It was privilege that led me to become an activist and this is my story. My mum doesn’t have to ask for permission from anyone. She just does what she has to do, respectfully so. My dad’s sister has a common questioning tagline which has spurred her life. She always questions “Ngenyi urukubvuma zvinhu zvakadariso wena iwe?” (* translated to –Why are you agreeing to such things happening to you?) . My other late Aunt Ever may, would just give out a smirk laugh and you would know that in her ‘softness” she is not going to budge to anything which the brothers were suggesting. I’ve watched people approach me cautiously saying “Nyasha ane nharo!!” in my case most commonly translated to Nyasha is stubborn. I know I’m stubborn and there’s nothing I am going to do about it since it’s in the genes and engrained in the awakenings of my birth. I learnt from these generals that I so proudly mention in this blog.
Even though I didn’t know what it was growing up, I discovered that the life of a woman is political and that it is contested in the public space. Attempts at incessantly weakening it in the private space knows no boundaries. Society does not readily us accept as ambitious, unapologetic, driven, truth seekers, patriarchy smashers and fighters. However the fight to become all this keeps us thriving. For me this is our politics. I see this politics in the daughters born of my dad and his brothers. We are wired the same and we don’t live our lives to please people instead we are a questioning generation that is set out to pursue our dreams and goals. This all started in Watsomba where our fathers were born and the traditional home we inherited by birth. I never met my grandmother but I know she did something right in my father. My dad is a man of choice. I don’t remember for once having him dictate what I was going to become in my life. My dad’s late older brother didn’t want to hear that we were wearing petticoats when we young. He thought were too young for them and they were burdensome for our young playful selves, so we got shorts and trousers so we could play freely. A privilege some of our age mates did not have. They were not allowed to wear the same simply because they were girls and it was inappropriate. The other year, I got really disturbed because I had to escort a friend at 30 to buy her first pair of trousers. The new husband had said he wanted to see her in trousers, so we were hunting for a decent one which he rejected because he wanted tighter jeans on her. Up to today I don’t understand what that was all about.
More so, our fathers sent us to good government schools which they could afford because they understood that education was going to protect us from the harshness of public life which they had not control of. They had done their best to protect in the private family life and I am content to this day. Now as a grown up, I fully understand what that was all about. It was a political ploy to ensure that we’d survive. I watch myself having to grind and fight some more because I am woman. I’ve had to prove myself ten times more outside what I have on my CV. I’ve seen male colleagues get consultancies they are not qualified for and yet they call me to assist them for the same things I would have pitched for and failed to get. Whilst this blog is on celebrating women not a rant on discrimination, the other day I convinced myself that perhaps it is a good thing that they know that I am good at what I do. One day it will pay. The journey to power and influence has hard work put into it after all.
I hope that one day we are going to be politically conscious of who were are and our life experiences. Sometimes the vision we have for ourselves and the plans we set to achieve determine the leverage our personal politics will give us in life. Whilst our breakthroughs come by chance; a plan, a vision, a truth, a standpoint and a little bit of integrity and humility is what we need to thrive. I have noted that the strength which the women in my family have has pushed us to purse the things we desire without the slightest doubt in our capabilities. My sisters and I are privileged to have watched our mothers and our dads’ sisters make decisions in the family. This is something that made me want to be a feminist. It felt odd to have come across women who do not have a say or who fear to stand out and speak for themselves.
Whilst at this point I haven’t established how our family has come to regard women highly like this; I am fully convinced that it was the benefit of listening to everyone that made our family thrive. I have not seen families which disrespect women that are united. We have our flaws but our mothers and my aunts are always there to take the stance of unity. It within this, that my friends’ often ask me why I have a very close relationship with my cousins. I always tell them that it is because the women of Watsomba together with our mothers. They always had choice to say what they want to say, to do what they want to do and above all they were free to teach us to become anything we wanted to be.
So against this background, I have always wanted this for the women of this world and I work for that. Women have to know the power that is embedded in them towards working with people. Unity is such a vital aspect of our identity and who we are. Nothing is achieved from an individualistic attitude. We have to unite. From all this, I was thinking that unity is one key aspect lacking as we approach 2018 elections is unity and value. In my mind, I tried to map what we need to do to get to a new Zimbabwe because the one we are in is currently suffocating our dignity.
From a young age, we women are taught leadership before the boy get a hang of what leadership is. Whilst this is controversial depending on how one takes it- I think it’s a point which we need to reflect on. Girls start taking responsibly of families at a young age. We learn to cook and clean before we can dispute why the boys are not being taught the same. We feed people through our work before we can even decide who we want to become. The burden of responsibility is placed heavily on us as shown by the gender roles set for us. I would want a world in which the girls and boys have the same roles but were are on transitional journey to see that happen in our lifetime. However, that experience of leadership must be harnessed to more pragmatic levels in terms of translating our private politics to the public one as women. We are capable of influencing a lot of things. Surely, if we can cook for families and keep humans from starving at household level, what could go wrong if were trusted with feeding the nation with our intellect? What could go wrong if we were to cook public policies that are solution focused to the practical ending of all forms of poverty? After all, we are take responsibility of most of the domestic burdens in our private lives. Should we not be trusted with the public burdens of this life; the governance, the leadership; and everything in between the politics.
In all this, my experience of life has taught me not to look to my abilities as a woman but instead, to dig up the unique lessons of people who dare to fuel their courage when the social system is saying something else. This is my politics and that’s how I govern myself to push on and to thrive. We women have our own politics which we need to build on. If I had not seen my dad’s sister questioning all her life, I would not be where I am to today. She taught me to refuse the things I don’t want and the things I don’t understand. My sisters, all of us ask questions and yes; we talk back. We react in the moment and we are strong characters like that. We are known as ‘Machuma”. This is the politics within us. I now they are a lot of us out there; in the comfort of our privacy.
Perhaps this blog is a plea to ask us to question. If we can’t do it then we may have to learn to do so for the sake of the future of our children. In a globalised digital world like this, we already have a much bigger audience which our mothers never had. We have the advantage of being heard. So in preparation of the future we have to question. We have to do and not wait for approval. We have to rise against the things which curtail us. On a day, sooner than this one Zimbabwe is going to demand this from us. Liberia did and there was ceasefire because of the tenacity of the women of that country. They were stubborn enough to end war in their country. The time for some things to end in our country has come, so has the time for us to fuel our tenacity as the women of this country if our children are to enjoy the legacy which this nation has for them as their birth right. Let’s not lose this in apathy. We don’t have to all contest but your personal politics must give you a responsibility of patriotism spelt out to desire freedom and hope for every one of us in this nation. Simple acts of voting for leaders with integrity will go a long way and making them account even. We may not do the risky things such as going to the streets to protest but they must know that they will not mess with the power we award them with our vote. Our men know us. They know we are stubborn. So they too must know.