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Archive for the 'Women’s issues' Category

Exploring the dark side of culture

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Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

Love is in the air as two young college graduates drive to rural Limpopo in South Africa to break the news of better prospects ahead. But that joy is short-lived as a father takes a hard-line stance to save face in the community for his failure to provide for his family as he reveals a dirty family secret which brings misfortune to the life of a young woman. Events unfold in a set up which puts to test the value of a woman in a society where culture is still struggling to adapt to the demands of modernization. In such an environment is a young woman called “Elelwani” who recently graduated from college and hopes to further her studies in America. Under the guise of a home coming celebration the father took the opportunity to introduce her daughter to her future in-laws.

Florence Masebe plays the role of Elelwani, a young woman who is married off to a king in honor of traditional cultural beliefs as well as to pay off debts accrued during her upbringing and for the support her family has been getting from an elderly king in Limpopo. ‘Elelwani’ is an indigenous film shot in Venda language based on a novel by Titus Maumela and directed by Ntshaveni wa Luruli. Set in rural Limpopo where people are still very much attached to their culture the film reveals the harsh treatment faced by women in a society where men still play a dominant role in decision making. When Elelwani turned down the offer to marry the king this does not deter her father from settling for her youngest daughter as a replacement. This decision makes Elelwani bow down to the cultural demands and later agrees to marry the king so that her young sister can be saved from the forced marriage arrangement.

Such a thought provoking film brings to life some of the stories we have been reading in the press of how the girl child is used as a pay off for avenging spirits or exchanged for a bag of maize when family faces starvation. Premiered at the just ended International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) “Elelweni” tells a story of rural women who are struggling to fight patriarchy and to get fair treatment in the society.

The film festival showcased films, which helped raise awareness on women’s sexual rights and the general human right abuses women go through under the cover tradition.

The Naked Option: examples of activism

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Thursday, August 29th, 2013 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

The Naked Option, Last Resort documentary was screened at the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) in Harare this week. The documentary is a bold inspiration to the many women’s groups and movements across Africa that have taken up protest as part of their activist campaigns. Directed by Candace Schermerhorn and set in Nigeria’s Delta region, which is very rich in oil, the documentary chronicles the challenges grassroots women, and the environment face at the hands of oil companies operating in this region.

The women were pushed to protest due to the high level of environmental degradation caused by oil companies in the Niger delta who flared out gas into the air, polluting water and land. As a result farming and fishing was no longer viable for the women. Another factor that brought outrage was the companies’ reluctance in employing their husbands, brothers and sons. In the documentary the women said that the only benefit they derived from Chevron’s operation in the community was the heat produced when they flared gas. They would dry their cassava using this heat; a process, which usually took days, using the sun’s heat, would only take 5 hours. To them, in as much as this flared gas was a major threat to their environment and health, they saw it as the only direct benefit to their community. However, there then came a time when they were not allowed to enter the oil company’s premises so they could dry or collect their cassava.

In South Africa they famously say ‘Wathintha umfazi wathintha imboko’ (you strike a rock you strike a woman). With all these misgivings about the oil company’s operations, the women took it upon themselves to protest at Chevron’s premises. They spent weeks on the site and disrupted the company’s operations. They gained the attention of the company when they resorted to stripping naked during the protests. In the documentary one of the activists said, “Naked I came to this world, naked I leave”, to show how they had removed the shyness of being naked in peoples eyes as well as their determination. In their tradition it is taboo to strip naked, especially an elderly woman. An example was given that if an elderly woman is offended and strips naked in front of their offender they would have cursed the offender. This group of women protesting comprised of women of all ages, and elderly women were also a part of the group. Thus them stripping naked brought the attention of local and international media and the oil companies too who agreed to sign MOUs with the women where they made ‘empty’ promises. Empty as in up to when the documentary was screened in 2011; none of those promises had been achieved.

This documentary shows the power of women coming together. It took a few minutes for those women to decide they were going to invade Chevron’s premises and then when they managed to stop the company’s operations the women would take 12 hour duties to guard and protest within the premises giving each other time to attend to their household chores.

The Naked Option is a great inspiration to women’s activism and to also question corporate responsibility. Often companies come to extract minerals within communities and concentrate on making the minimum operational costs at the expense of the community’s health, environment and development. My mind went to the families in Chiadzwa and I felt that Sheila Mutsenhu, the lady who stripped naked in front of the US Ambassador in Mutare earlier this year protesting against sanctions in Zimbabwe, should have better directed her efforts. Her being a citizen in the Manicaland province where Chiadzwa diamond mines are located, her zeal would be more beneficial if directed to the cause of women’s issues in the area. Maybe one day she will lead a group of the Manica women to protest demanding better living conditions.

This year is the 12th edition of the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) and it will run from the 23rd to the 31st of August in Harare. It will move to Bulawayo from the 5th to the 7th of September. You can download the programme here.

Men Promise to Act Against Gender-Based Violence

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Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 by Bev Clark

SA pic

The First National Rally in South Africa to End Men’s Violence Against Women: Men Promise to Act Against Gender-Based Violence

Sister: Rina Mushonga’s tribute to Chiwoniso Maraire

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Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 by Amanda Atwood

Zimbabwean / Dutch musician Rina Mushonga has composed a beautiful and moving tribute to her friend and music shero, Chiwoniso Maraire, who died last month.

You can access the song online at Sound Cloud here or email products [at] kubatana [dot] net with Sister in the subject line, and we will email it to you (4.2MB).

You can watch Rina singing Sister and talking about her friendship with Chiwoniso here

And, if you like this song, get more of Rina’s music like her new EP via iTunes and visit her website

Book Café Gender Forum Discussion

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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 by Amanda Atwood


Protection and promotion of the interests of disadvantaged and disabled women in Africa

Date: Wed 28 Aug, 2013

Time: 5.30 – 7pm

Venue: Book Café, 139 Samora Machel Ave/6th Street

The rapid integration of world economy has transformed the world at large and its women. However, it has ushered in its way many changes of immense significance and fresh opportunities. Though a great deal of progress has been done to protect and promote the interests of disadvantaged and disabled women, more efforts are required to create a sense of awareness and confidence to enable them to become active participants in the process of social transformation and regeneration. WHERE ARE WE NOW IN AFRICA?

Marlene Le Roux, Director of Artscape Audience Development and Education Artistic Program (Cape Town) is joined by Soneni Gwizi (Radio Broadcaster, Gender & Disability Activist) together with Cleopatra Ndlovu (Gender Activist) as they interrogate issues that affect disabled women and how much advocacy is being done vis-a-vis what needs to be done in regards to the protection and promotion of the interests of disadvantaged and disabled women in Africa.

In November 2009, Harare arts development organization, Pamberi Trust, created a platform for the discussion of gender and women’s issues at Book Café in Harare.  Aimed at contributing to initiatives of advancing gender equality and promoting women’s rights in Zimbabwe, the Book Café Gender Forum has become a popular space for tackling issues of concern guided by audience responses.

The Book Cafe Gender Forum is a monthly discussion, targeting human rights activists, members of civic society, and members of the general public.  This month’s discussion is hosted by the Book Café Gender Forum in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The discussion is FREE and all are welcome.

Sexual stereotypes not helping Aids fight

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Friday, August 23rd, 2013 by Marko Phiri

What many see as a sudden crackdown on women in Harare’s CBD by police accusing them of loitering for the purposes of prostitution actually dates back to as early as 1983 according to local researchers working on the link between prostitution and HIV/Aids.

In June 2, 1983, the police launched Operation Chinyanda/Scorpion, where hundreds of women were rounded up on allegations of prostitution.

After a long hiatus, another operation was launched on March 2, 2007 where the systematic arrest of women was intensified.

Four years later, Operation Keep Your Dignity was launched in January 2011, with the following year, in December 2012, seeing Operation Dyira Bonus Kumba where women became the target of a crackdown that was supposed to keep men in their homes to spend their end-of-year bonuses with their families not prostitutes!

Sounds silly, but researchers working with sex workers in Harare and Nyamapanda say the fact that this is an operation sanctioned at the highest level of law enforcement misses the point of addressing the core structural issues that have forced women to the streets in the first place, beyond even interrogating if those arrested in these operations are indeed prostitutes.

Yet the irrationality of these sweeps on women points to failed methodologies in understanding and addressing women’s economic imperatives and opportunities, researchers argue.

But not only that, an unapologetically patriarchal society has skewed the sexual power dynamics where men do the labeling, and every single or unmarried woman, becomes a prostitute because they are found in the CBD during hours when married women are in their homes!

A story was narrated about how cops swooped on a block of flats in Harare’s CBD arresting every female on site and barged into an apartment where a man and his wife were watching telly. The cops allegedly dragged the woman to the waiting Black Maria amid protests from the husband.

But because this is Zimbabwe where citizens have no recourse to litigate against the State, that was the end of the story. All the couple had was bitterness against the system after the wife was released.

It has become laughable how cops carry out their duties, and with the issue of arresting all women seen in the CBD after hours, it has raised yet another disturbing trend where women have become very open to abuse, local researchers allege.

After Operation No Loitering was launched in February this year, followed by Operation Amai Ngwenya in July, then Operation Zvanyanya now carried about by an all-female cops crack unit, complaints that emerged centred on the sexual abuse of these females (whether prostitutes or not) by arresting officers.

It is a good thing that the ZRP has acted on these reports, and it is just one of many reports seen across the world where police demand sex from prostitutes in exchange for their freedom.

And that is yet another HIV/Aids hotspot. Do these males in positions of power use condoms, are these females in any position (pardon the pun) to negotiate/demand condom use when it is their freedom at stake?

Yet in all these operations, researchers are asking: has this worked to curb the spread of HIV/Aids and succeeded in creating “a morally upright” society as the prudes would put it?

One female contributor put it bluntly and said prostitution will always be around whether we like it or not so get used it!

Yet despite that blunt truth, what remains obvious is that there remains very little being done to protect sex workers, be it from STIs or physical/sexual violence.

Small wonder then that there were gasps last year when one MP dared the prudes and called for legalizing the operations of what she rather stupidly called “pleasure engineers” which effectively stripped the debate of its gravity.

And with the UNTWO General Assembly almost here, it cannot be ignored that sex workers are seeing an opportunity of a lifetime, and while Walter Mzembi has said legalizing the profession is out of the question, truth is, some delegates will turn their sojourn into a sex tourism excursion of sorts.

Like one young lady suggested, instead of bashing these women with haughty claims of immorality, other countries are providing sexual health care for sex workers and in the process minimising the spread of HIV/Aids.

Perhaps instead of futile efforts to get them off the streets and encouraging them to sell tomatoes instead, the focus should move from throwing only them into filthy holding cells, but extending the crusade to clients who remain invisible in the whole narrative.

It takes two to screw right?