiss them as prostitutes or drug abusers because more often than not as victims of trafficking they are forcefully injected with drugs to impair their judgement.

Let us keep in mind that the demand for the products of trafficking fuels the continued supply of women and children. So if we all could advocate abstinence from pornographic material, most strip tease clubs, from prostitution [and here I am excluding what some people could describe as prostitution but would be in fact commercial sex work-it is different because it is consensual and made by individuals who have the free choice to engage in it] we would make great strides in reducing trafficking. If we spread the word we could save the lives of a few young women who could be duped or tricked into trafficking. Let us help them not to fall into these traps.

Let us be part of the solution and support our fellow sisters by affirming their rights as victims instead of revictimising them and labelling them when they return or are amongst us. Let us help them to reintegrate into our society. Their experiences are horrendous and they need us to rekindle the flame of humanity in them.

[The descriptions of the girls above fit my own understanding of the plot of a film called Human Trafficking. This film captures and exposes the gory details involved in trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation and I urge all of you to watch this movie, if you have not done so already]

For more information on trafficking also visit the following sites: