“Our mothers, sisters, daughters and women broadly hold our national fabric together, leading us in ways we can never fully comprehend and appreciate. Women’s rights are human rights and they shouldn’t be begged for. As such, every day is indeed women’s day.” Dr Nkosana Moyo just said.
MATHABELAZITHA/ THE ANVIL
Hundreds of women entered and exited my space and impacted my life in sundry, inexplicable ways for half a century. I salute everyone of them. Struggling with a trademark smile and admonishing with tenderness, I could never forget my grandma Leah (uGogo unaka Hlazo) and her determined errands and daily toiling to get me fed and dressed and off to Gwakwe Primary School, always with that tiny parcel packed so lovingly into an old 2kg brown sugar thingi with samp (inkobe or igwadla) to stash away in the forest bushes for my homecoming snack.
Never have I known such a beautiful soul, wrapped in such a hard-working, tormented woman. Yet it only dawned on me so much later, what a painful stigma my grandma must have carried all her life being addressed by all and sundry as “mother of shame” for indeed that’s what “Naka Hlazo’’ means!, whatever unforgiving crime she may be deemed to have committed, birthing my beautiful auntie, Ms Shame! Hers is a window to the story of a million grandmothers out there. I salute everyone of them.
Nor could I ever forget the pained tears of my otherwise resilient queen of hearts, my strong Nguni mom, S’dani Khumalo, when she related her trauma of having had to choose between her marriage and myself, her only son… for she had left my Rhodesia Front dad and found herself remarried to a Zipra veteran of the liberation war — and there in-between the cruel liberation sandwich, was mother-and-child! Well, story for another day, but the jury is still out why they had to christen my gorgeous, courageous, amazing warrior mom, Sidanile (We are sad!). MaKhumalo’s story too is a small window into the tales of a million vivacious, yet vulnerable, proud, yet pained, and loyal, yet betrayed silent suffering mothers and humiliated heroines out there. I salute each one of them!
Nor, indeed, is my attention lost to my own chauvinist Alpha male ego and arrogance that, over years may just have robbed both society and a truly ambitious, trailblazing young bombshell and woman game-changer of her moment in the sun, of her platform to take the world head-on, to lead and shine, the best her God-gifted talents would allow her. The anxiety and guilt and the drums full of tears I will have made my beautiful, super woman endure, only for trying to make something of a decent man out of the wreck she married is a small pointer to the colossal disequilibrium so often occasioned by stereotypes of matrimony.
It is a pointer to the cemetery of stillborn dreams of millions of girl children. I salute them all! It is a pointer to the massive opportunities lost, courtesy of a warped social order and stereotyping; opportunities for effective female-drive, for a solid anchor of our shredded moral fabric, for the effortless integrity of natural, feminine stewardship and sincere servant leadership and for sound governance that issues from compassionate hearts that pursue the good of all and from the experiential wisdom of personal woman jeopardies that accompany every daughter and sistren’s life from her very first period pain!
Is it just me, frightened by the underwhelming competence of men, overwhelmed by the courageous resilience and unsung leadership of all the awesome women that ever crossed my path, and perhaps seeing the world through the biased eyes of my three angel daughters — or indeed womenfolk are naturally designed and socially constructed to make better, more efficient, more effective leaders of our troubled society?
It is the male-defined realm of power, of territory, of personal empire-building and the egocentric desire to be worshipped that has entrenched this dysfunctional culture of warlords and ethnic entitlement, of patronage, exclusion and discrimination in Zimbabwe. The male ego seed is the source and birthing of conflict and war in all history. These overly abrasive and domineering, yet miserably futile qualities are not female leadership DNA, neither can they produce sincere compassion, stewardship and servant leadership. True, a woman can be nurtured into a self-seeking warmonger and dictator par excellence, but that’s not their natural power base.
Humility and yielding rather than the pursuit of dominance are unique leadership values that defined the greatest leader of all time, Jesus Christ, and distinguish woman leadership. Love, care, empathy and the willingness to sacrifice and forgo one’s own deserved pleasure in order to bring a smile to another or indeed to others is a Godly and a feminine credential. The capacity to humble oneself, to risk all, reach out and yield completely and embrace an unknown other, a capacity so manifest even in an African woman’s attitude to marriage, is unequalled. While those male egos self-stroke and rough and ruffle feathers in families, in the churches and community institutions, our sisters, the ultimate risk-takers, dump name and dump self and use their vulnerability to nurse strangers, heal family rifts and painstakingly, to knit together enduring community bonds.
Is it any wonder that while everything run by men seems to crumble all around us, the most enduring institutions are the humblest women-led social clubs, community cell groups, women forums and simple “zibuthe” burial societies? The central role of trust and compassion, the place we accord the weakest in our society, so decisive for effective leadership, flows naturally in the veins of a woman, but it all sits most uncomfortably in most of us men.
A society so desirous of moral regeneration and effective moral leadership needs to turn its eyes to its women leaders, for it is they who are blessed with an abundance of natural moral aptitude and an inclination for ubuntu and the preservation of common humanity than the rest of us.
The confounding resilience and endurance of every woman in Africa and elsewhere seems to me to stem from the fact that life robbed and raped them from day one; that every day they go through a bitter life lecture, a refining furnace hotter than any man can withstand for an hour. Their training and preparation to lead is not unlike that of Jesus Christ himself, hunted down and persecuted from the womb… and often so is the purity of their hearts! They are “the rainbow of the clouds”.
And so, to all mothers, sisters, daughters and girls out there, to maids, to women in politics, media, civil society, in street corners as in salons, brothels and university corridors and unkind corners of the world — I salute you all. Happy International Women’s week!
l Zifiso Masiye is a management and development consultant, He writes as Balancing Rocks elsewhere on social media