“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” –Lilla Watson
In 2013, Zimbabwe adopted a new Constitution which many have deemed a gender friendly Constitution in comparison to other Constitutions in our region. In many cases, our Constitution explicitly specifies women’s rights in education, family & marriage and health. The Zimbabwean Constitution goes a step further by stipulating the kinds of security measures women are afforded in order to protect those rights.
Four years after the adoption of the Constitution, albeit an excellent document, the rights of women are yet to be fully realized. One of the biggest challenges when it comes to women’s rights is the difficulty we have in aligning the laws and policies of our various institutions and decision making bodies with our Constitution. Yes, we have said there should be equal representation in governing bodies and institutions but is that what is on the ground? Women should have access to childcare so they can enjoy a real opportunity to work, but do they? Women should be protected from domestic violence but the statistics show otherwise.
So what’s next for us women? How long do we have to wait until we have the right to EQUAL opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres? Whose responsibility is it that we realize these rights? As I was thinking of the “whose responsibility is it?” question, my mind raced to the above words by Lilla Watson. Who do I have to work with? Ultimately, who is my liberation bound with?
Last week, I attended a training and strategy workshop whose goal was to mobilize women through a dialogue platform for advocacy for constitution accountability focusing on women’s rights. In attendance at the workshop were women representing various women’s organizations. These were young and old, urban and rural, single and married, women - mothers, sisters etc. Different organizations have different agendas but we identified the types of women we are and we know what we want - EQUALITY. The woman at the market, at school, in college, at work, at the hospital, at the shebeen, at home, at the restaurant, at the bus stop, in the car, in the bus, in the street etc. Countless different places but bound by one liberty – to advance the status of women in our society.
Our issues are different depending on our identities as individuals. We see problems differently depending on our standpoint and life experiences. The issues we want to fight for depend on where we live. Some want roads to be fixed, others want access to clean water, some are fighting for equal pay in their jobs while others are fighting for affordable and accessible child care. Others are fighting for all these. However, all these issues are not happening in a vacuum. They are happening simultaneously. While we drive on what is left of our old, tattered roads, women are walking long distances to the nearest hospital. While we do not have jobs to go to, we are also being paid 50cents to the dollar of what a man gets. While others are going for weeks without running water and electricity, others do not even have the electricity power lines in their neighbourhood and are worried about where to find the next batch of firewood.
My point is at the end of the day, all these issues albeit different in their nature affect all of us one way or the other despite class, age, geography, income and status; among other identities. The urban woman has to realize her fight is bound together with the rural woman. The older woman has to realize the opinions of the younger woman are as valuable as her age mates. The working woman has to realize the valuable unpaid work done by the stay at home woman. If we do not take it upon ourselves as women, to fight for what is ours; to be at the forefront of that fight we do ourselves a disservice. Four years have passed since the constitution was adopted and we have little to show for it. The next four years have to be different. We ALL have to demand more. We ALL have to work together. We ALL have to fight what’s on paper for it to become a reality for us because ultimately, our liberation is bound together.