International Women’s Day – Inspiring Change

via International Women’s Day – Inspiring Change March 6, 2014 by Hlaleleni Karanda

On the 8th of March, Zimbabwean women join women throughout the world to celebrate International women’s day under different themes. From the various themes running this year, I have selected “Inspiring Change” because it is pertinent to the situation currently prevailing in Zimbabwe.  International women’s day was first celebrated in 1911 since then the achievements of women have been acknowledged and encouraged over the years.

Change is a fundamental principle of life that happens whether planned or unplanned, welcome or unwelcome, knowingly or unknowingly. Change can be positive or negative. As the old adage goes “change is the only constant in life”. We change in appearance, we change as we mature, we change in educational achievements, and we change in perception of the world. There are many forms of change which happen in our lives sometimes we are aware of them sometimes we are not even aware that we have changed. Nonetheless, no one can stop change.

One of the themes for this year, Inspiring Change, has motivated me to write this article. The article aims to encourage women from all walks of life particularly women from Zimbabwe to aspire for change in all aspects of life. The change should focus towards resource management, politics, economy and the general direction of our country.

As women, we are involved in politics nearly every day without realising that the decisions we take are political. However, when it comes to us taking mainstream politics, we often shy away thinking we are not capable of handling the pressure which comes with the high office. In Zimbabwe we find it normal to wear attires with male faces on them as campaign regalia. We promote the very same man who will oppress us by not delivering the promises they made when we danced and ululated for them to take up positions of power. I am calling upon women of Zimbabwe to inspire each other to demand more from our politicians and to take up main stream politics.

I urge women who have made it into high positions of power not to kick away the ladder for the other women who are also trying to climb up the ladder. (There is enough room for all of us). I also recommend that women lead differently from their male counterparts by not engaging in demonising other women or treat corruption as a way of life. I ask you to inspire all women and embrace them and mentor them to rise and demand accountability from the government of the day. Pluralism managed properly brings prosperity to a country. We can inspire our own change as women of Zimbabwe and bring our country to be accountably managed and rise above all the problems we currently face. We can walk along our men and demand more from those who purport to lead us. Zimbabwe has produced high calibre women who are just waiting for that inspiration to motivate them to make the change they want in their country.

In rural Zimbabwe, women work very hard, at sometimes with children on their back to fend for their families and the rewards are very little. My call is upon all stakeholders in the country to spare a moment and think about the struggles women go through every day. Women die giving birth due to poorly manned hospitals, children mortality is affected due to lack of basic  equipment such as incubators.

Zimbabwean women are as intelligent as any other women in the world and we have what it takes to change our country and move it to a first world if we inspire each other. I yearn for the day when all women work collaboratively across our political divide and bring our knowledge and skills together and challenge the injustice which has become synonymous with our country.  I look forward to a time when high profile political leaders mentor young women in their constituencies regardless of party affiliation. This will not only inspire women to make informed choices about politics, economy and empowerment.

Recently we have seen horrible injustices committed against women such as rape, sexual assaults, manipulation, and financial abuse being perpetrated by church leaders. The suffering of one woman has a domino effect on her children and other women around her. The task of reporting often exposes her to the risk of humiliation and bullying. In Zimbabwe other forms of gender-based violence are prevalent during elections. However, after elections, there is a semblance of calm and stability in the country but the scars left by the election campaigns continue to rage in women’s hearts.

Women are left to cope with beyond belief traumas which in some cases lead to early death. These deaths are not documented as politically-occasioned as they happen after the elections. In many cases perpetrators are well known and may indeed reside near their victims. This exacerbates the trauma already experienced through humiliation and shame which is beyond measure. To make history of these kinds of injustices, I recommend women to inspire each other at different levels.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s remember those who have stood up for women’s rights and those who have scars which they are finding hard to mask. Women of Zimbabwe stand up, be counted for being the change you want. There are many unsung heroines in Zimbabwe. May we take time to remember them and give them our acknowledgement for the role they have played, inspired us, mentored us and above all shaped us over the months, years or even decades?

Zimbabwe is a signatory to The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). We need to see more measures put in place to protect the rights of women, not just cheap talk.

Hlaleleni Karanda, a Zimbabwean human rights activist living in Northern Ireland, is ZUNDE’s Regional Representative for Ireland. She can be contacted on ; or . You can also