This is a transcription from a speech given at the official launch of International Women’s Day in Harare on Friday 6th March by the First Lady, Grace Mugabe. In this section, she broaches the subject of the video that went viral via social media late last year, of a young woman being stripped at a kombi rank for wearing a miniskirt.
While civil society publicly condemned the act months ago, there has been a long wait to get official comment from government structures. Mugabe does not sit in any ministry, however her comments – as First Lady – have been taken to represent the feedback that the general public has been waiting for from the state. Below is the full transcription;
“…[Video begins at the tail end of another discussion point]. But we are troubled by what we hear about Gender Based Violence (GBV). Where are these incidents that we hear about daily coming from?
It is painful to hear that in this day and age where we have been educated and enlightened, someone still thinks that the only way to resolve a dispute is by killing someone. I don’t think that is a good thing. Also during the time when I was away and ill, I heard that there was a woman whose clothes were ripped off her body because she was wearing a miniskirt.
We will say stop it! All those who do that must just stop it!
Those who think like that must just cease to think like this, because we all have children. We must give our children a chance to mature. We all were once children, we all once dressed in that manner. It all depends; for instance, if one is to get married today they will know how to dress, according to their status.
We cannot expect a young girl to dress like Mai Mugabe; I am the first lady and I represent all of you wherever I will be. I represent all the women of Zimbabwe, so I see it fit that when I stand in front of people to dress in a manner that will not bring shame upon you.
So when a young woman wears a dress she finds appropriate, she would have consulted with her parents and they would have agreed that their daughter can dress like that. Sometimes they may not even agree with her, but there are conventional ways of advising our children. We cannot say that when a young man sees a well dressed young woman that he likes – and he tries to ask her out and she turns him down – he should then go ahead and abuse her. That is not a good thing.
We as women have the privilege to be able to teach our children. Let’s catch them young, especially our sons. Ask them that If they have a sister, even if they may not have biological sisters they may have cousins who dress like that, if they would want them to be stripped of their clothes on the streets? Those are things that we condemn in all possible terms because we do not want our daughters to be treated in that way.
Is it not more embarrassing to strip someone and have well-wishers use pieces of clothing to cover the victim? We do not encourage such behaviour. I also heard that there was word going around saying that Mai Mugabe said we don’t want people who wear mini-skirts. No, I made reference to one person, who is in a position similar to mine.
I said when we are in front of children, we should be dressed in a respectable manner. We cannot afford to expose our thighs. As grown women, it is not permissible that we expose our thighs. As younger women, our daughters have smaller bodies. They do not have large bodies as we older women have, so they can dress as they please. Let us give our children the freedom to dress as they please.
As I have said, her time [the person’s name is not mentioned] will come and she will realise that it is no longer appropriate to dress like that, she will make the decision to change on her own. We all were once young women at some point, we did not have big bodies like we have now. But as we grow, our bodies change. Some grow bigger some grow smaller, but have we ever punished anyone because of how their body changes? We advise each other accordingly even if we see that your body has grown too big. We say ah, it’s not good for your health, you should exercise, you should lose weight because your body will create problems for you. There is no need embarrass someone, we advise each other properly.
So I would like to thank you for this occasion, I want to thank all the women of Zimbabwe. I know that whenever we are faced with challenges we pray, we should continue praying. I also thank some churches that permit females to become pastors in their churches, giving us the platform to worship the Lord, while appreciating that we are being given positions to lead. There are so many things we would like to happen to women. That is what we shall be working towards. Going forward, we shall continue from where our predecessors left off.
I know that I have assumed the role to lead the women but I know that tomorrow someone will take over and continue with the work, and that things will continue to go well for us.”
Watch the video below;