Bio: Executive Director, Padare/Enkundleni Men's Forum on Gender in Harare, Zimbabwe
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1. How are women working for gender equality in Zimbabwe? We have a very strong women’s movement in Zimbabwe. We have the Women and AIDS Support Network. We have the Campaign for Female Education, an organization doing wonderful work giving grants to girls so that they stay in school. We have another organization that deals with violence against women; there are no government-provided shelters for battered women in Zimbabwe. There are organizations for young women, for women in rural communities—I could go on and on.
2. “Padare” and “Enkundleni” mean “meeting place” in Zimbabwe’s Shona and Ndebele languages. What does Padare work to do? We are not bringing a new agenda to the table; we are saying, let’s look at all of these women’s organizations and the issues they’re bringing—violence against women, access to education, access to reproductive health, HIV and AIDS. What can men do? Perpetrators of violence against women are men. Men can make a personal commitment of not being violent against their partners. That’s a political statement, but from a very personal perspective. So the feminist slogan that “the personal is political” is equally applicable to men.
3. What else can men do? Statistics now indicate very clearly that women in marriage might not be able to negotiate safe sex; they are at risk of HIV and AIDS. What if married men take a personal commitment of promoting their own health and their partner’s? One of the national campaigns was saying: Let’s keep mothers alive and ensure zero infection of unborn babies. But we also need to keep men alive to support their families.
Men should look at how they use the power that they have in the home, in the community where they are leaders, and at the national level. How are we using that position? For instance, can pastors, one Sunday, deliver a sermon that specifically targets men, to say there is a Christian duty to reduce violence against women? Targeting men on gender equality—it’s not rocket science; it is something very basic, but it’s not happening.
We need to develop comprehensive programs that address men in their own settings. For example, in Zimbabwe soccer is a men’s game, and there are instances of violence: Men are throwing stones, stopping matches; often the only way that men are able to communicate is, when they don’t get their way, to resort to violence. Programs of anger management, family crisis centers that promote values of nonviolence and being able to communicate—these are initiatives that need to be there.
4. What gives you hope for gender equality in Zimbabwe? The engagement of young people. Colleagues at the World Council of Churches say it is difficult to repair a man, but it is so easy to build up boys; we have a generation of young people who are being raised to believe in equality with women and girls. We are hoping that the next generation, which is going to usher in new leaders, will also be able to guarantee the deepening of values of equality.
Anne Marie Roderick, a former editorial assistant at Sojourners, is a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York.