Interactive feedback : In pursuit of a non-binary narrative

Grace Chirenje

LAST week, I had the pleasure of working with women from the two main political parties in Zimbabwe. We were snuggly tucked in the heart of Kariba with the fresh air, beautiful lawns and pleasure of being away from our homes as women to reflect on primary elections for the upcoming polls in 2023.

It was a wonderful week of catch ups, check ins, laughter, tears and lots of thinking to inform our collective efforts around women inclusion for the coming year.

Well, everything was hunky-dory until there were accusations around the equitable access, control and distribution of resources. Oh my, oh my, the room went chaotic. I had such an amazing moment being the observer of the whole chaos – of course eventually we calmed down and did not let our emotions cloud our judgment around why we had come together in the first place.

However, in that moment, I realised how polarised Zimbabwe can be, especially when it comes to partisan politics. After the meeting, I met a great brother who affirmed my bravery around leaving a certain job I had been a part of in pursuit of other things. What a week!

Either black or white

There seems to be a recurring challenge in Zimbabwe generally — how we choose to look at life. Many are our collective struggles but the greatest one is how we see things  — our worldview is binary in nature.

Things for most of us as a people are either this, or that. It is either black or white. Guess what? There are so many colours in the world – we live in a world with a kaleidoscope of narratives.

Why we choose a miserly black or white beats me. As we spoke and shared our lived realities as women who work with men in political parties, it was telling that ours is a systemic and structural challenge that emanates from men having the upper hand when it comes to power, access, control and broadly influence. Ours is a world where women are constantly fighting for survival. It does not help that the objectification of women, the sexism, ageism and other -isms exist continuously to pull them back.

Sexual and gender-based violence has marred the way women and their male counterparts choose to view the world. We are not fighting each other. None wants to replace the other’s roles and ways of being; women, like men, are in pursuit of their own greatness in their own unique ways.

The world is so vast that there is enough leadership to go around for each of us. This “It is either you are for me or against me” vibe is just so toxic and retrogressive. It is not helping us as a nation to get ahead with life. It is drawing us back, sadly!

Ownership is important. Ownership of processes, leaders, resources and whatever one can own. The discourse that had me concerned is how we become so fixated on owning our political parties, the ways we do things and all sorts of narratives.

The end result is some sort of blind allegiance at the expense of our objectivity. This was reaffirmed during that retreat last week. At times, as women, we find ourselves in structures and systems that steal our very eye for neutrality, truth telling and the joy of being able to look at the world from a kaleidoscope of possibilities.

This either/or narrative can come to an end if we collectively hold hands to challenge each other’s ways of thinking. Just like those sisters took a moment to break into chaos, not a bad thing by the way, as people seek convergence.

What is unacceptable is what Chimamanda deemed the danger of a single story as there are so many ways of looking at the same story. It was such an insightful lesson to learn during this past week.

Zimbabwe has the potential to decide to come together and refuse to be used in the grip of an either or dichotomy. We can choose to become better.

Towards a progressive collective

Dear reader, Zimbabwe needs a people that can co-exist peacefully. A people that can be free to articulate their “truths” without thinking that whoever is not in agreement is an enemy.

The greatest of ideas are taken through rigorous peer review and the different ones find themselves unpacking each and every kind of possibility so as to make a difference.

In Zimbabwe today, we need men and women who are going to be brave and courageous to challenge the status quo of how we do things. We need new ideas of doing life. There is an urgent need to redefine the way things flow. Just like those women came together to reflect on their lives and how they want to participate in the political narratives of their country.

It would be delightful to have you, dear reader, as the person that is going to consistently challenge the status quo so we can better the way that Zimbabwe flows.

The same thinking is what the liberation war heroes and sheroes/heroines had as they took arms  — they wanted to redefine the political narrative of Zimbabwe. I am not inciting violence or saying take arms  — God forbid we lose our peace  — what we need is to have ideas way greater than the bullet.

We can choose to come together as a people of Zimbabwe and refuse a binary way of unpacking our lives in pursuit of greatness, restoration and progress for our beloved country.  We keep focused on victory brothers and sisters. Until then, we live, laugh and love to show the world that we were here, becoming better, making our mark, leaving our footprint as we make the world a better place!

  • Chirenje writes in her personal capacity as a citizen of Zimbabwe. Twitter: @graceruvimbo; Facebook: Grace Chirenje; Instagram: @graceruvimbo

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