Guest Column: Grace Chirenje
I HAVE a woman I have known for as long as I was a little girl, being chased by my grandmother to come take a bath. She has been my friend, a shoulder to lean on and we have seen each other through all the cycles of our lives for the most part. She is my big sister, Audrey.
Last week, we got together like we usually do to catch up and share what’s on our hearts. As we sat there, sipping on our cliché tea with lemon, we encouraged each other to chase our goals with passion and pray like never before.
This got me thinking; women are so powerful! There is nothing as powerful as women teaming together to chase their dreams and never rest until they come to fruition. Now, this is real power – power at its best and beyond challenge. No wonder the world shudders when women get together and birth kingdoms and universes – we have the power sisters!
Be you for you
Before I had gone to meet with Audrey, I was listening to one of my favourite feminist sisters, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She was talking about what she would say to the younger version of herself and she emphasised the need for young women to follow their hearts and just be. This means, as she noted, wearing whatever they deem necessary and chasing their dreams.
In a world that forces women to be everything except themselves, being oneself is a political existence. Choosing to get out of bed and being authentic as a woman, especially a black African woman, is such a mission. Everyone wants you to be something else – someone’s wife, mother, aunty, employee and all sorts. It is almost like women must seek permission to even breath. Well, here is the best news, ever – women are tired of being told who to become. We are choosing everyday to become ourselves. I choose to be me.
Unfortunately, we cannot be anyone, but ourselves because everyone else is taken as an identity. Woman, be you! That body is good, it carries your soul around. That face is beautiful, and those brains are unmatched. Just decide to be you.
Seeking permission to be you is not serving the world. You are shortchanging us the gift of knowing you for you, and loving you for you. This doesn’t mean we do not seek growth, we do, but still choosing to be as authentic as we were created to be so sister, choose you! And to the rest of the world, let women be. Let the women live in their fullest potential. Stop the abuse, name-calling and making the world so uncomfortable for women to be women. Let them be who they chose to be. We are doing what we can with what the world has hurled at us under these very patriarchal conditions. Sister, be you for you!
We stand on the shoulders of giants
I recall when I was growing up, in my early twenties and my sister Audrey would invite me over to her house or we were deep in the heart of Chihota heading cattle, looking for tsvanzva (some traditional African fruit whose English name I do not care to find because it sounds better in my indigenous language), fetching water or playing, we learnt a lot. We had very many deep conversations with our grandmother, aunts, sisters-in-law and many other women we both knew or didn’t.
Sometimes we cried, other times we laughed, sometimes we were confused, but rest assured, there was always a woman somewhere ready to share some wisdom. What does this mean?
We stand on the shoulders of giants, so we see further and do not have to perpetuate the same unhealthy cycles of pain and negativities. We have women, very strong women who I will not mention for fear of leaving out others who have aided our journeys.
Women have, in the past, fought battles for you and me to become who we are. It could be at personal level, at work, in the country or globally – women have struggled to ensure you and I live the lives we live today. Who are we to disrespect their efforts by choosing to play small? We stand on the shoulders of giant sisters; we stand up like we are created to be right here and right now doing our very best. We have a legacy to protect.
There is need for each woman to get up and make sure they live life fully and make each of our predecessors super proud of us. We show up and make it work. Of course, understanding that we do not fake anything – we do life in an unfiltered way; we get real with life. Never forget that a sister is out to support you. Never mind the “negative Nancy’s” who are struggling with life and choosing to hold onto that. Go to the sister that would light your fire and rekindle it into a ferocious flame. Yes, we can!
While we are there, drop the idea that women are their own worst enemy. No, we are not. Let us choose to be better with and for each other and make life worthwhile for the next sister. It is possible. It has been done before by those who walked this road before “us” and now are cheering us on.
Life is informed by history and as we reflect on our past, we can see the evidence of years of strive and struggle. We do not dwell on the past, we grab the lessons from the past and choose to run ahead, as we forge new ways of being. We do not continue the same, old-tired narratives that disempower us as women, no. What we do is that we live life confidently, understanding that there is nothing to stop us from becoming what we want to be.
We are born to serve this world in a powerful and amazing way. Yes, the environment may be hostile to what we want to become, but we can surely rise above whatever is out there, limiting threats and soar on wings like eagles.
Let us also remember that our children are watching, and we too need to create a legacy that will encourage them to become formidable as the next generation of women.
Be fierce, fiery and formidable
Today, the world is so full of chaos and drama. As the men lead and continue to churn out whatever form of leadership they know, let us offer new narratives and create alternatives.
My sister, Audrey, told me how she wants to make sure she sets up a solar system at her house within the next two weeks. That is a serious dream she carries in her belly. I was there to merely fan that flame to become as blazing as it gets. I also asked her to fan my flame as I chase my writing consistently and growth spiritually: she is eager to cheer me on.
Sisters, we are a formidable force. As we come together to debrief about our plethora of pain, joys, fears and whatever, it is women to talk about – we are powerful. Yes, sometimes life throws us a blow and serves us lemons, but let us create a cocktail with granadilla so the world wonders how we did it!
The point is, yes, we can be the solution to all these challenges Zimbabwe and the world are facing. That dream that you have been holding onto, so afraid to share with the world, share it!
That dream of yours, that energy, that human being that you are that we do not get to see, we need to see it manifest right now. The world is desperate for solutions. You and I are exactly what the world has been waiting for. We are the biblical Deborahs, Miriams, Hannahs, Elizabeths or whoever the Christian sisters choose to identify with.
Now is the time that we hold hands and say enough is enough as we stand up and stand out! Yes, the backlash may come, but if we huddle together and collectively fight for what we want, this world will become a better place for you, me and the rest of humanity.
We have what it takes and can do what it takes. No more excuses. We will not stand by; we will choose to come forth and make life happen. No ifs or even buts, we will choose to be the very best version of ourselves just because we know what it is to be a woman, just like my sister, and Audrey and me. Yes, we can!
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.