I RECALL the moment so vividly – we were in high school. It was a buzz of activity as we were going to have very important visitors from the government.
We scrubbed, rehearsed, chatted, got scolded, groomed and did everything possible to ensure the day was a major success. The day finally arrived and it was Honourable Joice “Teurai Ropa” Mujuru who came to talk to the community about the District Development Fund (DDF).
To my young mind, she stood there invincible, her dressing, her eloquence, her stamina, everything about this woman that day told me that a woman could be absolutely powerful. I knew that one day I would also stand at a similar podium and speak to people like she did. She looked powerful, influential and simply inspirational!
She was the epitome of a woman leading and that was just super phenomenal. What I learnt as I became a woman is that young women, girls and women who choose to lead, do well to inspire others but that journey is long, difficult and extremely dangerous.
Women and leadership journey
That high school memory stayed with me, as I became my own woman in leadership and crossed paths with women in leadership. Our stories were very similar in many ways and although the details were different, we shared similar struggles.
Ours was a struggle against a system that wanted to exclude women and felt threatened by women who dedicated their lives to speaking out and challenging the status quo.
From the times of Mbuya Nehanda to the days of my daughter challenging the powers that be from wherever she is, including her own household when she feels unsafe, unhappy and desires to raise her voice against injustice. The struggle is real. It is exhausting. It is tiring, unwinding, life-threatening, at times confusing and many times as women, we are left with no one but ourselves to keep pushing and treading on.
As women bravely put food on the table for their families, they face vicious threats to their very being.
From a violent economy that is oblivious to their cries, to a public transport system that is equally blinded to the realities of women, to partners who behave like children, political narratives that ignore to further the very rights of women and many other struggles that women face on a daily basis – it is critical to understand that the struggles women face are real.
Ours is a struggle against a system that gives men or anyone that aligns to that system power, access, control and privilege. On a daily basis, women face the brunt of being women, having to provide for themselves, including their families and also fight that very system that excludes them.
Now, back to that story of Cde Teurai Ropa – I did have a chance to meet her as an adult and heard her life story. It does resonate with the very many women whose stories I have been humbled to hear.
It does not matter who it is really, be it Madam Karenyi Kore, Honourable Oppah Muchinguri, Mai Mativenga, Everjoice Win, Mai Makandiwa, Grace Mugabe, Nasper Manyawu, Namatai Kwekweza, Aulyn Makoni, Grace Chirenje (yes, we are our own biggest cheerleaders!) or whatever name you are thinking I have not included here – yes, that very one, they are exceptional and yet still face the struggles of being a woman in leadership.
Zimbabwe has a 52,26% women population – do you know what that means? Women can come together to make a difference for Zimbabwe.
We are, as women, at the centre of making sure that we work, our families work and the country works. It may not be as conventional as this system we live in but the truth is that women are showing up every day and making ends meet.
As women go about their daily work and business, there is a secret to this success – story after story, struggle after struggle – women held hands to not only make a difference but to also support each other throughout their journeys.
The ones, who have embraced leadership fully and wholly, like Lucy Mazingi, Glanis Changachirere, Sally Dura, Judith Chiyangwa, Chipo Mtasa, Cleopatra Ndlovu, Faith Zaba – each and every one of the names of amazing women you know, they facilitate for other women to develop.
They are there making sure life works for other women in their own right. We might not agree with the women or how they do their things but the truth is, they are making a huge difference for their corners.
We can come together as women and make a difference for each other. We can stand up against abuse and fight for social justice as we come together as women to make Zimbabwe work.
Women should understand that deciding to lead and make a difference will be life-threatening and sometimes plain painful but, as we continue on this journey called life, we shall not be swayed or threatened; we shall keep pushing for the agenda of women and make sure that we leave our footprint in this sand of women’s emancipation.
We keep doing our best as women, against odds. We keep questioning our realities in a bid to make a difference.
Women, let us come together and make our solidarity work. Until then, we live, laugh and love in a bid to show the world that we were here, becoming better, making our mark, leaving our footprint as we make the world a better place!
- Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje writes in her personal capacity as a citizen of Zimbabwe. Follow her on social media for more Lifezone with Grace conversations on Twitter: @graceruvimbo; Facebook: Grace Chirenje; Instagram: @graceruvimbo.