Looking Beyond the 16 Days: Day #5

I have just been thinking lately while I continued in this spirit of activism against gender based violence, my mind has been struck by the fact that we have 365 days in a year and we only have 16 days to raise awareness on gender based violence. I realized that 16 days are somehow inadequate for such a cause. I know that my chauvinist and feminist colleagues may be wondering what I intend to establish by writing such ‘nonsense’.

Principally, if you look at issues of development as isolated from inclusivity, I dare say you need to recourse. On a backdrop of looking at women’s role in peace negotiations, peace building, diplomacy, decision-making, poverty reduction, universal justice, policy formulation, socio-political reform, economic recuperation among other key issues, it is quite evident that all this cannot be achieved in 16 days of activism. We need to look beyond the #16, because this is not just an episode but an entire series that needs more time and resources to achieve tangible results.

Concerns of gender-based violence have continued since 1991 when these #16Days were declared and endorsed for observation but we have had a considerable increase of these issues, meaning the #16days have not been enough to address these. Looking at period after 1991, we had a considerable number of women who were raped and tortured in the Rwandan civil war in 1994, the Kenyan violence of 2007, political violence in Zimbabwe in 2008. One may note that these were war and conflict scenarios, but does a war push people to rape others? If it doesn’t, then why has the protection of women during these times been so un-prioritised. It shows a lack of will to do so by the nations as a whole.

We also started hearing issues of human trafficking for prostitution and drug smuggling in South Africa, Nigeria and other countries by some business pimps, women were the main objects used for these deals. Boko Haram also came in with their religious expediency and manipulated young girls, depriving them of their right to education and dignity. There are a lot of issues we can relate to but in all honesty, the idea is that we need to look beyond the #16 because it is not enough. Of course there are men who have shared the same fate, as such looking beyond the #16 is a win-win for both men and women.

We need to start looking at the #16days as a starting point towards something bigger and better; as a process to making the world a safer and better place, extending to the protection of women and men. Everyday should be a lifestyle of being conscious of each other’s rights and their protection.

Education and gender justice: Consequences of structural discrimination on women and girls : Day #4

Over the years, education has proven to be a complex tool used for social, economic, psychological and political justice among other forms of course. Its evasive influence on these discourses has made it a key fundamental right that should not be looked at as a privilege. It is sad to note that, at the early stages of its evolution, it was engendered and it carried these overtones to several institutions that made women become second-class citizens across the board. In essence, it became a men and boys privilege, thus undermining the principal discourse of absolute inclusivity; that is structural discrimination right there.

It is on this background that you find that most 3rd world countries today still have about two-thirds of their women illiterate. According to a UNESCO report, in 2006, Indonesia had about 10 million out of 15 million uneducated women. This sort of thing is common knowledge to most under-developed countries and hence it is crucial to talk about education and gender justice because these are key to any profound progressive developmental agenda.

In our structures, we annihilated women and girls, engendering certain agendas and only taking them to be less humane than they really were. Today we have some of the best institutions being run by women and some of the best countries under female administration. For instance, African Union under Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is doing pretty well. When Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf started, she has been consistently doing well even though she has been allegedly enmeshed in corruption scandals. Well, my argument is that we have held ourselves hostage by holding women back at a time their efforts would have alleviated us from the abyss we helplessly wallow in today as the world…

Serious records of effects of lack of education and gender justice have shown that it is important for us to learn from what has happened elsewhere by merely practicing discrimination against women. If education and gender justice is not addressed, this may mean that the feminization of poverty will continue. In any poverty stricken country, women are the ones that suffer most because access to resources also becomes engendered. Sometimes these resources are key in women’s lives, at times, they cannot even speak out on their rights. It is common knowledge that women are a delicate genera, which should have access to all institutions, be they health, leadership, or education. Excluding women and girls in our structures and policies is actually excluding progressive development. Women are the heart of any progressive development agenda; our inclusivity and cooperation is key to a functional and just society.

ZIM GOVT SHOULD GET READY FOR A STRONG STUDENT MOVEMENT: ZINASU CHARGES

Sineke Sibanda

The Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) has challenged government to look into issues of students’ affairs or  brace for a year of students protests in the coming year.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the new national executive, incoming  President, Alister Pfunye, told journalists that the team was working on creating solidarity networks that would enable the progressive betterment of students’ lives across the country.

“We will put government to task. We are ready to pursue government so that we get our academic freedoms and exercise our rights as students. As the new leadership, we will lobby and engage the ministry of education and the ministry of Finance to support and put students at the forefront,” said Pfunye.

The new executive also decried the failure by government to consider students in the 2016 budget by allocating funds to improve the infrastructure and accommodation at tertiary institutions. The team said it is contemplating to push for a review of the budget by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

The team also said the issue of accommodation and general students’ poverty has led to a rise of sexually transmitted diseases across higher learning institutions in the country.

“We are also worried about the government’s silence on the welfare of students away from home who have resorted to engaging in sexual relations with sugar daddies (elder people) and miners who are in areas close to institutions such as Great Zimbabwe University and Midlands State University. Our recent statistics are at 6,000 for students with STIs at different institutions all over the country,” said Makomborero Haruziviishe, the new secretary General.

Despite the failure by the previous leaderships to engage the ministry of higher and tertiary education, the new leadership promised to continuously push until answers come from the government.

“We will continue to push even if they keep quiet, we will let the students speak. If they don’t listen to us, the power is in the students that elected us, that which they will desire we do to get the attention of the government, we will do,” Pfunye said.

The new leadership denounced allegations of being associated with any political party emphasizing on the fact that they are a strictly non partisan movement but a student movement pioneering the interests of all Zimbabwean tertiary students.

“I want to emphasise that we are not pushing interests of any political party, we are a student’s union with the interests of students at heart,” spokesperson Togarepi Mhetu said.

On the same note, the new president dismissed the allegations as unfounded and baseless charging that ZINASU is not aligned to any political party because the struggles faced by students are universal and they do not care whose political party card you carry.

The outgoing president, Gilbert Mtubuki, challenged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and President Mugabe to attend their elections in the future so that they can see that democracy is still alive and young people are ready to inspire government to also follow democratic tendencies.

“I sincerely wish that our senior politicians could learn from us the youth, we had our congress from 6-9 December 2015 and our elections were fair and credible as students freely expressed their democratic right and voted for a new leadership of their choice. There was no Nikuv, no rigging, the elections  were free and fair.”

The leadership which vowed to challenge the privatization of tertiary education by government while demonizing students and subjecting them to uncouth conditions is led by Alistar Pfunye of Midlands State University and Precious Manyoka of Bondolfi Teachers College (BTC) as the vice president.

Makomborero Haruzivishe of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) is the Secretary General while Wilfred Chadzima of Masvingo Teachers College (MTC) is the board’s Treasurer General. Togarepi Mhetu of MSU is the spokesperson   and the Gender Secretary is UZ’s Caroline Ganti.

Other members of the national excutive council are Thamsanqa Ndlovu of the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) ,Mellisa Museka of (BTC)  and Privilege Gandira of the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) who  is the Secretary for Legal Affairs.

Militarism: A threat to making society and education safe…: Day #3

By Sineke Sibanda

16days militarismWhile militarism is a key state institution necessary to achieve ultimate peace and stability, the way its duties are carried out is somewhat a threat to achieving safety in the home, education, which ultimately hinders peace in the world as well. Today, I want to demystify two types of militarism because in some countries, it is not just ‘war militarism’ that exist, a second type of militarism has emerged, this type is called ‘religious militarism’.

Safety in word and deed implies that ultimate state of being free from the occurrence of any risk, danger or loss. But to be quite frank, most African countries have not yet reached absolute democracy where we can talk of absolute freedom. In any case, freedom of expression is a fundamental freedom that anyone is entitled to but we can’t certainly finish counting the countries where that clause only exists in some constitutional paper; freedom of expression can be criminalized.

This reminds me of recent demonstrations that took place around the country under the hash tag #FeesMustFall. Quite a number of students in South Africa and some western countries managed to successfully pull through with these campaigns and had them yield results that somehow created safety and flexibility in their education. By achieving zero-percent increments from the proposed radical hikes was a milestone for both the boy and the girl child in some parts of South Africa.

However, I remember sadly of a tale that happened here in Zimbabwe when university student leaders decided to demonstrate against unfair treatment of girls at their institutions, lack of policy reforms and to government’s silence to address immoderate fee hikes, a heavy military hand was unleashed against them and most of the female students were detained and others heavily beaten. In essence, militarism has continued to create a docile generation of students, who are aware of the abuse of their rights still continue in silence for fear of being victimized. What hurt the most is that some of the military agents that participated in this brutal act were female as well, meaning that our governance systems still continue to divide us, especially women who need to be more united for us to achieve good results in our fight against raising the bars of equality and similar recognition for all as we avert gender-based violence. The divide and rule principle is being implemented and this is what has kept us a patriarchal society, crying about gender based violence and doing nothing about it. As long as we continue to appreciate such forms of governance (divide and rule), it will be difficult to plummet this activism into visible action.

I want to note with all honesty today that acts of militarism have kept us in abject penury while other nations progress. Our military priorities have actually annihilated the social protection and safety of men, but largely women, both in the class and society. We continue to live in fear because in seeking protection, many have met very abusive encounters of rape in DRC, Darfur, Rwanda and Bosnia, femicides, trafficking while in other countries such as Nigeria, religious militarism has claimed the lives of many innocent girls. Abductions of girls in Nigeria by the Boko Haram and similar fiascos happening elsewhere in the world being perpetrated by religious militia also needs urgent attention for us to achieve absolute peace both in the home and the world. Genital mutilation, girl-child labour, child prostitution and child marriages still remain a key part of some African societies and these actually keep our shout against gender based violence a silent one.

However, in all this mess that we are in as the world, we need to corroborate towards erecting structures that make life safer for both the girl and boy child In society, in class and everywhere else. As long as we continue to divide our efforts, our goal will be far. Lets join hands and fight gender-based violence.