I believe the status quo can be changed and the drivers of that change are none other than women themselves. Notwithstanding the obvious male dominance in society some women have, for years now, been working hard to redress the anomaly. There is a massive women’s lobby in Zimbabwe fighting for the emancipation of women but a lot more women are still standing, watching from the margins.
I do concede that some women have prospered in the independent Zimbabwe than it would have been impossible pre-independence however, it will be folly to think these represent a new dawn for Zimbabwean women; these successful women constitute a minority that is not statistically significant. Generalising the success of a minority of middle class and elite women for all women will be irresponsible and counter-productive for the betterment of the many marginalised working class women. The case for women to unite and fight for their rights is still on.
The argument that only ‘uncultured single mothers’ are obsessed with gender equality and that their organisations threaten the stability of marriages is preposterous, a calculated social misconstruction meant to unfairly reign in women and maintain the status quo. Why has it been necessary for some women to opt for a single parent status in the first place? The answer, in part, lies at the door of abusive husbands, intellectually weak men bent on using their superior physical strength and repressive customs to control women: brave women leave such losers to do better things. These powerful single women threaten the current social order (male supremacy) hence the use of absurd arguments to undermine their efforts.
If women expect men to change the status quo, it will be a very long wait. The current state of affairs has only one outcome: the subordination of women. Subordinates hardly benefit from any socioeconomic system, and Zimbabwean women bear testimony to that, they are the poorest members of society, have relatively low academic qualifications, are oversubscribed in less competitive subjects in higher education and experience high levels of unemployment. Women must withdraw from men the mandate to control relationships and refuse the false status conferred to them through lobola. Women should take away from husbands the perceived right to determine codes of behaviour.
While men are (on average) physically stronger than women that should not be translated into male control of society. Men cannot be trusted to determine the status and with it the destiny of women any longer! I am not naive to think that the status quo will change overnight; it will take time and effort from both men and women. Women will have to take the initiative as it is in their interest to improve their status. As for lobola I do not, to a large extent, see its credible contribution to women’s lives today. Lobola is probably the single most effective instrument for delivering women to perpetual male control and the violence associated with it.
In conclusion, I believe there is a need for a social reconstruction that will recognise the contemporary social issues such as the changes in family structure and the role of women in society: an increase in female headed households, the increasing proportion of female single parents therefore the need for equal access to economic resources. Women’s value can no longer be justifiably based on lobola or inferred from the physical appearance of their husbands (how tidy or unkempt) and other pre-determined male standards.