Dear Zim Women’s Rights Organisations in Zim: Talk to us!

HAPPY FEBRUARY EVERYONE!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will know that I spent January getting the revolutionary praxis of self love on. There’ll be more on that as we move past Valentine’s Day and talk about ways to love ourselves as we continue to work against oppressive narratives.

Today I’d like to make a public appeal to Zimbabwe women’s rights organisations centring around connecting more with the average person. I would love to see the start of a broad women’s rights and especially – feminist, movement that involves interested lay people who are not professional activists – people like me. In as much as the work you do is very important, many amongst us (again – me) aren’t really aware of what you get up to or how to get involved. In some circumstances we are also made to feel very unwelcome. Below are three things that I think will help turn this around, quick:

1. Tell us what you’re up to

Please tell us what you’re organising so we can show up and lend our support. I was very excited when information on the #miniskirtmarch came through because it meant that my sister and I could show our solidarity and lend our voices to a very important issue. Communication is key in building a movement up to the task of smashing the kyriarchy. We need participation of women from all walks of life and if there’s no chatting going on then this isn’t much of a possibility. Also consciousness raising and discussion is supposed to be a key part of any movement that claims to be attempting to work with a segment of society to end oppression. Basics.

Protestors and journalist gather around Talent of Katswe Sisterhood at the start of the #miniskirtmarch

Protestors gather around Talent of Katswe Sisterhood at the start of the #miniskirtmarch. Photo credit: Anthea Taderera

2. Invest in inter-generational organising

I’m a young woman and in going around trying to find out how to volunteer with different organisations there was a lot of talking down going on. I was less than amused at best, and entirely horrified at worst. It’s important to incorporate young women and our experiences of patriarchy as it is being applied in our various contexts, in any organising that takes place. This is certainly not to say that there isn’t much that young feminists can learn from those who have been at it for a while. In as much as patriarchal reasoning and values are passed on from generation to generation we need the practice of revolution and resistance to be passed on as a matter of course.

In general, change management has not been a forte in women’s rights movements the world over. In the same way our movement should not centre around women of a certain age, who are respectable and thus apparently worthy of being listened to. I have previously talked about how the movement is full of respectability politics which is highly problematic.

We need to have a situation of give and take where young women’s concerns are considered sufficiently valid to be deemed women’s concerns. On this point I have to say that the initial response in terms of solidarity with the minor who was stripped by touts (which triggered the #miniskirtmarch) was uniquely appalling. Safety in public spaces in relation to sexual harassment and freedom from sexual violence may be something that disproportionately affects young women, but everyone should have been there. It is a bread and butter issue for us. Frankly, all of the prioritised issues won’t matter if I’m raped and killed because someone hates the way I dress.

3. Be open to working with lay(ish) women

I really think that the goal needs to be to include the greater public in the smashing of patriarchy. Yes, not everyone is interested in getting involved with some of the day to day work but many people are. Perhaps it would be useful if when people showed up to your organisation, or gave you a call and asked if they could volunteer or intern you did not look upon them with suspicion. Yes, I am speaking from personal experience. One organisation takes the prize for least charming, for giving me an interrogation, asking who I am…really, and why I’d possibly want to do something like that. Erm – how about freedom and happiness for all? Seriously though, the chatting needs to extend beyond the NGO clique of those in the know. Yes, I said it. I feel much better now.

I’m not going to lie to you, I have been really uninspired with some of the antics I have witnessed in trying to find out how women’s organising in Zimbabwe has been getting on and there’s no reason for it. Organisations need to open themselves us to wider participation from the very people they claim to be trying to serve. Talk to us. Involve us. Care about the issues that affect our daily lives (no you will never be forgiven for dragging feet re harassment on public transportation).

It’s 2015. New Year new you, right?!

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