I smile wryly as I go through my freshman (first year) photos. It is hard to believe that just two years ago, I arrived in the United States, fresh-faced and starry eyed, weighed down by suitcases, expectations and an overwhelming fear of the unknown. In my head, as well as in my diary and journal, was a clear strategy of how I would ‘attain greatness’.
It amazes me to look back and realise how drastically my interests have changed, how dramatically my intellectual aspirations have evolved and how even my fears are not the same anymore. The certainty I once had about what I wanted to see and achieve is gone, the answers replaced by more and more questions about myself and my path.
When I arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, as a freshman (first year) in August 2009, it seemed that I had already made the big leap; after all, I'd crossed an ocean and left family and friends behind. But now, I realise that I was somewhat naïve - there was so much I did not know and had to learn; the big leap was still ahead of me.
The psycho ex-girlfriend, the nagging wife, the fruit cake aunty with her bazillion cats; women get a bad rap all the time! After all, as the thinking goes, there’s always a range of extreme categories that ALL women supposedly fit into.
But none, in my opinion, has caused more controversy than the evil female boss often un-affectionately nicknamed the ‘Boss Lady’. We have seen her rear her ugly head in popular culture in movies like ‘The Devil wears Prada’ or as the ice queen herself, Wilhemina Slater, in the TV series, ‘Ugly Betty’. These women have managed to bring chills to anyone who dares imagine having to work with their likes.
For everything that we are able to enjoy now, there has been a pioneering woman brave enough to make it happen; a woman who stood up and threw off all of society’s expectations of her. As part of honouring Zimbabwean women who’ve paved the way for a better future for all of us, this feature looks at a few powerful women who’ve led the way in their areas of focus.
Hopefully, reading these women’s short bios will inspire you and remind you that there are no limits to what women can achieve!
“It’s hard being a man.”
I remember my cousin making the statement when I visited him and his wife one Sunday afternoon; I suppose he was saying it all in a joking manner, but I regret not asking him what he really meant.
I have since adopted his statement, but tweaked it a bit just to fit what I have come to realise is the truth for me. From my point of view, it's hard being a woman; especially a woman who loves a man and can’t even tell him so.
A few months ago, Barbara wrote an article for Her Zimbabwe documenting her journey into feminism and claiming her identity as a feminist. The following article is a continuation of Barbara’s journey.
Having seen too many battered women in my life – aunts, cousins, neighbours and friends – I decided that I would break the silence on domestic violence and sexual assault of women within their marriages.
When I was in Glasgow in Scotland, I worked at a centre for minority women where I saw many cases of domestic violence and was responsible for taking women out of their homes and into shelters for safety.
Her name can only be Fortunate.
After all, the life story of Fortunate Chifamba (22) tells of great suffering and even greater fortunes that have led to her overcoming dire odds as an orphaned out-of-school young woman living in rural Beitbridge.
“Kunjani okungamaSwina SisB.”
“ Vana vemuroora wangu muZvangendaba wekuBhuruwayo.”
As a little girl I often heard statements like these and others, used with such fervour and frequency by many around me; so much so that for a long time, I believed them to be normal references to either Ndebele or Shona people. This was in the 1980s, a turbulent time in the history of tribal relations in Zimbabwe, and I remember the words and images so vividly because they were more pronounced then, than at any other time in my life.
Life in the eighties was great, if not even fabulous; some of my best memories were made during this decade. The naughty nineties just never seemed to surpass, no no, couldn’t hold a candle to their predecessor. Maybe it’s the fact I was ‘born free’ after Independence was declared in 1980, or that, Michael Jackson was at his best. Maybe the world was more innocent than it is today, I don’t know, but my peers would undoubtedly agree on the fabulousness of the 1980s.
At the time, my hometown of Bulawayo was a bustling industrial town and in my opinion there seemed to be no better place to live. In my then neighbourhood of Northend, my friends and neighbours were a mix of all tribes and races. It was perfection.
About a year ago, on my now dormant blog, The Pen and I, I wrote a piece about my late father, Lawrence Tshuma, entitled ‘A Look at the Tree that Spawned the Seed’.
I had been searching for his book 'A Matter of Injustice: Law, State and the Agrarian Question in Zimbabwe'; it is out of print and I did not have a copy. I felt this very important, as this book represents an important piece of my father, and hence comes to embody something very dear to me.
“I am tired now.”
“I just want to retire.”
The tone of dejection adds poignancy to the silence between 56-year-old Majecha Tapfumaneyi’s thoughts. She looks down into her chest and for a moment, I am not sure what to say in response; her life has been long and not without struggle.
In many other countries, Majecha would probably lead a better life than she does here in Zimbabwe where she has to make a living as an airtime and snacks vendor. In many other countries, she could probably retire or receive adequate state social benefits to sustain her.
But not here, in Zimbabwe.