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The dilemma of the Women's Movement and Marry Chiwenga case

17 Dec 2019 at 12:52hrs | Views
One of the most outstanding character of working in the development sector is the ability to serve under a plethora of values that include, equality, equity, justice and freedom. Half he time it remains an unrewarding sector, but one driven by passion and spirit of vocation. I remember during our days at University we used to have war cry that said "injure one injure all". This was true with the labour movement that came with a social democracy ideology centred on solidarity, justice and freedom.

The coming in of the Beijing ‘95 that saw the rights of women and the gender discourse being elevated and mainstreamed to our day to day work and thinking, the world of solidarity was never the same. It became stronger. However many of the issues that requires our solidarity as a people are contextually debated. Its either the affected section of the community has to mobilise each other against an unfavourable political or economic environment which doesn't favour and protect nor encourage women participation, or its typical male dominated society where domestic violence goes unabated. Those circumstances motivate women to come together and speak truth to power with one voice in solidarity with those who cannot deal not only with individuals in their lives but also the systems that govern and allows the perpetuation of such social ills.

Zimbabwean work up one weekend to the most shocking and highly unexpected news that the wife of the Vice President was arrested by the national Anti-Corruption Commission on a plethora of charges that included externalisation of funds, misrepresentation and fraud. To those who looked at Marry Chiwenga as the wife of the VP were not really surprised given that the news of a pending divorce were already filtering into the ears of ordinary people. To achieve that through the remand prison could have been something more than what a lot of people might have bargained for.

To make circumstances even more shocking were the pace at which the charges came into the public domain, but that's a debate for another day. The purpose of this brief is that here was a young woman and a mother who happened to be married or was married to a very senior politician. Here is a mother whose young kids who never chose to be born under such an envronmnet or to such parents now have to deal with serious trauma that the mother can never explain wholely.

On the other end is the women's movement who rightfully believe in the "injure one injure all" mantra. A women's movement who have in the past stood up for the rights of women especially those abused by the who is who of male perpetrators of this world. Then enter the case of Marry Chiwenga. The most difficult question on whether to give solidarity to Marry, which in many cases must not be conditional is whether Marry was one of them or not. Does she represent a typical woman in Zimbabwe? Did she suffer as they do on a daily bases to make ends meet or when dealing with abusive husbands? That we can only wait to hear. Was she ever beaten by either riot police or municipal police for selling tomatoes along Nelson Mandela Avenue just to feed her children? No this was a well privileged Marry in the eyes of many women.

However, the state of affairs in this case requires a second thought, privileged as she might be or was. What should bring women together in this case is longer about their economic fortunes or social status, but the biological make up. Being a woman. That is the point of entry. What she might have done or not done in the past must not allow the women's movement and the nation at large to miss the fact that Marry outside the matrimonial web, she remains a daughter, a sister a mother or an aunt. How then does one choose who to stand with during these difficult moments?

The nature of our politics has made our society and its circumstances to be about black or white and no option for grey areas. Its either one is ideologically from the right or left and no space to be at the centre. One is either a friend or an outright enemy. Most of us crying more than the bereaved. How the civil society finds itself when confronted with such a dilemma is centred on such politics where women have for long been victims of our day to day politics either through violence or isolation from participation. It's a reality that our politics has instilled unimagined state of fear in communities, and justifiably so when dealing with such high profile cases, privileged women activists no matter from which type of office, would choose personal safety first or the life after the advocacy initiative.

The women's movement has collectively thrived when dealing with other issues other than those that are politically partisan. We have seen some golden silence especially when high profile divorce cases are published which point to serious unfairness on the part of the woman. These cases divide the house and opinion and ultimate result is inaction because the movement is not politically homogenous. But that inaction is in actual fact action of staying away from things that women feel will burn their fingers.

Women have always fought for equality and equity that is centred on economic justice and respect of human rights. Marry's solidarity must therefore be anchored on these principal values. Here is a young woman who like any other woman in pursuit for happiness and life satisfaction (material or emotional), chose to get into this marriage. What then happened in that marriage, is of course none of our business, but how then the State in collaboration with evidently captured quasi-State instruments like Zimbabwe Anti Corruption Commission (ZACC) to deal with a matrimonial case, must be an issue of concern for right thinking women. A divorce must just be a divorce, simple!

My two cents is persuaded to the thinking that the solidarity from women's movement to Marry must rise above maters of matrimony and highlight how Marry is a victim of the abuse of political power to settle personal scores. Marry has been once again become a tool of exposing how power dynamics can be an avenue of not only marginalisation of women's voices in Statecraft in a male dominated society, but also of silencing their legitimate voice where they lack support pillars. Marry should not walk alone! Regardless of her position and circumstances now, Marry has a right to a fair trial as an equal human. Solidarity forever!!!

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Source - Sydney Chisi
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