Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe. President Mugabe will stand for reelection on March 29, 2008.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Zimbabwe last weekend joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate womanhood.
The day, as is the case with most of these calendar events, was characterised by pomp and fanfare. Commemorations were held and speeches delivered.
In fact, organisations jostled throughout the past two weeks to make sure their speeches read better and that their commemorations stood out.
However, away in some home, a woman sat, mired in poverty and hardship, not even aware that somewhere, women were being celebrated.
Away in some place, a woman sat, unable to access basic health care.
She had just been told that to deliver her unborn child, she now needed to pay her gynaecologist $1, 5 Billion and the hospital a further $6 Billion, which left her clueless.
Somewhere else, another woman was failing to demand that she be protected from HIV.
Negotiating for condom use is something that she just could not do even though her partner had been unfaithful several times.
Another one, living with HIV and on treatment, sat there pondering her fate dejectedly for the cost of Anti-retroviral drugs has since gone beyond $1 billion, money many Zimbabweans today are not taking home.
Some kilometers away, another woman lay battered and bruised after being subjected to yet another round of beatings by the man she lives with while another sat wondering just how she was supposed to afford sanitary ware when the price had become so ridiculous.
For these women and the millions more they represent across the country- March 8 was just another day.
Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service Executive Director Mrs. Lois Chingandu, in her statement to commemorate the event, said while governments had made promises and commitments to protect women in recent years; it was time to walk the talk.
The promises and commitments need to be fulfilled and the time to do it is now.
"Most governments have promised and committed to ensuring the rights of women and girls through legal frameworks of international human rights but the feminization of the AIDS epidemic and the fact that poverty has the face of a woman are all clear evidence of the failures of government efforts to meaningfully deliver on the promises.
"Gender inequality, violence against women, multiple concurrent partnerships and poverty are critical drivers of the epidemic," she said.
Yes some gains have been recorded as evidenced by the fact that some Zimbabwean and African women have now tasted what freedom is (they have the vote, they can work side by side with their male colleagues and they can own property) , while a few more now possess some basic information about HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support as evidenced by the growing numbers of women who are going to test for HIV and who are going through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programmes countrywide so that they do not pass HIV onto their babies.
The country last year also enacted the Domestic Violence Bill, which means all GBV incidences are now punishable by law. As we all know however, having laws in place that are not fully implemented is futile.
If the women who the Act is meant to protect are not even aware that there is a law that protects them: what is the point?
If the women who are supposed to be protected by the law are still dying because they cannot access AIDS drugs, who then is the law for?
The United Nations theme of "Investing in women and Girls", a noble thing but how many women’s projects are being financed, how many women have been empowered to not only "raise two chickens" and sew uniforms but to become heads of corporations and organisations that drive industries and employ hundreds, if not thousands of people?
Today many girls are dropping out of school, reversing the gains that education had brought with it to this and many other countries.
Over the years educating the girl child had always paid off as an educated woman over the years has meant a mother of the nation who knows the importance of educating her own children.
It automatically meant a mother of the nation who knew the importance of her own reproductive health and the heath and education of her children.
Economic challenges today have forced many women into positions of risk and danger.
It is high time that women demand what is theirs to demand- the right to basic human rights, the right to healthcare and the right to live full and productive lives.
If an ante-natal visit for a pregnant woman costs $200 million, have the women’s rights been upheld, if giving birth by caesarean costs $10 billion for a woman, are we observing the woman’s rights?
If a woman cannot afford to get a sexually transmitted infection treated or even get a routine blood test- are we allowing her the freedom to enjoy her life?
If a woman is being forced to sleep with someone to put food on her family’s table- what women’s day can we celebrate?
If women are still being inherited whether they wish or not- are they being allowed their rights?
If women living with disabilities are failing to fully become integrated into society- can we afford to just make speeches?
It is high time that women all over Zimbabwe challenged the notion that a woman’s place is in the kitchen and bedroom as some subscribe to.
Indeed a woman’s place is right there at the top of the ladder, alongside those who formulate policies, alongside those who run economies, and who make decisions.
It is high time women in this country refuse to leave the decision to have protected sex in the hands of someone else.
Some ladies responded to last week’s piece saying the reason why women shoot themselves in the foot by staying in abusive relationships is because of economic dependence.
True, but are we going to accept that as our fate and not invade the boardrooms? Are we going to sit still and wait for someone to feed us?
Is this how all our parents have raised us, to wait for someone else to do something for us even if it has deadly consequences like our deaths or injury?
I refuse to accept that and cannot wait for the day when a lot more of us also do not accept it.
Only then can we pat each other on the back and say "Happy Women’s Day."
For now let us re-energise and gear for the fight for it is far from won, let us continue to fight for our rights and the rights of those that cannot speak for themselves.
(Let us remember today Gladys Charova, who passed away last week. She was the director of the Disabled Women Support Organisation. May her soul rest in peace.)
-Beatrice Tonhodzayi works as a Programme Officer-Media with Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS) E-mail your comments and contributions to her at email@example.com
Reggae, dancehall community mourns Jah B
By Costa Mano
The reggae and dancehall community in Zimbabwe is mourning the death of Billiard Sinclair, who was passionately known as Jah B.
Jah B, who was 65, died at his Belvedere home on Monday morning after a heart failure and was laid to rest at the Warren Hills Cemetery on Wednesday.
Jah B, who left his homeland in Jamaica to come and juggle vinyl in Zimbabwe, is survived by his wife and five children.
Johannes Kurewa, who has been managing Jah B’s Stereo One sound, said the reggae and dancehall fraternity had lost a legend.
"We have lost a man of principle, a dedicated man who always put his fans and the business ahead of his personal feelings.
"He was a dancehall icon and a hero who has left a legacy. Nothing shall destroy that legacy as it’s built on grassroots support and that support shall carry us through," said Johannes.
The death of Jah B created a huge void in the country’s dancehall scene that had grown to higher levels with his involvement –Zimbabwe arguably has the best dancehall scene in Africa.
Born in Jamaica in 1953, Jah B embraced the reggae culture like many Jamaicans.
He then moved to the United Kingdom with his family where he developed his skills before settling in Zimbabwe in 1982.
The only big voice in reggae then was Dennis Wilson but the man who was to transform urban youth culture had just arrived.
He and his Africa A1 posse invaded Highfield and Mbare and the places that would become the focal points for the youths were Zimbabwe Hall and Y Dub Centre.
Jah B’s stature had over the years gained the mythical, he was the reggae dancehall Godfather for his nurturing instincts and ability to read a crowd and transcend generations.
Armed with rare 45s and 12inches, Jah B was a "wicked" selector who soon attracted the attention of aspiring MCs.
These included the likes of the great Dadz, Daddy Easy, Culture T, Madd Minnox, Edi Muffin, Major E and many more.
"After Africa A1 the sound’s name changed to Level Vibes before changing to Stereo Graph which was later turned to Stereo One.
"In 1995 we finally got a contract at Rumours Nightclub, which played funky music, but we turned it into the Agony Centre.
"We played briefly at Turtles before moving to the Tube which was now known as the Fire Centre," said Johannes.
Jah B’s arrival at the Agony Centre provided a stage for launching Major E’s toasting career.
Many sound systems have come and gone but Stereo One has remained the point of reference for many sounds.
He was the undisputed champion selector and many sounds will testify to the taste of defeat at the hands of Jah B.
Some foreign sounds including the England based Saxon were surprised at the bashing at selection they received.
"The future is a challenge but it’s there, the road has been set for us, we are not going to take a back sit. We shall continue walking the road that he built for us.
"The dancehall fraternity will feel his absence but we shall carry through the good legacy he left us," added Johannes.
A legend is gone!
16/03/2008 01:21 LONDON, March 16 (AFP)
Britain to expel up to 1,000 Zimbabweans: report
Britain is preparing to expel hundreds of failed asylum-seekers back to Zimbabwe because the government believes they are at no "general risk" in their home country, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The Independent on Sunday said the mass programme of deportations could affect more than 1,000 Zimbabweans who have enjoyed protection under a moratorium on deportations.
The paper quotes from letters it says were sent by the Home Office, or interior ministry, this week encouraging people to leave the country voluntarily because they are at "no general risk".
One of the letters says: "Your claim for asylum has been refused... I am now writing to make sure that you know that the Border and Immigration Agency is expecting shortly to be able to enforce returns to Zimbabwe.
"The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has now found that there is no general risk on return for failed asylum-seekers."
The report quoted support groups for asylum-seekers saying the change of policy follows a court ruling in 2006 that paved the way for mass deportations.
About 500 failed asylum-seekers living in the northwest of England will be the first to be targeted. There are a total of 7,000 Zimbabwean asylum-seekers in Britain.
Beatrice Masina, a 26-year-old Zimbabwean who received a Home Office letter this week, told the Independent on Sunday she feared for her life and for that of her seven-month-old baby if they are sent back to Zimbabwe.
Masina, a supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said she was raped and beaten by a gang of militia from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party in 2003 before fleeing to Britain.
"If [ZANU-PF] know I'm back they might attack me again, and I might be killed," she told the newspaper.
"I'm scared my baby would not survive the persecution. They [the Home Office] are being very unfair. I don't think they're looking at the dangers I'll face."
A spokesman for the Home Office's Border and Immigration Agency told the newspaper: "The Home Office had agreed at a High Court hearing on 26 September, 2006, to defer the enforced removal of failed asylum-seekers to Zimbabwe pending the outcome of the country guidance litigation... We expect to be in a position to resume enforced returns of failed asylum-seekers to Zimbabwe very shortly."