All over the world women are marking their right to equal and prominent opportunities. Zimbabwean women have likewise, through the most recent decades, pushed their way through the job market and a few have fought and attained ranks in leadership. Despite this, there is a shadow that follows many of these achievers, deeming them as bitter and unworthy, for not being married. These women are constantly belittled and shamelessly questioned about when exactly they plan on getting married.
While education has become accessible to more girls, children are not only raised by what we tell them, they create biases based on what they see and experience. Focus is still primarily on their " home making" skills. Little girls are reminded at every burnt or unpleasant meal, that their future husbands will return them and embarrass the family. Before these girls can even begin to imagine what a sexual relationship entails, their young bodies are stretched and deformed through genital mutilation, in preparation for this "coming husband". Because sex education remains a taboo discussion, these girls are left to make up their own minds about what this means.
Universities are a hub for destruction, with male lecturers exchanging pass marks for sexual favours. After graduation, as if to remind these girls of their non- achievement, families and societies encourage young women to marry before embarking on a post graduate study, that would only leave them old and unapproachable. Trusting in the advice of loved and expectedly wiser ones, they embark on a mission to finally have a recognized achievement. Making them susceptible to the giles of the surge of "men of God" and prophets, who still abuse these these girls' desperation, promising to link them to their " Adam". In a further surrender to societies expectations, most of these women soon after marriage, or with the birth of children, stop working or any other personal development.
Divorce rates in Zimbabwe have remained stagnant, on paper. On the ground, many more couples are estranged. So on the contrary to admirable statistics, women are left alone with children, while they reject a divorce, because she was raised to believe marriage is the highest achievement, her worth has been equated to her marriage; as opposed to men who will only not comply with a divorce either because he feels a sense of ownership based on Lobola payment or because he feels he has too much to lose financially in splitting assets.
Many will argue that women are biologically wired to link their self image to their relationships. According to Fascinating Secrets of Womanhood by Helen B. Andeline, a woman is most productive and admirable, staying home, doing small jobs that do not outshine her husband's, remaining dependent and childlike in nature. I used to love this book and to a certain extent, I still do, because it is the perfect example of the stereotypical helpless woman.
Following the advice given in that book, can surely give results of a happier ego- stroked partner but the one thing the book acknowledges inability to do, is to change a man's infidelity. Thus, if a meek and dependent woman, lands up, by virtue of a promiscuous husband, with complicated health and or widowed with children, where does she start from? Despite the law, in laws are still throwing women out of their homes and claiming rights over property, following death of their husbands, maximizing on their vulnerability in a period of mourning. Some of these women have unutilized education, some have incomplete education and no skills, alike in their alienation from the reality of the need for every woman to be productive and self sufficient. After 20 years of investing and experience in marriage, all that is open to these women are jobs as cleaners, baby sitters, by luck, cooks, none of which can sustain a woman and her family in the harsh Zimbabwean economy. For some rushing into another marriage or abusive relationship to survive becomes their exit plan. We need more role model mothers, who dream beyond a marriage. It is our responsibility to give more praise to other women's achievements and create a world where all women reach their highest ability, beyond the words we say and to stop asking other women when they are going to get married, as if their worth is solely based on the presence of an Alpha male in their lives.
Further reading : https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/07/widowed-left-nothing