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.
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.
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.
While growing up, I had a constant inner struggle as I kept hearing about the expectations of women. That struggle has now transformed and instead of keeping it contained within, I am now much more vocal about my objections.
I really rail against the consistent and persistent way in which women are told who they should be, what they should be, how they should do it, when they should be and where they should be. The role of a woman is constantly being defined - by the family, by community elders, by a range of people and most influentially by religious leaders.
After numerous pleas for a law that clamps down on the abuse of the internet, particularly social media, the usually slow to act Zimbabwean government finally heeded the calls and early this year came up with a draft bill for the Computer Crime and Cybercrime Act.
Political violence is rearing its ugly head once again on the Zimbabwe’s political scene. This has been witnessed in both the Norton and Chimanimani by-elections and this trend is likely to increase as the nation draws closer to the 2018 elections. Having lived through the violence of 2008 and the negative effects it had on society, no sane person would want to experience this again in their life. It is the same feeling one gets when told that a “surrogate currency” called bond notes is being introduced in Zimbabwe at par with the US Dollar.