Hello everyone! Before I begin, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bekezela and I am 17 years old. I am a born Zimbabwean of Zulu origin. But most importantly, in terms of this article, I am female.
Being female and commenting on gender issues in Zimbabwe can be difficult. D
To put it simply, Zimbabwe (the land I love beyond what can be explained) has a big gender issue. It is a sexist nation that has since the beginning of time put excessive effort into glorifying the male. Misogyny runs deep in our roots, and the fruit of this misogynistic culture are prevalent today.
This sexism is everywhere. School, home, work, any place you can think of. Below are a few examples of sexist things that have been said or done to women in my country. Some of these are personal examples, whilst others are not.
- I have a friend who has extremely soft hands. Her hands are cushy, they are feathery, they are everything hand lotion companies hope to achieve. One day at school, I was playing with her hands and annoying her in the process (as any good friend should do) when a couple of boys approached and joined in our conversation. I stated that her hands were “everything”. (Everything being baby soft). One of the boys commented “
saka hatikuroore, zvoreva kuti hauwache kumba kwenyu”, meaning; “so we can’t marry you, because it means you don’t do the laundry at your house.” It is important to note that most Zimbabweans prefer to have their laundry hand washed and also that most middle and upper class Zimbabweans havea housekeeper who takes care of the laundry and other household operations.
- Last year, as one of the clubs at our
schoolwas planning a lunch, the president of said club stated that “the girls will pick the colourscheme and do the flowers, I and the boys will do the rest”. I laughed when I heard that,because I was shocked that he had no shame in making such a statement. Anyway, things ran their course and he eventually turned to the girls for assistance in “the rest”.
- Sexism in the Streets: Apart from what has unfortunately become regular catcalling and wolf whistling, there have also been more extreme occurrences of gender-based abuse. For example, about 4 years ago, a video was circulating on social media of a young lady who had her clothes torn off her because they were deemed as too revealing. While this alone is a tragedy, what made it worse is the fact that there were other women seen in the video who were in support of this blatant violation of privacy and personal space.
- The two dominant cultures in Zimbabwe are Shona and Ndebele. Both of these dictate male dominance and emphasize the importance of males over that of females. Unfortunately, this has birthed a tendency for a girl child to be treated as secondary and sometimes flat out ignored. More recent examples of this include girls not going to school and rather being kept at home to learn ‘wifely’ skills. Unicef documented in 2016 that 1 in 3 girls in Zimbabwe will be married before their 18th birthdays.
As you can see, women in Zimbabwe have to suffer through a whole lot more than men do. We are fated to carry the burden of womanhood, that is being all things to all people. As a female, I am expected to ensure that the family is well fed. When the housekeeper is away, females are ultimately responsible for the cleanliness of the home. And in all this, a female is still expected (if granted the opportunity) to maintain the finest grades in school, to graduate from university (preferably with distinction) and then resign herself to focusing on being a wife and a mother.
It saddens me that girls are continuously looked over in education. That some people see no value in broadening our knowledge and enhancing our minds. It is sadder still to see that in co-education schools (schools with boys and girls) when a boy sees a girl, who is working through the same syllabus as he, the first thing that crosses his mind is whether or not she is “wifey material” rather than whether he needs to work harder than her to become top of the class.
Zimbabwe has a lot of economic and political catching up to do. But in order for progression to start in that regard, we need to upgrade our social thinking. It is time that men and women in Zimbabwe step up and realise the full worth of the female. It is time that we cultivate female knowledge and intellect and use it to save our stagnated economy. Zimbabwe’s future is female.
I hope that this article provides insight to everyone that reads it.
Love and light to you all