>Briefing on Mother Africa: Women of Zimbabwe- Part One
Thought-provoking news surfacing this week within the continent of Africa; if you have felt a disconnect this is now the time to reconnect and become a part of the pulse that makes Africa- home- and a reason why we should work towards making sure that both the diaspora and the nest are taken care of….
There is finally an opportunity for women to have a say, let their voices be heard, and help shape Zimbabwe’s constitution, but there are several problems looming; the two largest being:
1. The majority of Zimbabwean women have not been informed about their newly envisioned right to help re-structure the constitution. There has not been a massive, collective effort to publicize and educate on the issue- leaving the women of Zimbabwe basically in the same position they were in before this week.
2. The majority of women have no clue what the constitution is, how it is made up, and how their concerns for women’s rights can be translated into the writings of the constitution. According to Lydia Thembo when interviewed by Inter Press Service News Agency reporter, Ignatius Banda, “There are obviously many things I would like addressed that affects us women, for example, issues to do with inheritance laws. But I have no clue how to do this. I only know about voting during elections – that’s all.”
Let me simply say that these two issues of concern are the most pressing for resolution because without informing women of their right to participate in the process and being educated on the entire scope of the process (and the full measure of their roles) then there will still be exclusion and not inclusion. Banda reported that of the 120 cabinet seats, only four are filled by women. Yet, protocol demands that by 2015 there is to be an equal number of men and women serving- that is five short years from now.
Rejoice Timire, of the Disabled Women Support Organization told Banda that, “At the moment women in parliament are too few to make any meaningful change,” which simply means that without a grassroots effort to inform and educate the masses of Zimbabwean women of the rights, the meaning, impact, and influence of the constitution and their roles in framing it, the country will fall short of reaching the 2015 benchmark. I fear, as many of the women interviewed by Banda, that if something is not done immediately to counter the lack of action taken to get submissions from women, this will simply be fluff or as Banda so aptly referenced, “window dressing”.
Because women in Zimbabwe are so out of the loop in both the private and public sector, they have been left at a major disadvantage politically, economically, socially, and spiritually. When you strip someone of their natural born rights, before they even know they were entitled to them, to re-write the wrongs, you must skillfully and willfully inform them of their rights as humans, citizens, and specifically in this case, as women.
Zimbabwean Women’s Movement vs. the Chartered Course Within the U.S.
Zimbabwean women can learn a lot about women’s suffrage, the struggles against the status quo, the risks of internal fighting, and the need to be inclusive, from the women of the United States. When we look to the United States and the Women’s Rights (Women’s Suffrage) Movement it was not merely a handful of women who stayed within their small circle discussing their right to be included as “equals” to men, or their rights to have the constitution amended to include the right of women to vote- they made it a massive campaign that grew into a movement that made it possible on August 26, 1920 to amend the constitution. Now this did not come easy. Tomorrow read part two of this series as I share the history of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and highlight lessons for the women of Zimbabwe.
Copyright 2010. Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.
Banda, Ignatius “A Chance For Women’s Voices to be Heard” retrieved from http://www.ipsnews.net/africa/nota.asp?idnews=51916j