By Byron Mutingwende
Women are making great strides in trying to break the social norms, stereotypes and religious beliefs that are hindering efforts to bring about gender equality and equity.
Speaking during the commemoration of International Women’s Day held at the National Art Gallery in Harare on 8 March 2018, Isabella Matambanadzo, a women’s rights activist, bemoaned the fact that women were the source of income but had constituted a minority in leadership positions.
“As women, we are not given the access to sources of income including land for farming, tourism and mining. We are the sources of income. We bring food to the table but our efforts are not recognised in the society. We are always under men. Women need access to land for farming, tourism and mining. The women have no control over all sources of income because of the patriarchal society we are living in today.
“It is hard to believe that we are in the 21st century where women are still looked down upon. The women’s voices are not heard; they cannot express their views ether politically or socially,” Matambanadzo said.
Virginia Muwanigwa, the Director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC), urged activists to fight for women’s rights until gender parity prevails in communities and fair treatment of women is achieved.
“In our societies, men must know the rights of women as well as respect them. We witness that women are always blamed in many instances and we do not accept such kinds of behaviour,” Muwanigwa said.
Pauline Gundidza, a female musician, reckons that in the music industry it is hard for female artists to break through without going through sexual violence or dressing revealingly to be noticed.
“It is hard to be in the music industry because we go through a lot to be recognised as female musicians. Men expect us to be dressed sexually so as to attract them. The society mistakes us for sisters of the night just because we are in the music industry. A lot has to be done in our society so that they will recognise us for who we are,” Gundidza said.
This year’s commemoration of International Women’s Day (Thursday, March 8) comes against the backdrop of unprecedented – global marginalisation for women’s rights, equality and justice.
Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women have captured headlines and public discourse, propelled by a rising determination for change.
In Zimbabwe too, headlines continue to depict the bad news – stories of violence against women and girls; women’s struggles for access to health and access to justice; among others – sprinkled with a more concerted media effort to tell the stories of women rising to positions of leadership and the doors beginning to crack open in various spheres.
The roots of IWD are grounded in the Socialists’ movements and protests of women workers for their labour rights. IWD was celebrated for the first time in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland where more than one million women and men attended rallies to demand women’s right to vote, to hold public office, the right to work, to vocational training and an end to discrimination on the job.
This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme is focused on the activism of women in the rural and urban areas to change their lives, a befitting tribute to the day’s history.
But the gender disparities between women in the urban and rural areas in Zimbabwe are still wide. The media stories emanating from the rural areas, where most of Zimbabwean women reside, continue to foster a narrative of women and girls who remain marginalised and on the fringes of national development.