Rumbi, please tell us a bit about yourself.
First I am child of God, a phenomenal woman, beautiful inside and out, fearfully and wonderfully made. Second, I am a daughter, sister to my two brothers and three sisters, relative to many, friend to my friends (I hope), a colleague to some and an acquaintance to others.
I am a lawyer so I am a jack of all trades and a master of everything, or at least I like to believe I am. As you know, the law governs every aspect of life and so in my line of work you are expected to know everything.
However to be frank and honest with myself, I do not know half the things people think I do. What I know and what I truly am is that I am a human rights lawyer. Defending the defenceless and raising the voice of the voiceless is my life calling. I believe God made me solely for that purpose and I am doing all I can to fulfil it.
I am an arts lover – music, theatre, dance, poetry you name it. I am an adventurer, I travelled to Mara Matruh close to the Egyptian border with Libya a few days before Ghadaffi's fall because I had been told they had the most amazing beaches there on the Mediterranean coast. It was crazy but it was fun.
What was it like being a Zimbabwean in Egypt at the height of the Revolution?
Oh it was the most exhilarating experience of my life. It was absolutely phenomenal being part of that amazing time in our history as humankind. One can never understand the spirit, power and rhythm of a Revolution unless they are right in the midst of it.
Standing in Tahrir Square with the Egyptian revolutionaries was humbling. Seeing and feeling the unity of purpose, across political and religious divides made me wish my own people in Zimbabwe could desert their polarisation along party affiliation and work together towards building a better, bigger and prosperous Zimbabwe.
The zeal amongst the youths, especially to determine their own future by agitating for democratic transformations was quite impressive for me, given that most Zimbabwean youths do not display the level of political consciousness to see themselves developing their nation outside party lines.
I must admit it was also scary because there were days when suddenly the mood in Tahrir would turn violent. I had to pass through Tahrir each day to and from work so on days when it was really hostile, I had to stay at home.
Also the Revolution created a void in the security situation with the police withdrawing from public spaces. Crime increased significantly. I remember I was groped by a taxi driver on my first day in Cairo. I was stalked by some guy on my way to work in the first few days and I was robbed in my last days and never recovered my purse, money and other things. That was a big challenge – security.
The racism, the insecurity, the unusual weather patterns and the general political climate were a bit disturbing from time to time but I feel privileged to have been part of the Egyptian Revolution.
A packed Tahrir Square. (Courtesy www.democracyreview.com).
You run your own blog. What is it about and why?
My blog is about the hopes and fears of living in this world. It captures the sorrows, trials, pains and suffering of human beings at the hands of fellow human beings. My blog is a call for justice.
That is why you will find I cover a broad range of topics castigating injustices such as patriarchy, torture, violence against women, human trafficking, forced displacement, war and political tyranny.
The why of your question, takes me back to the ‘who am I’ question. My blog is about defending the defenceless through making the world understand their plight and hopefully supporting their causes, be they women subjected to sexual slavery, refugees ostracised in their host countries, or Palestinians fighting for self determination.
Throughout the month of January, you ran a series of features on your blog, entitled the Feminist Chronicles, which documented the achievements and efforts of 30 Zimbabwean women activists. Why did you decide to do the Chronicles?
For the simple reason that no one had done it before. Or maybe I should say, I had not come across anything of the sort before. I mean, look at all the amazing women we have in our midst, the achievements they have enjoyed despite the myriad challenges they face.
Zimbabwean women endure economic challenges, the patriarchal nature of our society, political violence and marginalisation in decision making processes from the household to the state levels yet they have surpassed it all. I just felt these women deserved to be honoured, and my effort through the Chronicles, covered ground in achieving that, albeit small.
The 30 are just a representative sample of the whole.
How hard or easy were the Chronicles to do?
It was one of the hardest things I have had to do. When I started, I thought it would be easy but getting all the information was tough. I had to read stories, articles, journals written by and about these women; these were not easy to find. I needed reliable internet access and you know how hard it is to find such in Zimbabwe.
I remember for one of my Sunday postings, I had to attend a church service that I had not planned to attend because my modem was not working. I went into town and the internet cafés were closed. The one that opened earliest was next to this hall where they had a church service. So I got in there, prayed for a good 2 hours and when the internet café opened, I hurriedly posted my Chronicle and went back home to my usual church and attended the 3 hour service as well.
I constantly had to negotiate time to write the Chronicles between my full time job, my ongoing training in a new media programme, my social life (which was pretty much non-existent for those 30 days). Admittedly for the month of January, I ate, lived and breathed the Chronicles.
Rumbi’s Feminist Chronicle of Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Which Chronicle was the most interesting for you? And why?
Ivy Kombo was the most interesting Chronicle. She represents the condemned woman in Zimbabwe, condemned by culture, condemned by religion, condemned by natural law and order because she did the unimaginable – marrying her foster father and causing his divorce with his wife, her foster mother.
My point was to say yes, she may be wrong; but why does society give more weight to her transgression than they would to a man if he were to do a similar deed. Is it because she is a woman and if so then morals, religion and culture discriminate against women and should be changed.
What was your criteria for choosing the women?
Oh, there was no criteria really. Some of the women I know personally and have experienced how awesome they are. Others were pretty much nonentities in Zimbabwean history until I wrote about them because no one had ever bothered to give a voice to their amazing contributions and capabilities.
Altogether my idea was for these women to paint a wholesome picture of the diversity, beauty, brains, strength, power and innovativeness of Zimbabwean women.
You chose a mix of women across different fields, but you also brought in the accomplishments of younger women such as NoViolet Bulawayo and Delta Milayo Ndou, which is rare and refreshing. What made you go this route?
As I said in my feature on Fungai Machirori, Zimbabwean women can only continue to excel and the women's struggle can only stay alive if there is a deliberate effort by older women to groom and impart their skills and knowledge to younger women.
There is need for synergy between the old and the new and the profiles of the younger women were meant to show that we have capable young women in our midst, who will be the future leaders. So, the older women, who will certainly not be part of the indefinite future must not maintain a tight grip on their know-how. They should share with the young, collaborate with them, mentor them so that the baton will not be dropped and the race for women's empowerment continues.
These features of young women also serve as brilliant examples to the toddlers and teenagers out there that age is nothing but a number for focused, determined women. Women like Delta and NoViolet have already achieved so much in their youth.
Do you think that Zimbabwean women celebrate themselves enough? Why?
Zimbabwean women do not celebrate themselves nearly enough. I cannot decide whether it is out of a sense of humility or more out of fear of how others will perceive their actions. Zimbabwean women need to support each other more, show pride in each other's achievements and discard the backbiting, and selfish culture that I sometimes see in the women's movement.
What is your hope for Zimbabwe’s women’s movement?
Unity of purpose and a focus on representing women's views as the women themselves wish to be represented – that is my hope. Women in Zimbabwe make up the majority of citizens, yet we allow ourselves to be divided, succumb to petty jealousies, put each other down, look down upon each other and what the next person is capable of doing.
I can see why what we want is not what we have.
Together, supporting each other, refusing to be polarised for any reason we can rule Zimbabwe and command it to give us social justice, economic advancement, political stability and a GOOD LIFE.