Reflections on Beijing+20

Dudziro Nhengu
Posted March 13, 2015 from Zimbabwe

Dear Tifanny, Fiona, Olu, Chioma and the rest of the pulsewire team

I have been out of touch with you, and with ‘reality’ for many days on end. I am nursing a leg tissue injury from home, I slipped and fell on my door step.

Problems with my leg started a year ago when I fell and strained my back and this leg. It was at a training workshop for women leaders from the political parties, and we were training them on peace-building and conflict transformation. I had spent two full hectic months of navigating spaces and processes to bring together 30 formidable women from 3 warring political parties, women whose party ideologies did not allow them to be in one space, but whose womanhood and feminine ideals called for them to transcend these barriers and come together for a good purpose. My injury story is that of the proverbial feminist who writes passionately about self-care and placing women's bodies at the centre of organising without taking enough care to put recommendations into practice. Our organising as women is as highly political as our bodies, and unless we take good care to balance the two, the centre will not hold, and things will fall apart.

The workshop accident happened barely three full months after the July 2013 elections in my country, and hardly a year after my country adopted what can qualify as the best Constitution so far after Lancaster House. This Constitution has a number of gains for women, among them a Bill of Rights and provision for 60 reserved seats for women from 3 main political parties based on proportional representation for the next 10 years. The same Constitutions establishes a number of independent Commissions, and amongst them are the Gender Commission, the Ant-Corruption Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission. Whilst the African Union harnesses the voices of member states to demand our billions stolen by the West both in the past and in the here and now, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Zimbabwe may be the channel for bringing to book all the corrupt leaders who have built enterprises and conglomerates from looting the public's resources.

A number of gains have undoubtedly been realised in Zimbabwe since Beijing, gains that continue to make women's lives better, and gains that must be nurtured and guarded jealously. However, like many African countries, my country has not made it yet to total women’s liberation since Beijing, and neither has it achieved on all the millennium development goals. Two venomous pandemics still plague our spaces in relation to women's lives, and these are discrimination and violence against women. The two combine to yield an uglier monster, poverty. The horrific stories we continue to hear from across the continent, stories of violence against women and femicide in the homes, stories of abduction of innocent girls by militias, stories of discrimination against women at all fronts and stories of women’s poverty and deprivation are a poignant and invigorating reminder that the problem of inequality is indeed huge and far spread, and that our work to end this situation needs to be continued with more velocity and veracity. Even in countries that have done women’s rights work very well, progress remains uneven, and discrimination continues both in policy and practice.

As women development workers and activists, it is not enough to say we are disappointed that we have not achieved our goals. It is rather more practical for us to step up our actions in terms of strengthening institutions, advocating for increased funding, building stronger partnerships and enhancing accountability from our governments on delivering on gender equality commitments. There is potential for Zimbabwe and Africa to rise up to the occasion and join the rest of the world in scoring for women’s emancipation, equal rights and women’s economic empowerment, but only if we heed the advice of the AU Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security Madame Bineta Diop who has endlessly called for ".... less rhetoric and more action."

Currently Zimbabwe is aligning policies and legislation to its 2013 Constitution, and a number of women’s organisations and UN Women have been key in this process. It is not enough to have a Constitution without achieving on Constitutionalism. Constitutionalism can only be achieved when laws and policies in the country speak the same language with the Constitution, when women can access courts and freely use the same laws to claim recourse to justice and to better their lives, and when there is political willingness to finance processes that enable women to easily access justice. Development agencies, donors, civil society and the academia have potential to pool their efforts together for Constitutional literacy. Zimbabwe has a Parliamentary Women’s Caucus (WPC) in place, and another group of women from parliament, civil society and the academia called the Group of Twenty (G20). The G20 and the WPC can work hand in hand to influence effective policies for gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment, and capitalise on the near future existence of the Gender Commission to influence transformative gender sensitive policies all round. The Broad-based Women’s Economic Empowerment Framework Zimbabwe put in place a few years ago can find effective use now, especially with the presence of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET) which emphasises on social service delivery and poverty alleviation, as well as on value addition and beneficiation of locals.

On the peace and security front, although it is true that Zimbabwe has not advanced an official implementation plan for the United Nations Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR1325), the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development (MWAGCD) has over the past 6 years put in place the 4Ps Principle on Participation, Prevention, Promotion and Programmes, which recognises those practical and relevant aspects of UNRSC1325. The 4Ps have over the years made programming on promoting the prevention of violence against women and the full participation of women in all peace-building processes feasible. Zimbabwe has over the years cumulatively established anti-domestic violence committees in rural communities, women’s peace committees and peace journalists in some provinces, a gender forum at national level and a victim friendly unit in the national Zimbabwe Republic Police to deal with issues of women and child abuse in the country. The issue of shelters for abused women still remains a problem because of financial resources. The less than 5 shelters currently in place are not enough for the number of women who are abused and kicked out of their homes on a daily basis. A lot of work has also been done by some women’s organisations to impact on gender sensitive tourism and mining policies, and despite the current financial problems besetting the country, some women have managed to gain mining concessions in their own individual right. The issue of collateral for access to business loans from the banks remains a major and tricky obstacle to women’s empowerment. Very few Zimbabwean women have for over the past 135 years since the evolvement of the colonial capitalist economy been able to own property registered in their own names. Unless the playing field is leveled in the area of access to business funds for women, calling for women to stand in competition with men in the field of economic empowerment is tantamount to conniving for women's complete failure all round.

Zimbabwe deserves special mention for its gender sensitive inheritance laws now also ruling in favour of women and girl children. However, the challenge of forced child marriages still obtains, and this is mainly because of some religious beliefs, some retrogressive traditional beliefs and poverty itself. These variables are aggravated by a general lack of political will from the governors to wipe this act out because of patriarchy. In my country we call patriarchy ‘Patrick’ for easy reference and analogy when we work with rural women. They know Patrick is a man, and that men generally have the upper hand and over-exercise authority, although of course some women also rule with the hand of Patrick in certain spaces. I am sorry that I have been quite for too long, close to 22 days since my injury on the 16th of February. I feel bad, but at the same time feel glad that you have also lived the reality of what it means to be a woman positioned like me, and living in one of the so called third world countries. It means that I can be an online champion and wield as much passion for reading and writing as I can, but for as long as I am not in my work space, I may not be able to afford the expensive home internet rates, and therefore can be hit by communication paralysis. These are some of the areas we have to continuously fight for as women, affordable telephone and internet rates for all, because communication is what makes us. Access to communication technologies should not be a luxury but a right for all men and women alike. When ISIS has turned to ‘overuse’ of internet for spreading their propaganda, we as women’s rights online activists can’t afford to spend even a full day in total online black out. It’s like spending a full thousand years in jail. One day our crafty men will wake up with an announcement that all voting will be done via cell phones, and this will be a few days from Election Day, and smartly most women will be stripped of voting rights. I have sadly watched development programming downplaying the need to support the rights of women to access ICT knowledge and usage, when the AU agenda is advancing e-governance platforms towards 2063.

I really missed you guys, and am glad to express some of my vulnerabilities as your online champion as I reflect on Beijing+20. Internet for me as a woman, scholar, practitioner, online champion and writer is more than just a means of communication, it has become my reality. Internet helps me read about El Shabab and Boko Haram’s most recent attacks and how they negatively impact on possibilities for sustainable peace and security on the continent. It helps me transcend boarders and read news and stories from other countries, and also brings women’s voices from the furthest horizons right to my finger-tips.

Internet helps me learn from the best practices of other women across the globe. Where women have no access to internet, they should at least own a smart phone in every space, and maximize the benefits they can get from Whats App. I always dream of possible partnerships between women’s organisations and cell phone service providers – partnerships that can enable all rural women to own smart phones, partnerships that will enable young women social entrepreneurs to train elderly rural women on ICT usage to help them keep in touch with reality.

Just yesterday, I had the privilege to share a learning space with one formidable woman on the continent, Michelle Obama, and this was through a video clip I received via WhatsApp from my friend. In the five minute video Michelle was reclaiming her African identity, and poured gratitude after accolade for the men in her family who gave her the courage and encouragement she needed to be who she is today, yes, it was men she mentioned as partners, HeForShe. The context of her speech was the importance of both men and women to value and support the education of girl children, and also how important it is for men to involve themselves in a positive struggle for women’s empowerment alongside current gender activists and practitioners. I used to question the issue of male involvement, but of late I have realised that much as we must take the lead in feminist organising and gender equality advocacy, because we feel and know oppression better as deprived women, it can never be our job alone to advocate for recognition of women’s rights as human rights in a complete and meaningful way, without educating the men in our societies. Some of us, especially here in Africa, come from spaces where men already yield the upper hand, and whether we like it or not, they wake up with new definitions for processes and mechanisms that regulate us without our knowledge, and this is so because they have been at an advantage for long, and have learnt how to format the pipes to play their desired tunes. This is also so because it has been taken as reality for long, by both men and women alike that only men should rule, lead and abuse. We need to educate societies, men involved, on the need for a shift of mind-sets towards recognition of women’s rights as the only right and normal thing to do.

Michelle’s testimony found lots of resonance with my personal evolvement and expansion as a woman in Zimbabwe. She motivated me for the first time to take a pause, look back and admit that I can only be Zimbabwean and nothing else, and whatever wrong exists in my country must be put right, not only by others, but also by myself. I am no different from the rest of the women in my country, and in my continent. I have, like the rest of my fellow women suffered abuse at the hands of men, even some men I trusted and loved, and have many a time wished I could get the green card and relocate. However, my feminist expansion and maturity has awakened in me the need to also take formal politics head on one day, working from within to make right what I collectively with other women who share similar views, conceptualize as wrong.

Sisters, I have suffered many miseries in the hands of patriarchy you won’t even believe it, but I will share with you a tip of this-fiction-like reality iceberg. I was taught to take it as normal that at age eight I had to wake up at cock’s second crow, plod my way to the water well with my cousin who was five years older to fetch water from the community water well five hundred meters away from the homestead while my mother found her way to the fields with my grandmother for an early morning plough.

I learnt at this age to balance a 20 litre water container on my head from the well to my mother’s grass thatched kitchen, reach out for firewood in the semi-darkness of dawn, careful enough not to provoke to anger a snake’s possible searching head, light a fire by blowing the previous night’s embers with my mouth until I became addicted to early morning smoke and ashes, warm water for my elderly brother, get it to the thatch washroom and wake him up to bath while I prepared porridge for the whole family’s breakfast.

I learnt budget tricks - putting just enough sugar to make the porridge interesting to eat while stretching the 2 kilogram packet of brown sugar to last for 30 days until my father's next pay day when he would send another packet of sugar from the city 'down' to us in the rural areas via Alextuate, a local bus that plied the route between Bulawayo where my father worked and Masvingo, our rural home. I also learnt to put a bit of salt into the porridge to make it more filling and invite us to guzzle cups and cups of water down our throats to gather enough energies to walk the distance between our home and our school. My mother never explained these tricks to me, I watched her do them. I have drawn a lesson from the way my mother brought me up, that If you are a good and practical leader, you will command enough respect for your followers to emulate and imitate. I knew how to do everything fast enough so that by the time my brother was dressed up for school, I quickly served him his share of the porridge, ensured it was not too hot to burn his tongue and throat before I scooped portions of cold water to go and wash my body, change into my only sane dress, which doubled for school and for the Sunday service kwaMuneri (at the mission school), eat porridge in the manner of fast and efficient women and run like wildfire to ensure I was at the school in good time to join the other girls to sweep the classroom and dust the benches and tables before the boys who would be playing football in the playing fields and the teachers who would be standing idly and gossiping came in. We would all make a straight line, girls first and boys last, and take turns to enter the classroom fifteen minutes before our teacher came in, to settle into space and compose.

And there was Peterson Bere. I will name him without a pseudonym because child molesters, abusers, rapists and Peterson Bere must be mentioned by name. Unless we name them without fear, we may never be able to formulate befitting strategies to overthrow them. Peterson Bere would stand right at the door's entrance and require every girl to kiss him on the right cheek before settling down in class. No one dared refuse, and one by one, and without telling it even in our dreams, we would kiss Peterson Bere in turns, amidst jeers from the boys, who also helped provide a barricade for Peterson Bere from the teachers' sight. Each day after kissing Peterson Bere I wiped my lips hard on the inside of my dress, and spit all the saliva in my mouth inside that dress, and feel it slide down from my chest until it disappeared in the groove of my navel. I always thought this was the reason why I had been born with a navel turned inside that left a groove for this "Peterson Bere saliva" when my cousin Tari had a very big one that protruded above her tummy even when she wore her loose school dress.

On this particular day I chose to wake up on the wrong side of the sleeping mat. Besides bed -, no, I will not call it bed-wetting, because I slept on a reed mat, and this is the reason why Ngugi thought we should write in our local languages for effectiveness. So, besides mat-wetting, this day I did not go to fetch water from the well. I woke up an hour later, when my mother and granny had gone to the fields, and the 'prince' of the home was still snoring, waiting for me to warm his water and wake him up. I went straight to the kitchen hut, took all the water that had remained the previous night, gave myself a through body wash and left for school, without lighting the fire to cook the sweet-sour porridge. In my country these days there is so much sweet-sour sauce from the Chinese restaurant, but when you buy and taste it there is all sweetness and no sourness at all. So I went straight to school, sat on the bench while the girls swept the floors, and walked straight to the line to take turns on Peterson Bere's cheek. When my turn came I looked at his ugly face tilted heavenwards, his eyes closed in devilish pleasure style, and his mouth contorted to the left ready to receive my kiss from the right cheek. I was enraged, and with all my might I slapped him twice, right there on the right cheek. Kurangwa jumped from the queue and hit Peterson Bere with a fist right on his contorted mouth in a split, and off balance he went. To this day it is not yet clear to me why Kurangwa hit Peterson Bere, and why he was waiting for me to hit him first all along. So when we want change, it must begin with us for the likes of Kurangwa to join in. So Peterson Bere fell down, and before he woke up, and amidst shouts from my classmates, I ran straight in the direction of the headmaster's office. Back in the village we nick named the headmaster Chedumbu - Potbelly, because he looked 10 months pregnant with twins.

Chedumbu was standing at the entrance of his office, trying to make sense of the noise, and of my running. No one was pursuing me but I kept running with the velocity of a rebel, jumped straight onto Chedumbu's pot of a belly, allowing my weight to bring him tumbling down like the walls of Jericho in front of the Israelites. In trying to avoid falling down, Chedumbu landed on his tummy, and by the time the deputy headmaster came to pull me off his back as if he was pulling a sack of maize ready to be put on a donkey's back to be taken to the grinding mill, I was sitting right in the middle of Chedumbu's back, resting.

The jeers from my fellow learners increased, and other pupils and their teachers streamed out of their classrooms to watch this rare episode. My dream has always been to be bold - and by whatever means possible, and my work to overthrow and ride on patriarchy's back. This was way back before I even knew of UNSCR1325, and before the resolution itself was formulated and passed. Many years later I was to watch a movie of how J Lo 'karate-ed' her abusive partner to defeat. Non-violent strategies are good, but in spaces where violence begets violence, women need to be well equipped not only with Yoga but also with taekondo training for self defence and self protection.

The conclusion of this thriller is that I spent two weeks lying on the reed mat at home, in my granny's hut, feigning chest pains. When I later went back to the school, no one talked of Peterson Bere, and I never saw him again. I avoided Chedumbu as much as I could, until the day he called out my name to award me a hamper from Lever Brothers after my essay on teeth preservation won best prize. I had never owned a teeth brush and Colgate of my own, and was using bush methods to clean my teeth everyday on the way to school. Whatever ghost wrote for me the teeth preservation essay helped me because then I owned my first teeth brush and Colgate, and exchanged it with my cousin Tari with liberty each time our 'cleaning-teeth-demons-the-sophisticated-way' caught up with us. This is me and my childhood traumas. I tell these traumas not with a ‘sobbing negro syndrome,’ but to show how they and many more taught me to be strong and subversive by all means necessary; how they gave me courage to always seek to transcend obstacles, wisdom to see potential out of chaos and brevity to look adversity in the eye's pupil. While these traumas account for the many mistakes I have made along life’s journey – mistakes that I sometimes look back at with regret – sometimes yearning for a chance to undo them, on the other hand - the same traumas have taught me to transgress boundaries in a manner that can be celebrated. Despite these harsh realities in my childhood, I took to my books with a strange passion, and made a name for myself in the whole district’s education system from primary school to the mission school, kwaMuneri. I read my way from the vowels my mother taught me to sing each night after our home and field errands, to the letters she taught me to write on the sand during our community sacred days when we did not do fieldwork and gardening. Yes, I learnt to sing vowels and to shape letters with my second finger in the sand at my mother’s feet, and I would sing them into the darkness of the night each day, ‘a,e,I,o,u!’ – until one day my grandmother warned my mother against getting her granddaughter’s voice stolen by witches, and she claimed that she had heard an owl’s cry each time I recited the vowels.

In my village owls are associated with witches, and they provide the light when the witches go out on their night errands to bewitch sleeping people and to dig out the dead from their graves and take their flesh home to cook and eat. I will always live to remember the day my 'powerFUL' colleage pointed a finger at me and gave an example like, 'Suppose you Dudzi, were labeled a witch....' The example ceased to make sense to me the moment she said witch, because she reminded me of my village traumas and how Lydia was stoned to death at the Pungwe by the village boys during the war because she was a witch. Each time I remember this incident I switch my mind to the beautiful video on the witches of Gambanga done by one African feminist, and to Gagol's powerful chalices in King Salomon's Mines.

When I started grade 1 at our local primary school, I already knew and recited all the vowels and was the first one to get pencil and paper, and to sit on a chair and write from a desk inside the classroom while the rest of my classmates sat on the ground and wrote on the sand under a shed outside every day. One by one they took turns to join me in the classroom after passing to the teacher’s expectation, after proving that they could now write on clean white paper using a pencil. We did not have pencils and paper at home, we wrote on the sand for starters. It was economic to teach us to shape letters first on the sand because there we could delete with ease and not waste the school’s papers. We did not carry our pencils and papers home, we left everything at school for the following day. Africa was full of resources then and now, sand and land for our children to learn shaping letters on. We women must fight by all means necessary to ensure that we also have titles over this land.

In 1988, eight years after our hard won independence I read out my name with delight from the newspapers for the first time. I had gotten a placement at our local university. That marked my departure from the village, where I now only go to visit – to commune with nature and with the dead. We bury our dead behind the anthills in our homesteads' backyards, and this is where they all lie, my 4 brothers, my mum, my dad and my aunt. My journey from my village to the University of Zimbabwe was both real and metaphorical. It indeed removed me from the place whose paths and bushes I had navigated for 20 years, and in three phases, to the new wisdom of the streets of Harare.

I was born during British rule, and would navigate the paths and bushes to reach my school which was close to twenty kilometres away. I walked this distance twice every school day. I would also walk the paths through the bushes to fetch firewood, or when my mother sent me to buy fresh milk from the diary kwaMuneri – at the mission school. I always carried a 2 litre shiny kettle that my father won during inspection for smartness at his workplace. This little kettle was not won easily. My father learnt to scrub the floors of the bachelor's quarters in the kaffir residence until they shone like glass, and to polish his brown boots and brown khaki uniforms in similar manner. Ndopaiti BSAP apa.

My father was a member of the uniformed forces, and cleanliness for them was more a sign of obedience and submission to the standards set by their masters than any form of self-care. I also walked the paths through the bushes every Sunday to attend Sunday school kwaMuneri, ahead of my mother who would join me late for the main church service. This is phase one. Phase two was during the war, when in addition to the already reflected processes, I also walked the paths through the dense bushes at night in secret to attend the Pungwes.

Pungwes were night bases – spaces of contact that freedom fighters (we affectionately called them macomrades – meaning comrades) held with the villagers for 'politicisation' – to create and uphold the morale for the war of liberation and ensure that the villagers rendered as much support as possible. Before my mother left for the Pungwes with the other elders, she would ensure my brother and I were sleeping with our granny in her hut. Little did they know that out of curiosity we would also wake up and mobilise other village children our age to follow them to the Pungwe as soon as our granny started snoring. We learnt to transgress without watching the Macgyvver series, so sometimes I tend to think that the analysis that says watching television causes mischief is simplistic and a scapegoat. Patriarchy not television, causes children to be mischeivious and violent.

We survived our parents' attention most of the times, we quietly huddled behind the bushes and listened to the history of colonial conquest being enunciated by the freedom fighters. We loved these stories, we were taught to call it 'politico' - because our freedom fighters were trained in Mozambique. We would always be careful to leave the Pungwe a bit early and creep back to our sleeping place in secrecy, until one day there was so much song and dance at the Pungwe we forgot ourselves and joined those who were dancing. This is how we were spotted, and our adventurous Pungwe visits ended. It was a risky war, and little did we understand the dangers associated with it until one day the Pungwe base was bombed by helicopters and half of our villagers died. Phase three was after the war, when I walked the paths through the bush carrying my black tin trunk to the boarding school each school opening day and back to the village every school’s closing day.

My stay at the university coincided with the days of the then vibrant women’s movement in my country’s organising against restrictive laws and policies, the years when the movement saw the value of meaningful synergies with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. It was before the movement became divided along political partisanship lines, before the Ministry of Women and the women’s movement started seeing each other as leftists-and-rightists-or rightist-and-leftists-whatever-the-case-may-be. It was before the women’s movement was infiltrated by the Jesus generation that chooses to-pray-and-exorcise-all-sex-workers-out-of-their-sex-work-demons-rather-than-fight-for-their-rights-to-economic-empowerment-because-they-are-lesser-human-beings-with-erotics-demons-and-even-if-they-get-their-economic-empowerment-they-will-still-chose-to-remain-in-the-bars-where-they-snatch-our-husbands-away-from-us-because-they-have-erotics-demons. During those days the women’s movement and the Ministry of Women worked very hard, hand in hand, for a common good, and their work to today has laid up a real foundation for women’s emancipation.

Oops! I have digressed so much. This is my weakness each time I sit down to write. I digress so much, because my history is as complex and deep, and I cannot talk of one event without connecting or disconnecting it to the intricacies of the next and the former respectively. I was talking about Michelle Obama’s speech on the Whats App video clip. So Michele’s speech also enabled me to reflect on the role Zimbabwean men and women have played in my life, despite all the other rot that patriarchy has brought to me and my fellow women. I have never been ashamed to claim that yes, my roots are in Africa, and in Zimbabwe. Despite all the shaming statistics on women abuse, maternal and child mortality, poverty and deprivation, and discrimination against women, I still care about Zimbabwe’s future. I am who I am today because of the men and women who sacrificed their lives and pleasures to liberate my country from colonial discrimination. No discrimination is better than the other, and I am by no means condoning gender discrimination currently existing. What I am simply acknowledging is that it needed for Africa to firstly deal with colonial discrimination to enable us to engage today on a day today basis with various efforts to end gender discrimination and the different forms of violence against women.

Why I must say NO to some current leaders in Africa today is not because I do not want to see male leaders, no, that is beside the point, and too simplistic. I want to see egalitarian societies, where all men and women are feminists not in anatomy but at heart, loving and fighting for the emancipation of all sexes and for peaceful co-existence with equal opportunities between the sexes. So when I say no to current male leadership in Africa I simply want to set a mark for the type of men I would like to see appreciating and working with my daughters and grand-daughters as equals in future, men who will not waive the African people’s agenda to embrace foreign favors, but men who will remain principled and grounded all round for the progress of our continent even in the face of unwarranted sanctions.

Likewise when I say yes to female leadership in Africa I am not giving a nod to women with military leadership styles, women who aspire the dominance of Rhodes, the brutality of King Leopold II and the callousness of Mobutu Sese Seko. No! I am simply calling out for women who understand what it means to transcend individualism for a common good, what it means to be principled feminists, to be true to the self, to be agents for true transformation and to be their sisters’ keepers. I am simply calling out for women leaders who will push the women’s rights agenda in Africa and in Zimbabwe not only because they have to formulate work plans that fit perfectly into global work-plans for women’s rights, and not only because they have to justify spending of donor funds, but women who push the women’s liberation agenda because they have the plight of women, men and children of Zimbabwe at the centre of their hearts. Last but not least my pulse wire colleagues, is to thank you for the spaces you have created, and for making me one of the online champions despite my dissident personality and angry tone.

Thank you for appreciating that I am a product of too many processes, and that I have too many childhood and adult traumas to deal with, some of which happened only a few days ago. Truly the expansion of internet and social media usage possibilities for women through your platform has transformed and accelerated the way we reach people around the world. As women we must keep opening up spaces for more direct and innovative themes, and we must also focus on country and continent specific themes to bring value to our work.

Some few weeks ago I got feedback from the women’s peace committees UN Women has worked with under our gender peace and security project from 2012 to 2014, and was indeed mesmerized by the manner women from the community peace groups in Zimbabwe are working hand in hand with the security sector and civil society to combat violence against women and men in the communities, and to make use of the police, traditional authorities and the law to bring justice to women. If given a chance to amplify their actions via internet, these women have great potential to feed into the continental early warning units of the Southern African Development Community, and of the African Union, and in so doing enrich the early warning methodologies by ensuring that gender sensitive baselines and indicators are also brought to the fore of conflict transformation and peace-building analysis. I wish for these women fruitful partnerships that will bring smartphones to every woman’s door step to enable better communication and amplification of their grassroots initiatives.

Please allow me to apologise to you before I sign off, and I will apologise the Kansiime style. I hope you know Kansiime, a Ugandan comedian woman who rocks media spaces with her wit and talent. The last time I watched her she blocked her husband from entering the house until he apologised five times, and until he apologised from the heart, naming his sins one by one. So ladies, please, I will now apologise five times, from the heart, and naming my 'sins' one by one to you all, like Kansiime’s husband. One. I am sorry that I come from a country where internet is still an enclave for the privileged, and I can only access it easily when I am fit enough to be at work, so because of this I kept out of touch with you. Two. I am sorry that I fell and hurt my leg in 2013 because I did not exercise enough self-care, allowing work pressures to over-ride my bodily integrity. 3. I am sorry that I fell again on the 16th, because sometimes I just find myself overwhelmed. 4. I am sorry that I did not make it to CSW as envisioned because of resource problems, otherwise I would have met you and shared laughter with you. 5. I am sorry that I did not ask you for your personal phone numbers, and so I could not call you to alert you of my plight. Please, let us create and share a directory of information for all of us for future usage, so that I do not keep apologising like this, because if I keep apologising I risk turning into a male moron like Kansiinwe's hubby.

I am sending you hugs and kisses, and best Beijing+20 reflections.

Yours Truly

Comments 10

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Kim Crane
Mar 13, 2015
Mar 13, 2015

Wow! you have poured so much of yourself out here. There is so much to learn from you. I will have to come back to this later to read more deeply and respond more thoughtfully. I think it's wonderful when we share our vulnerabilities with each other and what we are up against. I think  many people will relate to your words- the challenges you have described, and your perseverance. I'm sorry to hear about your leg injury.  Thank you for your important self-care message, which we all need to be reminded! I hope you heal soon. Thank you for being who you are (especially your dissident personality!) and all that you bring to this community. (Also, I am now looking up Kansiinwe...)

Dudziro Nhengu
Mar 14, 2015
Mar 14, 2015

Hi Kim

Thank you for your comments. Please look up for her, and the name is Kansiime, from Uganda, note that I ahd made a spelling mistake in my post.


Yvette Warren
Mar 14, 2015
Mar 14, 2015

I hope to get to know you better, Dudziro, as you seem to be a most amazing woman with great gifts. Thank you for offering your insights to me as a WP sister.

Tiffany Purn
Mar 14, 2015
Mar 14, 2015

I feel like anything I would write now wouldn't adequately express my appreciation for your willingness to share yourself with us: your vulnerability (read: power)       and the complexity and depth with which you experience the world. The personal is political and the political personal. Amen to that! i also wonder what stories my body tells. What past trauma, current oppression.. And also resiliency!!!

Dudziro Nhengu
Mar 15, 2015
Mar 15, 2015

Thanks my love, I appreciate.

Tamarack Verrall
Mar 17, 2015
Mar 17, 2015

Dear Dudziro,

This morning I woke with time to look into WorldPulse to see what might be newly posted in our Leadership Group, and I was excited to see that there was a new post from you. Your words have repeatedly inspired me, and challenged me to think deeply and seriously about how to further the changes we are seeking together. Dudziro, this piece knocked my socks off!!! First of all, I do hope that you are continuing to heal, and yes, as was said well by Kim, thank you for the personal reminder that we all need to take good care of ourselves. But for someone who has been recovering, you have produced such a beautiful, powerful piece of work here. Not only is it inspiring as a description of how to carry the best of what women have done together historically into the intricately described present of what needs to be done now to continue to successes that have not yet been have shared with us the beautiful and painful, courageous and dazzlingly successful story of your life, and how you have made it so. I truly hope that your story will be published as a book that can be read all over the world, because it holds so many wise ideas, and because it is a treasure to read about you. This book, (I did feel as if I have been deep in a book that I could not put down) reminds me of a beloved sister here from the USA, Audre Lorde, who died and was widely and deeply mourned in 1992. One of her most famous books is Zami-A New Spelling of My Name. I thought about how much I learned from this book, as I learned this morning from yours. Here is a quote from her that I thought you might enjoy: 

“You cannot, you cannot use someone else’s fire. You can only use your own. And in order to do that, you must first be willing to believe that you have it.” — I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde

I hope that many have the chance to read your story. I laughed and cried, and am left with hope and determination. Thank you for your beautiful daring self. I loved the apologies.

With Love in Sisterhood,


Mar 17, 2015
Mar 17, 2015

A million hugs and much love to you dearest community champion for this awesome piece. Wow! It is one long piece, yet, the moment I started reading, I knew there was no stopping until I get to the very last word. While at it, my laptop ran out of power; and since there was power cut, I couldn't help but switch over to my phone to read the entire submission.

You have such an amazing story and I am so touched by the realities of your resilience in the face of the several traumas which you powerfully pulled through. There are so many angles to your story which unveils your strength and ability to influence change in your community and beyond.

I have gained deeper insight about key happenings around the issue of women's emancipation and empowerment in Zimbabwe; which I could readily relate to certain happenings in my country. There is so much women can continue learning from each other, as well as male allies as we press for equal opportunities across board. You have no doubt made remarkable contributions in this wise, and I wish you the very best in your future exploits.

The details about your injury made me wish I had reached out to you more often than I did. All the same, I am so happy that you are back and wish you quickest recovery. Hoping along too, that the issue of dependable access to the internet becomes a reality for everyone of us.

Together we can engender the positive change we strongly believe in. Take good care of you!

Love, Olanike.

Dudziro Nhengu
Mar 17, 2015
Mar 17, 2015

Dear Ola

Thank you for your wise comments, and for your appreciation. One love,

Dudziro Nhengu
Mar 17, 2015
Mar 17, 2015

Dear Tam

You are amazing, firstly for liking my writing, secondly for prophesying about the novel of my life which is in the making, and thridly for mentioning my name in the same vein with Audre Lorde. I feel honoured. She is infact one of my heroes.


Deb Engle
Mar 19, 2015
Mar 19, 2015

Dudzi, I hardly know where to start, as there's so much here to respond to. First, I hope your leg is healing well and quickly. Your body may be lying low for a while, but your words are a force of nature whether you're mobile or not.

In any case, I'm in awe of your writing (and am thrilled to know that you're writing a book...I, too, read this posting and felt like I was immersed in a story that I didn't want to end) and of your clarity and vision. I think this is a mark of true use all of your life experiences as fuel for change, and as connecting points with others who are looking to your vision to guide them.

I have a feeling this is a hallmark of your leadership...that you see both the practical and the visionary: The need for smartphones in the hands of every woman, for example, and a world in which all leaders are feminists at heart. I have no doubt your efforts will move us closer to that day.

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself in this post. You've opened my eyes and challenged me to think more deeply about how women can work together from different parts of the globe. I look forward to connecting more in the coming weeks!

With gratitude,