When I was young, I was always overwhelmed every time my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas. This is not because I did not know what I wanted, but I had a long list. Prioritising them in less than a minute or so was not always an easy task, especially when I knew that my mother could not afford everything. Asking for more time to decide did not always workout, but I would never want to miss that opportunity. It was a tough moment.
Opinion by Tapiwa Gomo
We are now into the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence season. It should be all about campaign against any form of violence against women and children, including the men around them.
It is a time perhaps, we asked women the golden question: If you were made President of the country for just 16 days, what would be your two key priorities? Will that be easy to consultatively come up with two key priorities and implement them in just sixteen days? I guess it wouldn’t be an easy task either.
The truth is I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I know for a fact that most of the most frequented Zimbabwe women social media groups, none of them is talking about 16 days of activism and how they intend to address issues on violence against them or children. I also know that neither the Locardia Karimatsenga/Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai case, Tinopona Katsande story nor the rural woman who was beaten and punished for blessing herself with a special portion of chicken, found space on most of these social media spaces.
Of course, it raises a lot of questions. If the international community dedicated these days just to campaign against abuse of women and yet the women themselves are not talking about these issues in their closed spaces what is the point?
From the start, I was trying to resist writing about these campaigns as I am aware that there are other spaces where people specialise in these issues. But I was prompted to write about this by two events.
Firstly, a social media post by a lady which landed on the public wall instead of the closed spaces of a Zimbabwe women’s group called Paushamwari Hwedu. Secondly, a female colleague who revealed to me during a social media chat that she is not into rights or women’s rights because it is evil and that it is one of the main reasons marriages are breaking down.
I will deal with the Facebook post first. The post, which was quickly removed upon realising that it had landed on the wrong page, implied that women should not over-react when their husbands or boyfriends cheat on them. It further stated that overreacting does not change the man’s cheating tendencies, but it can only destroy your marriage.
I took that to mean as long as a woman has a marriage, a man is free to cheat or something like that. The post went on to encourage women to take it easy and be a little bit tolerant and patient because “as long the man comes home, feeds the family and respects the woman as his wife, small houses are not a big deal”.
To those who are members of this women’s social groups, maybe it was the main topic of discussion for that day and perhaps this was supposed to be the main advice of the day.
And to a man, it only means one thing, he can cheat as much as he wants as long as he remembers the direction to his wife’s bedroom, brings food home, respects the woman at home as the wife, then everything is fine.
I consider cheating a sign of disrespect to a wife at home and I am not convinced that coming home after cheating is a sign of respect. While I was surprised that such views could come from women in this day and age of egalitarianism and HIV and Aids, I think I am better off leaving this for women to clarify.
What really do women want? And can’t they get it cut and dry without compromising their own lives and integrity? Will men ever stop cheating?
The second case was as equally shocking especially after many years of work on promoting gender equality. According to this young Harare entrepreneur, she does not do rights because it is evil. She went to explain that she believes in submitting to a man as the leader of the house. This, for her, was the only way to save a marriage. I asked her if she was aware that submitting and respect are two different things which should be practiced differently.
I also asked her if she was aware that these days men do not like servant-like women in the house. Times have changed and men too, like to have an equal woman. I also tried to argue that marriage is a shared responsibility for both the man and the woman. Each of them has different, but equal responsibilities, including rights too.
She insisted that in her opinion, even if the man had stupid ideas, they should be allowed to prevail as he was the head of the house. Her last line was that she completely disagrees with equal rights in marriage. Still I was puzzled. Does it mean the work of all the women’s groups over the years has gone to waste?
- Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa