Where are Zimbabwean women in the news?
I spent all of last week in Harare, having been invited to go on a feminist solidarity mission with nine other South Africa feminists. Well, mostly, I am not sure one of them identifies as a feminist. Nonetheless, we will all be writing a few things and speaking in media, reflecting on the trip because it was a life-changing experience for me. Lebo Mashile has already mentioned the trip in one of her radio interviews. We’ve set up the blog here to discuss some of our impressions, so it should be live later this week. Go and take a peak.
It was very important for me to go for various reasons, not least of which were the following:
*as I watched the news coverage of the Zimbabwean negotiations, I felt a little de ja vu since the same footage of men in suits and sometimes a cowboy hat:) would be shown over and over again, as though on a loop. How many times have we seen women being locked out of processes they worked just as hard as men to make reality?;
* I know from various other African feminist forums that Zimbabwe has a very powerful and vocal women’s movement, yet there was almost complete silence in the news about all the activist energy and general experiences of women in Zimbabwe;
* the news never gives the whole picture, and as my friend and co-solidarity feminist sojourner, Gail Smith says, news channels have tended to peddle victimology stories about Zimbabwe, as though women have no agency and are doing nothing but receiving blows to the head, etc;
* it’s well and good to be informed of what is happening in the world, but generally the bulk of the media avenues fall short of providing nuanced coverage of what is happening in the world;
* I could not shake the feeling that there was much more going on than we hear on the news. How could there not be? According to the news, there are no women in Zimbabwe because they are certainly ignored except as those that occupy the sidelines;
* Che Guevara said: “si tu eres capaz de temblar de indignacion cada vez que se cometa una injusticia en cualquier parte del mundo, somos companeros”, which translates into: if you shiver with indignation whenever you know an injustice is done in the world, then we are comrades. I think we are all each other’s business;
* Sometimes the best of intentions are misguided – there certainly are enough examples of how some feminists tried to support sisters in a different part of the globe and ended up complicating the issue in unproductive ways, rather than assisting. It is important to offer the kind of sisterhood and comradeship that makes sense for those you want to link arms with in struggle. This was part of my motivation;
* I was tired of not being sure what to do except incorporate a critique of what is happening in Zimbabwe here and there when I speak, lecture, teach, write.
* Conversation matters for me – it’s a space for reflection, regrouping, strategising, support.
I lost my physical voice in Zimbabwe because I had the beginnings of a flu when we flew out of OR Tambo airport on Monday morning. But this is good in many ways, because I had gone to Harare to listen, to learn, to try to hear the difficult. Now, as I settle back and try to process all that I felt, saw, heard, learnt, wondered about, my physical voice returns slowly. I hope that my writer voice will return in ways that surprise me as I write here and elsewhere about that trip that needs to be spoken about.