Guest Column: Grace R Chirenje
Last Sunday, I woke up to a most wonderful surprise. My favourite breakfast was served and accompanied with presents I never imagined would be for that day. It felt awesome to be appreciated and told that I am doing a great job as a mother. This is something that felt rather good because many times I am here wondering if I know what I am doing. It is not as a result of self-doubt, but this comes from a place of knowing that there is no manual that children we bear come accompanied by. Mothers do what they can to ensure that their children are well looked after and most of the time it is a thankless job laced with uphills and downhills that only the mother knows and often wonders about. So, it was a good way to start Mother’s Day and I thought it would be a good idea to affirm women who are our heroines and gladiatrices that have made such a huge difference in our lives.
Questioning how we treat women
In Shona, there is an adage that goes, “musha mukadzi” (the woman is the backbone of the home). Many times, this adage comes with very interesting insights, but today I want to take it to mean what Bob Marley sang about, “no woman, no cry”. Without women, there is no life. Without the mothers of the land, we would never, ever fathom how life would be. This is very interesting because despite the fact that women form most of the population of the world, they still live marginalised lives where education and peace of mind are often forgotten and taken for granted.
Women face the triple burden of being women, living in poverty and as the United Nations reports, one in every three women faces gender-based violence and most of it is perpetrated by an intimate partner. This is sad and just unacceptable. Nothing can quite explain why most humans, whose time is so invested in making our lives comfortable and most livable, experience such stereotypes, violence, trauma and horrible conditions of living. While much progress has been made to facilitate for women’s comfortable living, there is so much that you and I can do to support women’s lives to become more comfortable so that they too enjoy their lives to the best of their ability.
Once, I visited an aquarium, I was told a story about Bob the turtle who was taken from the Indian Ocean and had to be treated for some stomach issue because he had swallowed plastic and could not eat or drink. The poor animal was sick. This then started a campaign in Cape Town around “no using plastics” in the city and on their beaches. Today, there are reports globally of how plastics are causing havoc to animals in varying ways. Given the recent Cyclone Idai and the droughts we face in Zimbabwe and beyond, the heat waves and you name, the truth is we have failed to co-exist with nature. We have started a battle that cannot be won by humans as Mother Earth has a way of mitigating that which we unleash as humans in our selfish states. We tend to forget that this earth belongs to humans, flora and fauna. We have over the years failed to preserve that which is meant to serve us. As we reflect on Mother’s Day and celebrate the different women in our lives, I thought it prudent to remind ourselves that Mother Earth deserves our celebrating her too. She has sustained our lives at different levels and continues to be abused, yet we need her for future generations. As we think of Mother’s Day, let us rethink how we utilise the natural resources that we have and within our control. The way we live should reflect that we are conscious and aware of how our actions affect the earth and that we can tweak our lives a whole lot so that we co-exist peacefully with nature. It would be very sad to one day have to explain to our children how the earth was during out time, we have everything it takes to be responsible and so let us step up and do whatever it takes to make a difference today, so that we preserve Mother Earth.
As we reflect about Mother’s Day and what it means to us, Zimbabwe comes to mind. We often say that Africa is our motherland, yes, it is indeed just like Zimbabwe. However, just look at what has happened to our beautiful Zimbabwe. We are fragmented, broken and seeking an identity. We are hungry and desperate for the basics of life — love, community and togetherness. Often, we find ourselves having to face the wrath of the struggles of the nation. This is beyond us.
In as much as we can hold leaders accountable and demand our rights, I believe that there is a place for us to begin to embrace that which is within our control. The macro-environment is affected by the micro-environment that includes how each of us is structured regarding our internal mind. It is not easy to be alive in Zimbabwe right now, just is a daily struggle and challenge.
There is hope because wherever we see women, I believe that there is hope. We are because our children are. We are the voice of reason and have since time immemorial been the voice that the nation heeds when we choose to stand up and do something about narratives often created that ignored us.
I guess mine is a clarion call to action. Women, where is our motherhood strength? We have stood and watched from the sidelines for so long as our children have led each other astray.
We do identify and recognise what is amiss, we know it. But as we reflect on this Mother’s Day, let us stand up and act. This country belongs to us in as much it does to the political parties.
This land needs us to stand up and begin to demand for its preservation as inspired by the likes of Wangari Mathai. We cannot continue to stand on the sidelines and watch life happen to us. We are the mothers of this land. We have mothered children either biological or otherwise. In Africa every woman is a mother because somehow, we do mother children. Let us feel the itch to see how best we scratch it. Women, it is our role; our duty and it is within us. Our children need this from us. We have what it takes to facilitate for building nationhood.
After all, musha mukadzi! We are the torch bearers, we are the leaders that Zimbabwe has been waiting for. We are the ones that each day must deal with our children facing trauma, rejection and struggle. What are we waiting for? We stand up and call for the end of this current madness in Zimbabwe. Whatever it is that you define and see, now is the time that we should stand up and show our resolute strength as we nurture, not just our children, but the way that these children are leading in this nation.
There comes a time when mothers arise and make the very difference and now is the time that Zimbabwe needs us. We can demand what is rightfully meant to be, we know it, we have it and can make it happen. We are the women who bore the dream of this country and this dream cannot die as we watch. I know that mothers will heed this call and ensure that in their small ways and tight corners, a difference has been made. Happy Mother’s Day — let’s do this!
Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje is a feminist activist with vast experience in feminist leadership and youth empowerment acquired from diverse contexts across the African continent and beyond. She writes here in her own personal capacity.