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Archive for February, 2010

Getting Harare clean again

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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

I’ve used the Fourth Street combi rank in my comings and goings around Harare for almost five years. In all that time I’ve watched as piles of trash accumulated on the pavement around the taxis. It was a terrible place to be especially during the rainy season, when humidity and moisture combined with metre high mounds of rubbish resulted in the most unholy smells (odour is too good a word to use to describe it!). I had resigned myself to it, as I sure had most other commuters. So imagine my surprise when today as I approached the rank I spotted a City of Harare Refuse collection crew . . . WORKING. It seems that the Harare City Council may be doing something useful with the ratepayers money after all . . . ok at least what was left over after they bought themselves cars and things.harare_clean_up

Dangerous toilets

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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 by Dydimus Zengenene

I’d like to walk you through one day at a rural school mainly with the intention to explore that place we all use, the toilet.

Upon arrival at the school what welcomes you is the mixture of colours of clothes that children are wearing. A good percentage of the children have never afforded a uniform possibly since their first year into school. Step closer and you will discover that almost all children are bare foot. It used to be the trend that the few children who put on a pair of shoes would be children of teachers who unquestionably belonged to a different social class. But now when teachers are so lowly paid their children appear as good as any other.

The Blair toilets are so dirty that children tip toe as they enter in an effort to avoid the mess on the floor. In the boys’ section it is as if water is continuously being poured on the floor for the whole day, it is never dry. It is not unusual to see big white worms making their way out through the entrance or to see some lying dead as one or two kids will have taken the courage to step over them.

At the end of the day the children struggle to carry water from the bore hole or some river kilometers away to clean the toilets and this is when the broom guy whom they sarcastically call the “Matenyera” has to make as though he has no nose because it is his job to clean the mess close up. If one imagines that these toilets are shared with little grade zeros and ones who usually have more experience in using the bush than a toilet, then maybe you get to comprehend how dirty the toilets will be by end of the day.

Sign the petition – Protest the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 by Amanda Atwood

I’ve just signed the Avaaz petition protesting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda.

They’re at just over 300,000 signatures already – but their goal is to have at least 350,000 signatures by Friday, when they plan to deliver the petition to President Museveni.

This bill is easily the most intolerant, prejudicial, retrogressive piece of legislation I have seen in a long time.  Provisions include the death sentence for “repeat” offenders; imprisonment for landlords who rent to homosexuals and those who do not report people whom they believe are homosexual; and extradition capacity to prosecute gay Ugandans living overseas.

Sign the petition, and spread the word.

Finding ways to survive

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Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 by Bev Reeler

For so long now, Zimbabwe has held me in its challenging grasp
watching the unbelievable madness and violence take reign
feeling my soul shrink
perhaps there are times when we connect too deeply
in too narrow a field
and we forget we are part of an astonishing universe

as if with scales over my eyes
I stand waiting to see
living with grief . . .

I sit in this newly born, newly bathed, sun-slanted morning
Listening to the almost-silence

In a small pool on the rock
ephemeral lives dance this microscopic magical moment atop granite mountains
a breathing, procreating, creative memory of last night’s rain

do these minute fragments remember the stars?

There are times when we need to climb the mountain,
for the story catcher to listen to the distant stories
and weave this vision into the threads that cross the planet

‘ama poto, ama poootooo, ama poootoooooi, ama poto’
a chanting echo down the suburban street
a man with his hand-held welding machine
advertising his skills in mending what has been broken

The sekuru with two young nephews churn their battered truck down pitted dirt roads in rural Motoko
buying mangoes
with sheer willpower, they drive the old car the 150k to Harare
and camp on the side of the street till the mangoes are sold, or rot
8 mangoes for US$ 1

Tawanda brings bananas from Chimanimani
tied to the top of a smoking, crowded bus
In Harare they are arranged in neatly piled rows in his brothers’ barrow
and sold down Chiremba road
12 bananas for US$1

Mai Chipo sells the mealies and tomatoes she has grown in a small piece of wasteland
arranged in meticulous patterns on old tyres
outside her small hut

Tichafa slogs his way home with thirty pillows tied to his back
To sell at a small profit, to a distant rural store

From early morning purchases at Mbare Msika
vendors sell fruit and vegetables on the suburban roadsides
Straw hats made in China
old cloths sent in bales from Europe
windscreen wipers, seat covers, plastic watches, shoes, ironing boards, cell phones
that have been brought on overloaded mini busses from South Africa

Sekuru Peter has a sign on his  bike
and a very old camera in the basket
‘go fast photography
best service’

there are signs on the side of the road:

‘Tree cutting – best experts
Cell:0912 000 000’

‘anaconda worms
take me fishing with you’

bottles arranged in golden rows outside Marondera

‘voulantery work.
plse help’

three young men carry buckets of mud and stone
making their best attempt to fill up the huge potholes
long abandoned by the city council

Mike runs his small business
roasting mealies on a small fire on the side of Quendon road
- fast take-away hot meals for homebound workers

Tafadzwa opens her hair plaiting business in a small nook under the masasa outside the local store

Umbuya Moyo stands at the door of her hut
watching the 12 grandchildren left in her care
their parents dead or lost or fled to South Africa
now her work of love

Nhamo and Rodgers and Jane and Mike and Abby
dedicate their lives to healing torture victims like themselves
taking their workshop into rural communities

what resilience is this?
what echo is it, that threads through the bones of this land
bones that tremor and shake
then stand firm in the wake of the storm
shorn of their outer shells
their homes and livelihoods

finding a way to survive

Development – another women’s issue

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Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 by Delta Ndou

The women’s movement has over the years given rise to new phrases, new vocabulary and a whole gamut of realities as the goal of realizing gender parity becomes a pressing global concern – of note is the tendency to discuss and isolate what have been termed “women’s issues”.

As is the norm with words used broadly and constantly – it is assumed that women’s issues are obvious, that the phrase is self-explanatory and that anyone can deduce what is meant by “women’s issues”.

I fear in the labelling and branding of feminist concerns that there has been an unfortunate tendency to try and address issues in a vacuum i.e taking the problems women face out of their social context and classifying them outside the broader context of the world they live in.

What I am at pains to say is that what we have termed “women’s issues” are in fact ‘human’ issues – that there is no way of separating the concerns of women from the broader universal challenges faced by the societies they live in.

I am gratified by the sentiments once expressed former UN Secretary-General and 2001 Nobel Prize winner, Kofi Annan who stated that, “more countries have understood that women’s equality is the prerequisite to development.”

As Zimbabwe grapples with the many obstacles that have hindered the progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals; one cannot help but wonder if perhaps the gross inequality deeply entrenched in our systems of governance and the broader social spectrum is not the root cause of this.

As a premise for my argument; the first MDG concerns the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty and if that is not a woman’s issue – I don’t know what is.

One of the phrases that have been bandied around in development circles has been the ‘feminization of poverty’ and there is little doubt that women, especially in Zimbabwe bore the brunt of the economic meltdown, hardship and hunger barely succeeding in fending for families through informal trading.

So one wonders how development issues can be separated from women’s issues, in fact come to think of it, what issues can be separated from women.

The exclusion and marginality of women in developmental issues can be traced back to the basic definition of what development is and borrowing from WikiAnswers, development means ”improvement in a country’s economic and social conditions”.

More specifically, it refers to improvements in ways of managing an area’s natural and human resources in order to create wealth and improve people’s lives. This definition is based on the more obvious distinctions in living standards between developed and less developed countries.

Therein lies the crux of the matter, in patriarchal Africa, natural resources and the creation of wealth are the preserve of men and therefore development has largely been about men and women have been dependant on men to provide solutions to the pressing problems relating to poverty, hunger and all other challenges they face.

If poverty is the deprivation of resources, capabilities or freedoms which are commonly called the dimensions or spaces of poverty; then development which relates to its eradication has a lot to do with those who are arguably most vulnerable – women.

In fact development has everything to do with women and the wide gaps in gender parity in this country are symptoms of a deeper malady and I would confidently make a wager that Zimbabwe, like many other African countries will not realize the MDGs unless they prioritize gender equity.

To emphasize my point I borrow from the World Bank report of 2003 titled, Gender Inequality and the Millennium Development Goals  which stated, “Gender inequality, which remains pervasive worldwide, tends to lower the productivity of labour and the efficiency of labour allocation in households and the economy, intensifying the unequal distribution of resources. It also contributes to the non-monetary aspects of poverty – lack of security, opportunity and empowerment – that lower the quality of life for both men and women. While women and girls bear the largest and most direct costs of these inequalities, the costs cut broadly across society, ultimately hindering development and poverty reduction.”

I have always held the conviction that gender equity will be the inevitable consequence of women’s empowerment that women’s empowerment will be the inevitable consequence of attaining education and the second Millennium Development Goal that seeks to achieve Universal Primary Education resonates with this.

Disappointingly, access to higher levels of education by girls and young women is negligible with indications showing that while 50% of young women fail to proceed with education due to financial constraints – 16% of the female student population fails to continue with their studies because they fall pregnant or get married early.

The vicious cycle of poverty thrives when the 50% of women who have no financial resources to pursue education are forced into prostitution, intergenerational sexual relationships, providing cheap labour doing menial tasks or opting to get married hoping their husbands will provide for them.

Inevitably, the 16% who fall pregnant or marry early face challenges as they often have no room to negotiate matters relating to sex, reproductive health and unwittingly, they relinquish autonomy over their bodies to their partners.

These factors make the third Millennium Development Goal all the more harder to achieve because promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women cannot be done without a holistic approach that takes cognizance of the societal, cultural and economical status quos that militate against them.

Despite the myriad treaties that Zimbabwe has signed and ratified, Zimbabwe’s Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) is so low the percentages are not only laughable, they are dismally indicative of a nation gripped by the stranglehold tentacles of patriarchy.

Recently, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe challenged policymakers to recognise women’s role in economic development and move away from the patriarchal habit of looking at them as mere housewives.

Speaking at the end of the two-day National Constitutional Conference on Women and Land in Harare, DPM Khupe made the shocking revelation that women only owned 1 percent of assets in Africa despite their economic contributions.

Suffice to say, come 2015 – the Millennium Development Goals will remain an elusive pursuit as the deeply entrenched gender imbalances widen the chasm between theories on gender equity and policy implementation on gender parity.

So development is just another tagline on the long list of “women’s issues”.

On the streets with WOZA

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Monday, February 15th, 2010 by Bev Clark

Downtown Harare on Valentine’s Day was livened up the vibrant sistaz and bruthaz of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA). Saturday shoppers and the odd tourist (we saw TWO, imagine, I felt like rounding them up and putting them on exhibit because they’ve become so rare) milling around Unity Square were treated to the sight of three converging groups of WOZA demonstrators. WOZA gave out plastic red roses and fliers to passing motorists, flower sellers, ice cream vendors, street cleaners (we’ve got a couple of those as well) and pedestrians. Without exception the WOZA literature was gobbled up by members of the general public who seldom get to see anything besides the state-controlled crap that’s put out by the GNU. In fact, on Saturday morning WOZA chose the front steps of the Herald House as their site of struggle. No doubt their choice was guided by the need to condemn the daily diet of propaganda that the Herald produces. The WOZA demonstration lasted about 15 minutes. I kept on expecting the riot police armed with their “tiger” and batons to storm the gathering but they didn’t. A big pom pom to WOZA for continuing to demand meaningful democratic change in Zimbabwe and for testing freedoms like the right to protest peacefully.