Quality always finds a way and overcomes anything.
Report by Conway Tutani
As I saw women being capped for academic achievement last Saturday at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) graduation ceremony, I couldn’t help but notice that the gap between them and men had shrunk significantly.
Across all degree courses, women featured in about equal numbers and went toe-to-toe with their male counterparts in achieving first class degrees and being awarded prizes.
This was a far cry from our days when women were in the tiniest minority at university. The world is now more enlightened and women have gained equal rights alongside men — unlike before when they were regarded as mere appendages to men.
And who said beauty without brains? These graduands — from bachelor’s, master’s degrees to PhDs — were really feminine women, some of them smashing beauties. Brains are a lifetime insurance whereas beauty fades with time — in insurance parlance, it’s short-term. Beauty only lasts a few years, but brains get you ahead throughout your whole life. Moreover, mere beauty without brains attracts the wrong kind of guys who will spend whatever amount on their object of lust — not love.
How many beautiful women constantly worry about their appearance and have a hard time finding a decent man who sees past their superficial or skin-deep beauty instead of inner depth? Beauty doesn’t necessarily equal happiness. How many beautiful women end up jumping into bed with each and every “admirer” and benefactor/paymaster and then drown in the cesspit or sewage pond of prostitution? The self-respecting women I saw at UZ are above that. Kudos to them!
But I couldn’t help but compare this advancement of women with the outrage in Pakistan last week where a mere 14-year-old girl was shot and seriously wounded by Taliban gunmen. Her crime? Demanding that girls be allowed to have education along with boys. Wrote the girl in her diary in 2009: “I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys’ schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taliban have banned girls’ education.”
Why must such primitive, brainless extremists have a hold on an entire nation? Can this be really happening in this day and age? But then it happened and the girl was this week flown to the United Kingdom for further medical treatment. This validates the universality of human rights. There should be convergence of rights as the world becomes more interconnected — like what I witnessed at UZ — not divergence.
Indeed, what I saw at UZ was nothing less than the entry of a new generation of potential leaders onto the Zimbabwean and, indeed, world stage. More and more women are emerging as breadwinners. This economic empowerment of women can only be beneficial to their families as this increases household income. Research shows that when a woman earns a dollar, the payback is higher. She will invest in her children, in their education, health care and basic needs. The impact of this is that it benefits society at large, thus significantly improving the economy — all of which will fundamentally change Zimbabwe for the better socio-economically.
Economists have studied how women spend in comparison to men, and they tend to spend more on things that are linked to people’s well-being, like health and education. “They also tend to save more, and exhibit less risky financial behaviour,” notes a senior economic adviser to Unifem, the United Nations agency dedicated to women. Thus, the female propensity to save may, for instance, fuel growth in Zimbabwe’s shaky banking sector.
As women gain greater power at the political level, there will also be macroeconomic spending shifts. If women can help do that, with political power as well as the power of the purse, they will certainly provide the catalyst for Zimbabwe’s sustainable turnaround, not these fits and starts where politicians — like the Taliban — have been holding people to ransom, releasing money before elections for vote-buying and promptly withdrawing it after the elections. This will have the effect of weaning women and —by extension — the rest of us, from unhealthy, slavish overdependence on politicians.
Women can, and are indeed, changing Zimbabwe. These self-respecting women with a high sense of self-worth are in a position, along with men, to drive the post-meltdown Zimbabwean economy without being beholden to any politician — unlike those women trapped in or bought into prostitution by men.
What I saw at UZ was total and beautiful womanhood in every way — quantity and quality.