Guest column: Grace Chirenje
Last Saturday, March 24, 2019 was the 10th anniversary of Eve’s Fitness Studio. I am a proud member so naturally, I was a part of the commemoration.
This is a space I hold so dear because it supports my fitness journey as I battle with the realities of asthma, age and all sorts of narratives that come with being the me that I am.
Well, during the last challenge, which was a 4X100m relay, I busted my calf muscle in ways I never imagined were possible. I cried with pain; it hurt so bad. It has resulted in me being at least 50% mobile.
It sucks. The collective effort of my team members, the X-Gladiators, gave me inspiration and hope as I lived through the last few moments of the 10th anniversary ladies fitness battle until we finished what needed to be done. During the last couple of days that I have spent alternating between hopping on one leg, lounging and hopefully recuperating, I have had a good chance to reflect on my dear country Zimbabwe and explore ways of how you and me can become a better resource in a bid to aid our contribution so Zimbabwe becomes better.
My team was made up of seven other awesome sisters whose mission is fierce when it comes to fitness. Each of us comes from diverse backgrounds and are chasing different goals.
What has brought us together is the reality that we care a whole lot about this bodily tent that houses our soul and spirit, hence the effort.
We can choose to sit around and moan and loaf or we can get up and use whatever is within our means to make a difference. Each of us as children of Zimbabwe have within us special gifts that can contribute to the greater good. For example, I drove along Churchill towards Borrowdale Road the other week and a commuter omnibus driver squeezed onto the cycle track only to find himself stuck and he started banging on our cars and shouting all sorts of obscenities.
He made that choice to be rude and rowdy, but even more so, I made the very difficult choice not to retaliate, but I was not happy with his aggression. Like the sisters on my team, I chose to stay focused on the bigger picture, stay in my lane and run the course. We too can make a choice to join the rest of Zimbabwe so we can make our country work better!
We need each other
Many times, we each face some brutality of some sort as life throws us a curveball. Zimbabwe, in its current state is like a curveball and as we do our best to make ends meet, many young people I speak to have plans; to travel and to become entrepreneurs. Some want more, just like most of us want more out of this life; to be progressive and give it our all. Somehow, we struggle to make it work. Nobody did say it would be easy. It is exactly like pulling a tractor wheel on a rope or doing a wire crawl with your head low.
It is hectic.
However, it needs to be done. I am just thinking, sometimes it takes a torn calf muscle to realise it, but it would be better to learn sooner rather than later that no one is coming to save us, heal us or make it work for us. You and I are the masters and mistresses of our very own destiny. We use our will power, our energy, and our whatever it takes to get up and make a difference.
We do it for ourselves; we do it for our children and we do it so that we keep that hope alive. Running a marathon is difficult, bouts of energy come and go just like we learnt last Saturday as a team. It is the cheering on of the collective that gives us the energy to keep going.
The same applies in Zimbabwe right now. It is so easy to give up and even keep blaming, pointing fingers and being angry or stuck in a rut, but alas, it will never get us anywhere. The question is; what can I do? What is within my means to make Zimbabwe a better place for me and the next person.
As my team members cheered me on, ran to get me some water or ensure that somehow, I got relief from pain. I noticed that, indeed, there is power in numbers. We can never go through life alone like we are some sort of island. We need each other to make life work in Zimbabwe, no matter who you are and what you do. We cannot do this alone. Whether it is during a high or low, we need each other.
Amplifying our voice
During the initial calf muscle bust, health experts showed up, but I felt they were doing more harm than good, so I asked them to leave me alone. Yes, I was in pain and yes, I needed support, but I was not about to let myself get abused because I needed support; just like in Zimbabwe right now. Yes, we so need support, aid, assistance or call it whatever name you wish. However, we cannot let ourselves get abused. Let us take the pothole situation, for example.
Ah! We do pay rates and yet our local authorities are seriously taking us for granted. This is just an example of many other ills we can point to. No, we do not choose to mourn and complain. We speak up and seek redress.
It could even be the next person being a “negative Nancy” splashing all their negativities and complaints — it is ok to vent — what is not ok is to just murmur and mumble and be paralysed at that level and not act.
Now, we do not also want to be naïve and expose ourselves to danger. It is critical that we weigh the risks and speak out bravely and with confidence so that we name whatever it is we are not happy with. We also do not end there, but we proffer solutions — alternatives that can be tried and tested so that we ensure the situation is better than we found it.
Remember too that the more the voices that speak out in solidarity, the stronger the punch and the more likely we are to get redress.
There will be dissenting voices, those who feel your choices should be otherwise. Just like when I spoke out against the ambulance driver, some people had their own opinions about that.
I felt that the health expert was being aggressive and not suitable to treat a human but maybe work with steel because his energy was nothing next to nurturing.
You know what? People will always, always have opinions and that is fine. Focus on what your gut tells you. Do what is best for the greater good, it will pay off in due season. Some will become a part of your amplification of voice, some will choose not to and that still is well. Just keep doing what needs to be done so we do not promote a culture of complacency and impunity.
Playing your part
Zimbabwe has a plethora of amazing human beings. Just like my team members came together to support me and make sure that I was getting the necessary support to recover, we each can make a choice to collaborate as Zimbabweans and make Zimbabwe a country that is what we expect.
They say Rome was not built in a day, that is true. We can decide to stop trashing the streets, be polite on the roads, greet our neighbours, no matter how noisy we think they are, smile to a stranger, ensure order at a fuel station, whatever it is that is within our reach. Yes, we can make it work and ensure that Zimbabwe is a better place not just for you and me, but for our children and their children too.
It is team work that gets the job done. We cheered each other on, held hands, encouraged each other and ensured that we gave it our very best so ‘that we made the team proud at the 10th anniversary of Eve’s Exercise Studio. As a Zimbabwean, you too can hold hands with fellow Zimbabweans and make this country the best possible it can be. Ask yourself; What can I do to play my part? Let’s do that!
Grace Chirenje is a feminist activist with vast experience in feminist leadership and youth empowerment acquired from diverse contexts across the African continent. She writes in her personal capacity.