ICAPATRUST (Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa)
Although I have much understanding of the way our society works, I am still shocked at the way Zimbabwe always finds one more brick to throw at it’s women. This is not the British or the West or the East or the South or anyone else casting stones at us. It is us as Zimbabweans: men who refuse to let their wives work.
The man refuses his spouse the right to work at a position she has attained through her own abilities. In one case the woman has been through child-bearing, or a period of child-bearing, and wants to return to work. In another the woman meets her prospective husband and marries while at work. I am truly beginning to understand what to me had been inexplicable: why many women do not want to engage with matters of women’s emancipation: the negativity one encounters is overpowering.
This was brought home to me when one of the women who assists the organisation that produces this newsletter, who, having married as a person employed in a particular position, revealed that she was pressurised to change her employment after marriage. Another woman, who sought employment as a married woman, was pressurised to end her employment.
Resistance is costly. High levels of stress compromise the health and performance of all involved. Retribution by men against women who defy is a constant threat. This retribution may take the form of the man insisting on more and more unrealistic situations that the woman and her concerned employer endeavour to satisfy. Or retribution may take the shape of abusive or threatening phone calls to the employing organisation’s staff.
Sometimes the woman acquiesces to demands that she must leave her employment. This may follow a period of absenteeism. The woman might, after being absent for a while, come to work with various indications of injury. However, she talks about a completely different ailment. The legally required doctor’s note states nothing more than that the woman must take a specific number of days off. This usually escalates in various ways.
The husband may pressurise the employee. He may make phone calls in and out of working hours to higher level employees, questioning the organisation’s right to call the employee with information. Cultural proprieties may be invoked. Legal, or other action can be threatened.
Where medical grounds are cited, the woman may present at work with a doctor’s certificate that does not specify an ailment. On questioning, whether this questioning is concerned or otherwise, the illness the woman relates may have nothing to do with observable injuries. If the woman finally leaves employment, if there are other irregularities with respect to issues such as notice, the man will challenge the organisation and threaten it.
Where the husband concerned is generally categorised as of a social class below the wife’s employer, the husband uses indirect tactics such as citing sickness that results from the employment, or citing adverse effects on the couples’ children, as a reason for the employee’s release from her employment.
Research carried out by this organisation revealed that other organisations besides WFOZ are affected in this manner. It seems as though many Zimbabweans, male and female, believe that legislation to protect the freedom of all Zimbabweans’ over the age of eighteen applies only to the men of Zimbabwe.
I differ. What do women bring to our society that would be lacking, beyond the biological? What do empowered women bring particularly? As a woman and mentor very much involved with WFOZ, I assert we are women of peace. We seek peace and prosperity for everyone. Our reports/documentaries/short films/features are evidence of our engagement for the progress of society.
IIFF 2013, as in other years, sees, acts and lives the reasons why women must engage and bring their particular power to bear in creating the societies that bring everyone forward.
This year the IIFF opening film FREESTATE pulls these issues into a new Zimbabwean dimension.
Labouring Women by TSITSI DANGAREMBGA published August 2013 ICAPATRUST (Institute of Creative Arts for Progress in Africa)