Home » Human Rights » Diaspora – Women’s Rights and Empowerment

It is reported that in the last 15 years as many as 21 Zimbabwean women in the UK have been killed by their husbands, partners or boyfriends. Incidentally, by an overwhelming majority the men happen to be Zimbabweans as well. This is a tragic datum.

The last victim had her life taken while the African Union Summit with the theme “Women’s Empowerment Year and Africa Development for the Concretisation of Agenda 2063” was in session.

What an inspired and germane theme!

There is argument that a lot of Zimbabwean men have failed to adjust to the loss of a higher domestic status they had by relocating to the Diaspora.

Coming from a conservative patriarchal society where men hold a higher social station than women comes with a lot of privilege and in extreme cases the infantalisation of women.

There are cases where women are whipped in chastisement like children for such mundane mistakes like getting distracted and leaving the cooking meal to burn.

The notion that one can beat another adult until she conforms with their thinking and views as a way of winning an argument is an absurdity.

The societal safeguards against this animalistic behaviour frustrate the Neanderthal man and some end up committing homicide. All in a bid to cling to the slipping away privileges.

The mainstream aocates of women’s rights are not pushing to demote men’s rights and promote the women’s. No. What they are clamouring for is the promotion of women’s rights to the same level as those of men.

The problem for some men is, by accepting that a woman is equal to them, they have to give up all the frills that come with women’s subservience.

This is what marks the borders of the battleground. It is conceited to believe that it is men’s preserve to grant women their rights piecemeal.

Some men even have the temerity to declare that it would not happen in their house! Hang on. Are these not rights? They are an entitlement and not a fringe reward for “good behaviour”.

Women who try to assert their rights are labelled rebellious and other unflattering expletives. The salutation “shewe” (my lord) when imported into these power games is literally interpreted.

The demand for it appears to be a form of servitude or emotional subjugation.

If used as a term of endearment, then there would probably be nothing wrong.

But if used to reinforce a superior position then it is a term of abuse.

Bride price (roora or lobola) is used as a domestic political leverage for pliancy and not a threading twine to unite two alien families into one.

The biggest leverage of all in the domestic arrangement is earnings or resources.

There is anecdotal evidence that many high achieving women in Zimbabwe can achieve everything else but marital bliss.

This is arguably not the women’s problem but the insecure men’s feeling of self-inadequacy.

Men want control. A financially independent woman has a level of autonomy that threatens some men’s securities.

When people move to the Diaspora the domestic social order can get radically inverted. Many mal-adapted men resist this loss of patrimonial privilege while the women enjoy a newfound autonomy.

The men feel undermined and ka-boom! goodbye marital bliss.

The paradox of it is that this happens despite the great effort that has been made by the Government to empower women. From 1977 Zanu-PF has had a vibrant Women’s League whose raison d’etre is to promote the interests of women.

A lot of strides have been made in higher political circles. It just needs to cascade down to the grassroots and break the barriers of cultural, customary and religious resistance.

Britain has 22 percent women in parliament. United States has 19,3 percent women in the House of Representatives. Zimbabwe has 35 percent women in its bicameral House and a whopping 47,5 percent in the Senate.

The person at the helm of the Senate is a woman as well. For more than ten years now, Zimbabwe has criminalised maritalspousal rape, just a few years behind a lot of Western countries.

Practically this is where the challenge of lobola comes into contention. A lot of men find it difficult to accept that someone for whom they paid lobola should report them for taking what they claim to have paid for.

A married woman’s right to say no is dismissed.

It is still to be processed by the ordinary Zimbabwean man and the women themselves that a man that forces himself on his spouse is as much a sexual deviant as any rapist fiend on the street.

Men should realise that lobola is not about converting a woman into an object of one’s sexual gratification. Progress is needed here.

As clicheacuted, women’s rights are human rights. Education remains a key tool in bringing women empowerment, equality and social justice.

There is now about 50 percent parity in the country’s premier universities, University of Zimbabwe and NUST.

This is now reflected in the corporate world where there is a good female representation at the highest level.

While eulogising this progress, the country cannot afford to be complacent. It cannot afford to promote ill-qualified women to key positions just to achieve gender parity.

That would be sabotaging women’s cause.

People are saying, because Zimbabwe no longer has a female vice president, it is evidence that women empowerment has taken two steps back. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The first point is that by having a female Vice President for those 10 years, the Rubicon was crossed.

Having said that, women should get to top positions on merit and not on gender.

The US does not and has never had a female vice president. Britain does not have a female deputy prime minister. Can one argue that after Margaret Thatcher female empowerment in Britain has retrogressed?

If it is flawed logic that Britain has regressed because after Mrs Thatcher’s leadership the Conservative Party has been led by males, then it is also flawed logic in the Zimbabwean discourse.

In America John McCain had Sarah Palin for a running mate. In the next election Mitt Romney opted for Paul Ryan a man. Why did no one bat an eyelid?

Why is no one calling this retrogressive? Because every woman who is worth their mettle would want to get into any top position on merit and not as an affirmative action window dressing, dumping down.

When a suitable female candidate comes along to lead the party they will lead it. The same applies to Zanu-PF.

Merit should trump patronage.

Women are not fighting for favours from men. They are fighting to be treated as equals.

They are not fighting to be men. They revel in their femininity.

They are equal to men. In a domestic setup there can be a difference in roles. This is just division in labour according to different core strengths and specialisation. There is nothing wrong with that.

A man cannot be forced to get pregnant because it is foolish.

By the same token a woman should not be challenged to do the same physically demanding tasks as a man if that would impinge on her biology and therefore ability to be a mother.

Source : The Herald