The Right to Make One’s Own Choices

Nobuhle Moyo

I feel like I have choices, like whether or not I want to bear children. Feminism has allowed me to think that there’s more than doing what you’re ‘supposed’ to do — you have a right to choose.” 

As the youngest in a family of three daughters and one son, Nobuhle first experienced the injustice of gender inequality and patriarchy at home. She saw how differently her parents treated her and her sisters in comparison to her brother. For women, marriage becomes the most you can accomplish. “Our parents said, as girls, you are just bystanders in life, you will eventually go to your husbands.”

My clan values boys. For girls, everything stops when you turn sixteen or so, they say that it’s then time to get married and have children. And if you want something more for yourself than marriage, you are going against the norm.”

Nobuhle witnessed women in her own family living in abusive marriages and was struck by the realization that as a girl, she didn’t count. “I remember a time when I tried to intervene…I was pushed away. It is like you don’t have any power.”

Like many women activists, Nobuhle sees how her experience made her who she is and why she became an advocate for women’s rights. “It made me feel like I had to do something for other women out there who are abused.” Nobuhle channels her passion for women’s rights as a Program Officer at Musasa, an organization that addresses the multi-faceted violence women experience in Zimbabwe.

In the rural district of Buhera, Musasa carries out workshops and community dialogues that empower women by allowing them to share stories about the violence and stigma they experience, and share strategies to improve their lives. With the support of one another, these women use their collective power to engage traditional leaders and defy the status quo and cultural practices that limit their rights, and access to land, livelihoods and other critical resources. Through Musasa’s peace clubs, women meet and organize to address violence in their communities and homes.

One of the biggest issues we see is that of land and inheritance claims. There was a man with two wives who decided that he would give all of his property to one wife and not the first wife. The members of the peace club came together and accompanied the first wife to traditional court. Eventually, the chief’s representative agreed that the property would be divided equally between those wives. This example is just one of many, and it shows how these clubs are community-owned and community-driven. Women want to bring change to their own lives, their families, their villages.”

For Nobuhle, the work she does at Musasa is just one part of her commitment to creating “safe spaces for women, to give them hope” in a context where opportunities to do so are often limited.

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