There is no denying that as a society, Mthwakazi is heavily disadvantaged by the tribalism of the current Zimbabwe regime, but it is equally true that gender is probably the most restricting force in Mthwakazi life. Our fight for freedom must go in tandem with the fight to secure freedom for Mthwakazi women.
Unsurprisingly, the design of our male dominated society defines what is, and not, acceptable women behaviour through the male prism. This can be restrictive to women’s ambitions as it promotes subservience while attaching morally demeaning definitions to conduct that challenges males’ comfort zone. Women are called feisty for displaying executive leadership skills while men are praised for the same.
Women and girls make up more than 50 percent of the Mthwakazi population; if as a society, we fail to harness the creativity of women, we limit our ability of what we can achieve in a competitive modern world.
Our society must be reconstituted to liberate all our people from the constraining issues of political and gender discrimination and related poverty, deprivation and suffering.
Expectations of different gender roles are not necessarily always wrong but the problem comes when roles imply inferiority and superiority of genders. We are equal but different is the message that must be driven and there must never be limits as to what a person can or cannot do based solely on their gender.
Being a girl in Mthwakazi must not be a battle to be won but a force to be reckoned with. Our girls must never be an option but an integral part of whatever society does; women must not try and fit in because that was never their destiny for theirs is to stand out.
In Mthwakazi, we are in no doubt that Zimbabwe’s economic mismanagement has been a societal disaster and women are not only the hardest hit by poverty, they are also the backbone of recovery in communities. We believe that placing women and girls at the centre of economies will fundamentally drive better and more sustainable development outcomes for broader society, support a more rapid recovery, and place the Mthwakazi economy back on a footing to achieve self-sustainability.
The way forward is acknowledging internal failures and consciously working towards achieving full equality and equity between women and men in all spheres of life that would result in women jointly (and on an equal basis with men) defining and shaping the policies, structures and decisions that affect their lives and society as a whole.
There is no liberation bigger than making girls and women proud of their bodies. We cannot pretend ignorance when it is an established fact that many girls would miss many school days per year because of menstruation. Instead of delivering informative lessons to both boys and girls on sex education of which menstruation is essential, menstruation is turned into a source of fun for boys and embarrassment for girls.
Change in attitudes will help transform politics; changing values such as respect for women will see greater progress in our society. If we still see nothing wrong with our male politicians using degrading portraits of our women to make a political point, we have a mountain to climb before we achieve equality.
Let us get this clear, no gender group has an advantage in making sound judgment; men and women can judge alike and society as a whole benefits immeasurably from a climate in which all persons, regardless of race or tribe or gender, has the opportunity to earn respect, responsibility, advancement and remuneration based on ability.
When our politics does not explicitly oppose sexism and when anti-sexism does not incorporate opposition to patriarchy, and not many men speak up for the participation of women in the wider societal socioeconomic and political programmes, society at large is the loser.
There needs to be realisation in society and among men in particular that gender parity is not just good for women but it is good for the wider society.
Without women’s equal access to decision-making roles and no clear process to get there, gender equality, national security, and safety will never be realised. As argued by Graça Machel (founder of the Graça Machel Trust and member of The Elders) “Gender equality…will help abolish poverty…create more equal economies, fairer societies and happier men, women and children.”
Our male dominated society is good at hiding behind culture to secure excuses for injustices against women. Needless to say culture does not make people, people make culture. If it is true that gender equality is not our culture, then we have a duty to make it our culture.
If our fight against tribe politics makes no reference to gender politics we must change course immediately. Engaging and promoting talented women is not only right for Mthwakazi society, it is a socioeconomic and political imperative. If we cannot see the value of women and we still believe women are inferior to men just because of nothing else but gender, the problem is not with the women but the damaging attitudes presented by in-built imbalances of judgement tools at society’s disposal. It is therefore not women but the measurement tools that we need to review and replace to reflect on the wholesome value of girls and women.