via Women going the extra mile – The Zimbabwean 22 September 2015 by Farai Mabeza
Jamaican-born poet Claudia Rankineaug, talking about tennis star Serena Williams, wrote that there is a belief among some African-Americans that to defeat racism, they have to work harder, be smarter, be better. FARAI MABEZA reports.
This same view resonates in the recently launched documentary Extra Mile. Only in this case it is women who argue that to receive the same recognition as men they have to go the extra mile.
The documentary – subtitled Women Leading in Positive Nation Building – chronicles the lives of a number of female protagonists whose stories are symbolic of the fight against gender discrimination, celebrates their victories and holds them up as inspirational figures for other women and girls to emulate.
It offers intriguing insights into their histories while revealing a society that in spite of gains made over the years still clearly has a problem when it comes to gender parity. Female educators, community activists, entrepreneurs, authors, philanthropists, farmers and community builders combine to tell their compelling stories.
“Any viable nation, any nation that wants to do well economically, wants to do well socially, in any sphere, any nation that takes its development seriously must in fact involve women,” notes international consultant Pearl Kupe in the film.
In the same vein Extra Mile director Cynthia Hakutangwi, author and founder of Wholeness Incorporated, thinks women have a critical role in nation building. “Women were born with the innate ability to not only reproduce but to incubate, nourish and amplify ideas. Above all of these extraordinary attributes is the fact that they are connectors, the fabric that brings societies together,” she said.
“The objective of this documentary is to not only profile influential women who represent leadership from various walks of life but to also refute the arguments against why women should not take active part in leadership”.
Zimbabwe’s patriarchal attitudes cut across the social divide from top to bottom. Even the country’s President, Robert Mugabe, once questioned the suitability of his former deputy and rival Joice Mujuru to take over the top job because she was a woman.
Leadership development consultant Rachel Adams believes that the playing field still does not offer equal opportunities to women and she equates their battle to that fought by minorities in different societies.
“The burden of being a minority, whether it’s an ethnic minority or a racial minority or a gender minority, is that a lot of time you end up having to deal with ignorant perspectives of what you can bring to the table,” Adams said.
She lamented strong societal beliefs and stereotypes for creating huge barriers for women.
“I think people carry unconscious biases and they carry them quite deeply so with women there is always this stigmatisation, the sense that women are emotional and you can’t trust them to make hard decisions,” she said.
“There is an unspoken understanding that women have to go the extra mile,” legal expert and deputy chairperson of the Zimbabwe Anti-corruption Commission, Teresa Mugadza, weighed in.
Friends of World Vision Network chairperson, Stabile Majoni, traced her history back to her time at a rural school in Matabeleland South as a perfect example and motivating story for young girls to look up to.
Rankineaug points out that only after African Americans give 150 percent will white Americans recognise black excellence for what it is. The bar seems to be just as high for women in Zimbabwe.
“A typical African woman is one who wants to operate in a comfortable environment but I have seen women creating their own environment. You have to have a voice. You have to stand up. I have seen women create opportunities where there are no opportunities,” Majoni said.
In spite of the talk about equality women feel that even after they have occupied the space they deserve the pressure does not relent. “You almost have to prove that you are worthy to be in a space. You have to prove that you are worthy to do the things that you do,” said Mugadza.
The film title is based on chapter seven of the book Intelligent Conversations – a Mindset Shift towards a developed Africa authored by Hakutangwi. The chapter is titled “The pivotal role of Women in Africa’s development.”