Eradicating violence and discrimination against women in Zimbabwe is an arduous task that demands hands-on training and mobilization in the rural areas where the violence is most prevalent. Not by a well-meaning Western NGO, mind you, but by the women themselves.
‘Organizing young [Zimbabwean] women into representative leadership structures is key for harnessing young women’s power and ability to stand for themselves and challenge injustices,’ a recently published paper by the Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD) concludes. The organization trains and mobilizes poor young women in the political hotspot of Mashonaland Central Province, a rural area of Zimbabwe.
One example of the status of women in Zimbabwe is the extensive politically motivated violence against women in connection with elections, particularly in 2008, where men loyal to President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF systematically raped and tortured thousands of women who were supposedly active or sympathetic towards opposition parties.
But once the newsworthy images of tortured politically active women faded from sight, there has been little focus on how young Zimbabwean women are dealing with such violence and discrimination. But dealing with it they are, says Glanis Changachirere. She is the 31-years-old director of the IYWD.
‘We have inspired the young women to play active roles, taking action, and following up on the issues. And we have managed to break the silence on politically motivated violence, and raise awareness among young women on their rights and need to participate in political processes’.
According to the IYWD paper, this awareness has manifested itself in many positive ways. Ways that are not only hypothetical or serve as matters of principle, but that also reflect positively on both the self-awareness and the material conditions of the women themselves.
One example of this is the young rural women who, through an IYWD committee, challenged religious doctrines that discourage them from participating in public gatherings, by threatening the local chief and the church leaders with legal action, if they did not end this practice.
Another example is that of a IYWD-committee of young women in the provincial town of Bindura, who last week threatened to take a local council to court for failing to provide a piped water system that they has been promised.
Institute for Young Women Development has worked in partnership with Danish solidarity movement Africa Contact since 2012.
* Peter Kenworthy works with Africa Contact