JASS Blog

by JASS on September 9, 2016 at 10:29 am

By Maureen Kademaunga

The fires we light are not fires to set alight police cars, they are small cooking fires we make in our township backyards to feed the children when there's no electricity.

The fires we light are not fires to set alight our neighbor's small-time business, they are rare passions we ignite in each other to soldier on, set up vending stalls and make a living against all odds.

The fires we light are not fires to torch public buildings, they are rare passions we ignite in our little children's hearts to get up and learn something new even when we know their future stands uncertain.

The fires we light are not fires to burn our flag or bring shame to our beautiful Zimbabwe, they are small fires we put together on Jozi's street corners to keep warm while we cross the border and engage in a useful trade.

The fires we light are not fires we sit around and laugh, they are fires we sit around at a relatives funeral and mourn our dysfunctional health services and the life it purloined.

The fires we make, we the women of Zimbabwe, tell our daily story of struggle.

We are sorry Sir, if our small fires make for space for political talk that makes you uneasy.

We are deeply sorry our dear leader, if our small fires have ignited, in our people, the passion and fiery that will consume you.

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by Daysi Yamileth Flores Hernandez on September 7, 2016 at 12:32 pm

The skies wept as together we received the month of September in the town of La Esperanza, Honduras. Hundreds of visitors brought with them hearts that beat to the rhythms of their struggles, their love and the many colors of their dreams; they brought their cameras, drums, pens, and the united cry to demand once and for all: Justice for Berta!

The force and the conviction of our presence can be felt not only in this town, but in every community, in every river, in every voice, in every mountain, and even in far-off places where solidarity has grown and today comes together to remind the world that it has been #6monthswithoutJustice.

The COPINH (Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) welcomes us with open arms, and with the care and hospitality of taking us into their home without regard for where you come from or what your issue is. They know we're here to support their struggle, which is our own. They know we are honoring Berta and honoring COPINH. On arriving, beautiful images of Berta's face appear as if to say: "I'm here!"  And your soul winces because the pain of her physical absences hurts like glass cuts to the heart, but then her voice is right beside you as you read her words on a banner: "The right to be happy is very subversive and that's why we should all aspire to be happy", and you see again her broad smile, her laughter, her jokes, her dances... Her love and her passion for life are right there in front of you!

With this spirit of love—so distant from the logic of "development"—we begin today to walk together to demand a permanent halt to the Agua Zarca project, an independent commission investigation into Berta's assassination, and an end to the exploitation of Mother Earth and the persecution of those who care for her and defend her. I have my hat ready, woven proudly by the women of La Cuchilla, a township declared mining-free, who like all the women in these parts have come here today to demand Justice for Berta!

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by JASS on August 14, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Ahoy macomrades Ahoy.

This was the call to action on June 13 as hundreds of Zimbabweans converged in the nation’s capital at the Harare Magistrates Court to support the release of Pastor Evans Mawarire who had been charged for “inciting” violence through what we have now come to know as the #ThisFlag campaign. Among those leading this rallying call was 31-year-old political activist and student, Maureen Kademaunga. Maureen is one of the many Zimbabwean women who have been vocal about the impacts of the ongoing economic instability in Zimbabwe. She stood and negotiated with the police, calling them to action every 30 minutes to give an update on what was taking place in the court room. Holding their Zimbabwean flags, women and men from all walks of life sang, danced and prayed into the night as they waited to hear the verdict. Around 8pm, the charges against Pastor Mawarire were dismissed.

How did we get to this moment of frustration and hope? Let’s rewind.

Zimbabwe is on its Knees

We find ourselves in a crisis. There are no jobs. There is no cash. Basically everything is a problem.” – Mai Sputi

Mai Sputi’s sentiment is shared by many and protest movements such as #ThisFlag, #Tajamuka, #OccupyAfricaUnitySquare, and #beatthepot have emerged because citizens have had enough.

Over the past 20 years, Zimbabwe has been experiencing political and economic upheaval. These include: a deteriorating health system, corrupt government officials, a decaying educational system, lack of revenue to pay civil servants, increased militarization, introduction of statutory instruments banning the import of certain goods perceived as locally produced, regardless of a defunct manufacturing sector. More recently, due to looming cash shortages—now a daily reality—the Reserve Bank Governor announced the introduction of bond notes, legal tender that can only be used in Zimbabwe.

Women are Bearing the Brunt

“We are hungry and we need food,” has become a mantra that is chanted every day in Zimbabwe. Women are among the most affected, but due to different socio-economic backgrounds, the brunt is experienced differently. For example, the cash crisis has seen escalated violence among sex workers and between sex workers and their clients. “Sister Winnet, I am so desperate, these days I am accepting clients who pay even if they refuse to put on a condom,” expressed Jane*

Women who survive through cross-border trading have also been affected by the introduction of the importation ban. This ban. which was introduced using statutory instrument number 64 of 2016, prohibits the importation of specific basic commodities such as food (cereals, baked beans, peanut butter etc.) without licenses. Mai Nzuma a cross-border trader lamented, “women are the ones who are mostly affected by the ban on importation of goods. Most women who are widows, single parents and married have been sustaining their families using proceeds from cross-border trading, but now how [will we] sustain [our] families?”

Women are also part of the Struggle

Women are adding their voices to the different campaigns and protests that have erupted throughout Zimbabwe in many ways, including on social media.

Maureen Kademaunga has participated in dialogues calling for Zimbabweans to think about a transitional government led by bureaucrats as a solution to the problems we currently face. She believes that a transitional government that can be in power for at least two years will help stabilize things as people prepare for an election.

Linda Masarira, a single mother of five who is currently awaiting trial, is one of the few people who occupied Africa Unity Square in Harare for 16 days, demanding for the government to step down and address the issues affecting the nation.

Lawyers such as Fadzayi Mahere and Lucy Chivasa have been offering their personal time by writing on the legality of some of the issues affecting Zimbabwe, such as the call to introduce bond notes.

More recently women gathered to show their frustration through beating pots – a symbol of the hunger facing the nation. The #beatthepots protest which was held in Zimbabwe’s 2nd largest city, Bulawayo has received its fair share of backlash for reinforcing stereotypes about women and their place in the home, particularly their role in cooking and taking care of the family.

However, it is critical to honor and celebrate the many women who have been speaking out, taking a stand and equally putting their lives and those of their loved ones at risk in the process.

Now What?

In the wake of the protest movements in Zimbabwe, the question that many keep asking is, now what? In one of her Facebook posts, Advocate Fadzayi Mahere notes that the even if the #ThisFlag movement does not culminate into anything more, it has managed to shift citizen apathy. Citizens in Zimbabwe are speaking, they have realized the power they have—power to voice and challenge. And that is important.

For feminist activist Rudo Chigudu, while the different protest movements have opened up space to break citizen apathy, they are also problematic. For example, the very foundation of #ThisFlag which is the national flag is a symbol of nationalism and nationalism is one of the greatest sites of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism. “…When we look at the #ThisFlag campaign for example, the national flag is our rallying point, we are all seen as equal citizens of this country, however, women and men are expected to uphold national norms that are very gendered. In a nationalist discourse, women are seen as child bearers and uphold a certain moral standard, while men are expected to be strong and take leadership. I am therefore concerned about how the #ThisFlag movement reflects the needs of women and many other marginalized groups of people” explains Rudo.

Having spoken to many women and also through following social media updates by various women, Rudo’s analysis left me thinking about this moment. Like many other Zimbabweans, I got caught up in the frenzy of the moment, the power I had to voice issues from my perspective, but I am left with a deep desire to stir conversation and thinking that allows for a movement that addresses my needs as a woman, and the needs of many other marginalized groups. And more importantly, a movement that challenges power and questions the many systems of oppression.

*Jane not her real name. Real name concealed for her privacy.

This blog was written by Winnet Shamuyarira

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