We will walk as far as we can
Feminism! We are feminists!
The term/ phrase has been both a blessing and a curse, mostly a curse. In a room full of conservatives, it is the label that defines all the other names such as “hure (whore), mvana (unmarried woman with a child), hot-headed woman, bhudhi (woman who looks like a man), too educated, women who hate men,” especially when coupled with ‘a look’ or ‘an interesting appearance’. Faced with the dilemma to out ones’ self, we choose self-preservation and remain on the sidelines, watching them make decisions on our behalf. We are not silent during this time of distant gazing and sometimes shocked at the language and the quick dismissal from human to ‘something’.
Our mind and hearts scream with anger, we are here! We are Humans!
The Masakhane project was supposed to be our bridge, it is the path we have been searching for, to reach the promised lands of equality and equity. But, is it really?
What is the Masakhane project? In Zimbabwe, it has been a lot of things. It began as just a bunch of women who were unhappy with the status quo. It morphed into the FACERs and had a growing following. Some pronounced it /ˈfeɪsə/ while some of preferred to call it the /ˈfʌkə/ for emphasis. Now it is a growing movement, simply known as the Zimbabwe Autonomy Collective (ZAC).
Movement building is an essential part of the project, which gives voice to many queer* identifying women, sex workers and women seeking abortion. That being said, as with any movement, identity politics remain an issue. To this end, ZAC continues to converse around the issues of identity. The conflict between lesbians, bisexual and queer women with the Trans* community within the movement begs the question if the movement is a movement to its understanding. How many members of the community understand why they come to together and if at all the reasons are the same and; what that means for the present situation, which tends to take one step forward and another step back in visibility, uptake of space and access to services and, the future which is influenced by the present?
In the 2019 collective processes, to develop the 2019- 2020 advocacy agenda, questions arose on whether the movement was discussing things openly and why, so much work has been done and yet, very little impact was being felt and/ or seen. Issues of gatekeeping, inability to account for resources and poor documentation practices were sited. Asking each other again, how ZAC could resolve such issues, no one could really come up with a solution. The collective further questioned itself on the reality of what it was claiming to be doing.
Hence, we are here, questioning ourselves, our capacity and our ability. We have mapped the road to Damascus but we are unsure if we will make the journey. Some of our prized donkeys (this is a metaphor for a hard worker) are getting old and moving out of the spaces. Is it enough to be young and radical with strategy? How do we harness all these resources, young and old? We are questioning how to raise our voices and claim our feminism in a way that the environment allows, in a way that all women can accept; without feeling that their morality is being attacked and finally, in a way that leaves us with choice. The dream is for all women regardless of sexual orientation to have choice but more so, ‘wayward’ women.
So, are we going nowhere slowly? We believe that, in every journey each step counts therefore, we will walk as far as we can.