Women are full human beings too

I was brought up in a male dominated society where girls and women were largely portrayed as half humans. We considered them second class citizens despite having Joice Mujuru as our Vice President at that particular moment. Maybe this was because when a woman attains a position of power she immediately ceases being female and become one of us, male. A women with power has achieved masculinity. It was easy and safe after all for people to embrace her as the deputy president, taking into account that she was deputizing a male figure and in that sense she had maintained her class; a second class citizen.

By Tawanda Muchehiwa

I remember doing my primary education, had a bitter rival competitor, her name was Tendai. She was very intelligent and articulate. If she came first in our class I would be the second one and vice versa. Every time she did beat me, I would cry and feel so much disappointed in myself. What hurt me the most wasn’t the fact of me becoming the second best student but having lost to a girl was a double tragedy on itself. To be honest, as young as I was, it always made me feel less of a boy.

We were socialized that the suitable place for people like Tendai was in the kitchen. Yes, she belonged to the kitchens. My Daddy never allowed me and my brother to cook or do any house chores in the presence of our sisters. It was one of those jobs specifically reserved for them and Tendai’s gender. However, in the absence of my father, Mum would make us drown over and over again in the sea of the so called feminine ‘inferior’ jobs. She wanted us to be at par with our sisters.

Tendai was a product of an assertive single mother who had defied the odds and living ahead of her time. She was very intelligent but stubborn, so I heard. She had refused to become the third wife to Tendai’s father who was a filthy rich businessman to become a chartered accountant. Even though she drove big cars and owned her ‘own’ house in Harare, we always assumed Tendai’s mother led a sad life because she lacked something essential in her life; a man. A woman not married at her age is regarded as a disgrace to the family. And a man, not married at the same age is celebrated, ‘he is still enjoying his money, life begins at 40.’

I remember this historic day when she came to our poor school on a consultation day and found us ‘boys’ occupying all stools whilst all girls including Tendai were seated on the floor. She became very furious and demanded to see our headmaster over the strange sitting arrangement she had just witnessed. I don’t know what they went on to discuss with Mr. Maravanyika but what I know is that from that very day, things changed. Girls too were allowed to join the scramble for chairs on a first come first save basis. In the next few weeks Tendai’s mother donated enough chairs for everyone in our poor class, and that’s when I realized that by demanding equality we ‘boys’ had lost nothing to girls but gained humanity and level playing field.

In my own definition I believe Tendai’s mother was a feminist, I wasn’t. She was dying to see an equal society whereby males and females would be at par having equal opportunities and treatment in all spheres of life, I wasn’t. I was so ignorant about women empowerment and never had anything to do with it, after all I was a male and never a victim of gender inequality.

I never realized the importance of teaching our boys to cry when it hurts until I found myself crying and I was labelled weak and by others ‘laddish’. We grew up being told; depression and anxiety were all female diseases until I found myself watering my pillow with tears. Real tears. They cry we cry. We breathe in the same oxygen. There is no special oxygen designed for males and lesser quality for females, like I have said, we just all the same.

It’s worrisome that men keep quite when women are being tormented by the patriarchal system they’re also victims of. As humans we are hardly moved by the intensity of our colleagues’ calamities till we find ourselves directly hammered or swimming in the same problems. A problem only become problematic when it problematizes one as an individual. As long as we don’t see it as our problem it remains (their) problem and not a problem.

I never knew the gender roof was licking until it rained and my whole family was left wet in the cold. As I am narrating this part of the story, tears are rolling down my cheeks. I am a tortured soul. Troubled.

When my poor Uncle passed on, he left behind three kids, two girls and one boy. The first born was an intelligent girl at primary level. She was doing her grade six and the second born was a boy undertaking his second grade whilst the younger sister had not yet reached a school going age. As a norm in our Shona culture, my family was left with the burden of taking care of the surviving kids. A family meeting was held to come up with decisions on who was going to take care of who and my father chose the second born, a grade two boy. He was to pay school fees for him and do everything whilst no relative offered to educate my elder sister because she was a girl. They were not going to waste resources in educating a girl, who in their senses was going to fail or get impregnated before finishing school.

She was left with no choice but to drop out of school and taken to stay with an abusive aunty. Two years later my sister was robbed by some guy to flee with him to Harare. She had no choice. She agreed to the call and ran away. All doors had been shuttered before her face. No hope. In a space of few months’ news arrived home, her stomach had become full as under age as she was. The bull that had filled her up was a policeman. Family received money for damages and bride price; no warrant of arrest was issued against the child molester. Few years later she had filled his yard with kids. The family of the guy was abusive towards her. It affected her psychologically and became mentally derailed. She subsequently died but I believe if only my sister had received enough education, she could not have been manipulated that easy.

If only she was treated as a full human being, we could be talking of a different story right now. If only they had ‘not’ treated her as a commodity but a full human being with equal rights to men, this tragedy could not have befallen her. Until then, RIP my sister!

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