How has the political crisis of the early 2000s — along with increasing violence and economic insecurity — demobilised and divided women’s organising efforts in Zimbabwe—or has it? What kinds of innovative, brave organising have emerged in Zimbabwe in a context of violence and political repression?
As Zimbabwe approaches elections, fanning fears of renewed violence, these are just some of the questions 16 women activists grappled with at The Changing Face of Women’s Activism and Feminist Action in Zimbabwe held in Harare (March 28th – 29th 2012). Convened by Hivos and JASS Southern Africa (SNA), the conversation engaged women from different generations and backgrounds to map out the story of Zimbabwean women’s activism over 30 years to generate fresh thinking and strategies for women’s movements to gain strength and navigate the volatile months and years ahead. “The creation of such spaces of critical reflection is vital to catalysing and if necessary reorientating women’s organising in Zimbabwe and the Region” said Shereen Essof, JASS SNA Regional Coordinator, “through this process, what is happening in Zimbabwe has relevance for how we think about strategies here and in the region.”
Some key lessons gleaned from the process: there’s an urgent need for a documented history of the Zimbabwean women’s movement for activists and ordinary citizens, as well as critical analysis to assess how developments in the 80s and 90s have shaped the present political moment. Going forward, JASS will collaborate with Hivos and other organisations to create much-needed safe spaces for reflection and analysis among diverse actors to re-build and support feminist movements so that they are more grounded and responsive to the fast-changing and risky situation, and strengthened by strategies for security and self-care.