Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Author Archive

Activism as a way of life

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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

Some people become activists through passion while some find themselves on the streets because they are just tired of getting screwed by the system. When Martin Luther King took to the streets he wanted to share his dream of a society where race was not an issue. The general socio-economic and political conditions we now live in demand action and solutions to our day to day needs. Every time we turn on news channels its about protests and uprisings as more and more people continue to demand solutions to contemporary problems affecting them.

South Africa was recently dubbed “the protest capital of the world” as the streets have become permanent homes for activists. Living in a world faced with a lot of injustice and inequality mainly driven by greed, profiteering and ignorance, calls for a collective effort from everybody. Activism is about affecting social change and championing a cause whether big or small. Small things like a change of mindset won’t even require government or big donor funding for a start and that’s the reason why we often read about the great works by Wangari Mathaai of Kenya who managed to share knowledge on environment conservation with rural communities. A young girl from Pakistan almost lost her life because she wanted other young girls in her country to have access to education. Even the young school children of South Africa became active in 1979 demanding better education. Artists as role models for the young generation have also become heavily involved in activism especially towards raising awareness on behavior change targeting drug abuse and safe sex.

Activism comes with its own challenges with many activists the world over being persecuted for championing people’s rights. Zimbabwe is one such country where activists and social movement groups have been labeled enemies of the state. A crack down on dissenting voices has resulted in many people shying away from being active in the community on issues that affect them due to fear.

One of Zimbabwe’s aspiring activists Wadzanai Motsi was awarded the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship and she conducted research on youth’s contributions to activism. At a Food for Thought session hosted by US Embassy Public Affairs section, Wadzanai and Ruvheneko Parirenyatwa shared their experiences on various forms of activism and the different ways each person can contribute to make the society we live in a better place.

World Food Day: Promoting sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition in Zimbabwe

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Wednesday, October 9th, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

According to the Zimbabwe Demographic Household Survey of 2010-11 56% of children between the ages of 6 to 59 months are anemic. The National Nutrition Survey which was done in 2010 shows that less than 10% of Zimbabwean children under the age of 2 receive the recommended minimum acceptable diet of eggs, meat, milk products, and legumes are rarely included in the diets of young children. About 35% of child mortality recorded globally are a result of malnutrition. In the past years Zimbabwe has been faced with food insecurity and which has been mainly attributed to the prolonged drought the country has been facing, unsustainable farming practices and also economic challenges.

The World Food Programme recently announced that 2.2 million people are food insecure and are in need of food assistance. Due to high food prices many families can longer afford to have three meals per day, not to mention a balanced diet. Production of small grains and other local varieties, which are huge sources of nutrients, has significantly dropped as farmers now pursue high value crops like tobacco. This has negatively impacted on the nutrition status of the nation, as more people in Zimbabwe are becoming anaemic and obese due to poor diet. Food insecurity is increasing in Zimbabwe especially in dry areas, as more people in these areas are increasingly relying on food assistance from humanitarian organizations to avert malnutrition. The government of Zimbabwe and various development agencies like USAID, Food and Agriculture Orgnization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Progamme of the United Nations (WFP) have been working on ways to promote sustainable diversified agriculture production in the country. Since 2000 through its Humanitarian Assistance Office, USAID has been involved in the funding of food security projects in Zimbabwe which includes the promotion of positive nutrition behaviors aimed at reducing malnutrition among children less than five years of age.

The promotion of new crop varieties, conservation farming and post harvest technologies are some of the methods which can used to improve food security.  FAO representative Mr. David Mfote highlighted that conservation farming can contribute to crop production in Zimbabwe and also there is need for value addition for small grain products in order to increase uptake by people. At a public sensitization meeting for this year’s theme of the 2013 World Food Day commemorations hosted by the US Embassy Public Affairs section representatives from government, FAO, USAID and WFP shared views on Zimbabwe’s Food System.

This year’s World Food Day celebrations will be held in Lupane on the 16th of October under the theme “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition in Zimbabwe. Supporting messages for the 2013 commemorations include “Good nutrition depends on healthy diets, Healthy diets require healthy food systems – along with education, health, sanitation and other factors and Healthy Food Systems are made possible by appropriate policies, incentives and governance”.

Welcome to Chitungwiza: have some sewage

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Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

Sewage 1

Sewage 2

Labia elongation and the pleasure myths

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Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

Human rights activist, Betty Makoni last week brought out a hidden practice that has been going on in some sections our society which some would consider a normal way of life. The myth behind this secret culture is that women who had their labia pulled out are well prepared to please men in bed. Betty says she was forced into this practice when she was as young as 8 years old. To equate labia elongation to genital mutilation some may say is a bit too far since the process or practice doesn’t involve the physical cutting and stuff but on the other it raises questions of child abuse since the process involves touching of a child’s private parts. Just like the circumcision debate as a parent would you voluntarily allow your daughter to go through the process so that she can increase her chances in bed?

New media and positive debate @ Shoko Festival

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Monday, September 30th, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

The Shoko Festival came to life in a session dubbed “Hub Unconference” which ignited some positive debate on the challenges and opportunities brought by new media and citizen journalism. The online space has brought an alternative space for people to freely express themselves through engaging in positive debate and also to do business. An industry, which needs to adapt fast and digitalise, is the media industry in Zimbabwe. The online space creates huge opportunities for the Zimbabwe media in terms of market and cost reduction. For example international media houses have reported a drop in sales of physical or hard copies of newspapers and magazines in recent years as people now prefer to read news on online.

A record increase in mobile penetration in Zimbabwe with a considerable uptake of mobile applications presents huge business and networking opportunities. Social media platforms like Twitter have also helped start discussions on issues which people would sometimes sweep under the carpet. Nowadays almost everyone armed with a smartphone and Internet connectivity is a storyteller and a newsmaker. Every day people are getting more involved in citizen journalism and this is changing the manner in which news is now being consumed.

People are looking for alternative sources and space online through setting up blogs, chat groups and facebook pages.

There is always is the challenge of separation of roles in the technology industry and the biggest challenge is that of coming up with solutions for everything. App developers and business people should engage a collaboration of the minds and put themselves in the shoes of the customer in order to come up with a simplified product which suits the needs of the user.

Living in a society where government is failing to provide basic essentials like water and electricity to its people, the digital space comes with its own challenges as not everyone will be able to go online. The digital divide in Zimbabwe is increasing due to market segment as most technology companies target markets perceived to be for the elite, leaving out those with little disposable income.

Prospects and hopes for freedom of expression in all media in Zimbabwe

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Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

Prospects of seeing a better Zimbabwe where people can freely express themselves as guaranteed in the new Constitution are not yet certain as the new government gets down to business. Before we set high expectations we just have to go down memory lane and dwell a lot on the legacy of the government, which has just regained power. The love-hate relationship between the ZANU-PF lead government and the media dates back to the time when a litany of bad laws were crafted to criminalize freedom of expression and the return of the chief architect of some these laws to head the Media and Information ministry has sent a strong signal of what to expect in the next five years especially his recent comments in the media. During the tenure of the re-appointed Minister of Information we saw a plethora of bad laws, which curtailed and inhibited freedom of expression at same time also criminalizing the journalism profession.

Laws such as POSA, AIPPA, BAZ, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and Official Secrets Act have been used in the past to criminalize the profession of journalism and most of these laws where crafted during the time when ZANU-PF felt threatened by the rising popularity of the opposition parties. A record increase in the use of insult targeting opposition supporters was recorded during the recently held 2013 harmonized election campaigns. Excessive monitoring has also spread to cover areas such the cyber-space.
Meanwhile Zimbabweans have come up with various and alternative ways of expressing themselves; the sprouting up of graffiti on walls, blogs, radio and television stations broadcasting from outside the country.

Media experts weighed in on the “Prospects for freedom of expression in all media” under the new government at a discussion hosted by Zimbabwe Democracy Institute. One of the panelists from the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe asked, “since recent the election saw ZANU-PF sweeping to a two-thirds majority in Parliament but is the threat gone that warrants the removal of bad laws, which makes it easy to charge someone with defamation or insult?” To a large extent the existence of a biased state broadcaster ensures that not every one is heard but only a selected few voices. Prospects could be high to see the licensing of community radio stations, television and the transformation of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) from being a state broadcaster to a public broadcaster and the lack of it will just result in an increase in the number of people getting arrested for seeking alternatives to freely express themselves.
But since this is a party on the road to mend relations maybe some media reforms could be on the cards as the ZANU-PF lead government embarks on a rebranding exercise.