In the African context lobola serves as a sign and token of appreciation from the man to his wife’s family. It’s a form of a thank you to in-laws for raising and grooming his wife whom in future shall bear children in his name. That’s basically the idea of lobola. The gesture is a way of cementing relations amongst families and nothing transactional should be attached to that.
As we commemorate 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence the theme this year is “Orange the World: Raise money to end violence against women and girls.” This is a befitting theme to highlight the state of the funding situation for women’s issues in Zimbabwe by the Treasury. Women make up the majority of the total population at 52% yet they are treated like second class citizens and less than 1% of the country’s total budget is dedicated to their issues. They face many many problems, gender based violence being one of them and one of the biggest.
Many years ago as a student in England, I was shocked by the findings of a large national survey on high school education. In brief, the finding that shocked me was that girls did much better in school when they were in single-sex schools than in co-educational schools. The reason was very simple, the assertiveness of boys meant that girls got second crack at everything: boys habitually got to use equipment first, etc. But also boys did much better in co-educational schools than they did in single-sex schools!
Speaking about gender based violence should not be limited to the 16 Days of activism but should be done every day. Today I will speak as if I was talking to my own sister and in doing so sometimes can get blunt.
You should never make an excuse for a man who is abusive, be it your boyfriend, workmate or husband for that matter. I know many of you are suffering and trying to protect your dignity in the institution of marriage. Many of you have this famous line, ndogarira vana vangu, but let me also tell you that you may die or get physically damaged.
As we commemorate the 16 days of activism, let us remember our domestic workers, particularly our maids and child minders; the women in our homes who clean, cook and look after our children. Many of these women became domestic workers not by choice, but because they failed to continue their education.
This past weekend, my friend made the long journey to some rural area in the province of Masvingo to marry his long time sweetheart. The initial plan was to marry in November, but the event had to be postponed at the behest of the elders. They argued that our culture forbids any social events or gatherings in November, the month of goats as they say. For someone who couldn’t wait to be a husband, he made sure that the ceremony was rescheduled to the first weekend of December. He was really excited and so was the girl.
One of the major hidden debates behind the growth of feminism is the implication that this has for men and for patriarchy more generally. Betty Friedan, so many years ago, in her important book, The Second Stage (1981), pointed out that one of the consequences of the feminist revolution was that American men seemed to be quietly changing in response to this. With the acceptance that women were no longer to be bound to home and child care, the social world had changed and this meant that the roles in relationship were changing.
This 16 days, as we continue interrogate the issue of gender based violence, I can’t help but think about something that’s close to my heart- marrying of under-age girls. The law, through the Constitution, is clear that no-one 18 years old or under can be married. However we have seen this practice grow in our society. The question is why is there a surge in child marriages in Zimbabwe in spite of existing laws? In research done by RAU, we explored the reason why women in Goromonzi married before 18.
I am perfectly aware that as a young girl, you aspire and dream of getting married one of these days. Your dream is to be adorned in that white shiny wedding dress. Yes, it is every girl’s dream to walk down the aisle with all eyes on her, amidst rumbles of applauds and ululations of having ‘fought the good fight’ and finally settling with the one who captured her admiration. There is no doubt that every girl would want to experience that at one point in life.
As we commemorate the 7th day of 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence and World AIDS Day, l am finding myself thinking of the many women out there who choose the occupation of selling sex, basically known as sex workers.
These women, young and old, who take on this very perilous occupation for various reasons, face the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, as well as that of violence in its many forms including physical, sexual, verbal and psychological abuse from ordinary people and their clients alike. They are judged, ridiculed and humiliated.