‘Gen­der not about equal­ity with men’

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Gender/worldwide - Tsun­gai Ma­chokoto

IN life, there are cer­tain peo­ple you meet and af­ter your time with them can only marvel at the strides they have made in life.

That is how I felt af­ter meet­ing the beau­ti­ful, in­spir­ing, tal­ented, ad­mirable, and phe­nom­e­nal Tsitsi Mu­tendi (TM), the founder of Jewel Mag­a­zine.

The mag­a­zine matches world class stan­dards and is ded­i­cated to cel­e­brat­ing the suc­cesses of Zim­bab­wean women, in and out of Zim­babwe.

Be­low is a glimpse into her life as she talks to me (TCM) about her work and fam­ily.

TCM: There is a stereo­type that says that women bring each other down, yet here you are bas­ing your mag­a­zine on ex­hibit­ing women. I’ve no­ticed on all the cov­ers of Jewel, that there is a Zim­bab­wean woman based lo­cally or in­ter­na­tion­ally. There are a lot of suc­cess­ful Zim­bab­wean woman all over the world and you cel­e­brate them. Talk to me about that.

TM: Women are a col­lec­tive. We are a col­lec­tive sound. Some­times it comes out as a har­mony, but some­times it also comes out as a dis­cord. Our strug­gles are the same, our suc­cesses are the same. When we do things col­lec­tively, we achieve a lot more than when we do them in­di­vid­u­ally. I started Jewel Mag­a­zine af­ter I had lost a child. I wanted to em­power other women be­cause I wanted them to learn things that I didn’t know, that I could have known, things that prob­a­bly could have pre­vented my loss. But in ret­ro­spect I re­alise that the loss had to hap­pen for me to be who I am now. There are cer­tain events that hap­pen in your life that are the defin­ing mo­ments of your life. They de­fine who you be­come and they de­fine who you are.

How you ac­cept these events cre­ate you. With I started re­al­is­ing that all women are beau­ti­ful and each woman has their story, and each story is unique. There is sim­i­lar­ity in our ex­pe­ri­ence and when you reach out and show­case some­body who has done well, you mo­ti­vate them to also want to do well. We have show­cased women from dif­fer­ent walks of life with dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences. Jewel is more about the per­son you are as op­posed to what you have ac­cu­mu­lated. This is be­cause we are al­ready la­belled so many things as women. We’re con­stantly ques­tioned and scru­ti­nised.

There are other peo­ple who need to see that bea­con of light. You do not know how to fly un­til you see other but­ter­flies. You learn from a col­lec­tive. I have learnt from a col­lec­tive. I have learnt from the women who have fought for me, the women who have pro­vided a plat­form for me. The women who have been there just be­cause they needed to be there at the right time and at the right mo­ment to pro­vide that voice for me. I am able to do that for other women with any­thing that I do. I do it to give credit to the peo­ple who have al­lowed me to.

TCM: I’m now be­gin­ning to un­der­stand why is al­ways cel­e­brat­ing the suc­cesses of other women. You have a sup­port sys­tem that has been amaz­ing to you.

TM: Women need to be there for each other. We are very crit­i­cal of each other a lot of the times; we want to crit­i­cise more than we em­brace. Get to know who some­one is. Give them a chance. Maybe you are the right per­son at the right time to play a piv­otal role in their de­vel­op­ment. And if you are not the right per­son, maybe you know the right per­son to help them. I have grown be­cause of peo­ple who have given me op­por­tu­ni­ties. It’s im­por­tant to sur­round your­self with such women

TM: I’m ac­tu­ally a very pri­vate per­son. Most pic­tures you see are pro­fes­sional pic­tures, from an event or from a photo shoot I was in but you will rarely see pic­tures of my pri­vate space. TCM: Do you have chil­dren? TM: Yes. Two – a boy and a girl.

TCM: De­scribe your morn­ings with the kids; I know that can be hec­tic.

TM: I’m a morn­ing per­son. I wake up early to pre­pare my kids break­fast be­fore feed­ing them then ask my hus­band to help with our son while I get our daugh­ter ready, then he takes them to school. TCM: Do you plan on hav­ing more chil­dren? TM: For me to even con­sider hav­ing an­other baby, I would need to have $2 mil­lion in the bank! Kids are so de­mand­ing. Noth­ing pre­pares you for a new born or for a two year old, noth­ing! TCM: How do you so­cialise them? TM: It’s ac­tu­ally quite in­ter­est­ing be­cause I have to teach my son to be a good man while I have to teach my daugh­ter to be an em­pow­ered woman. Bal­anc­ing that is a chal­lenge. I have to say this though, I love my ba­bies, I love them to bits but I was not ex­pect­ing a boy. He came as a to­tal sur­prise and I had no idea how to deal with a boy as I grew up in a house full of girls. But my hus­band has been amaz­ing with him, he is bet­ter with the kids than I am. TCM: What is your take on re­li­gion? TM: I’m a spir­i­tual per­son, I like to spend a lot of quiet time, a lot of God time un­der­stand­ing who I am and what my pur­pose is. I’ve learnt that we are a re­flec­tion of our in­ner selves. We don’t re­alise this be­cause we are too busy think­ing and its con­tin­ual. We need time to re­flect on our lives. TCM: You teach that to the kids right? TM: My son re­cently made me happy. He is only 19 months old and he prayed. He said thank you for mum and dad and my sis­ter. The fact that he knows that there is some­body who watches over us made me very happy. TCM: How were you so­cialised? TM: I grew up in a house full of girls. My mother was an in­tro­vert but she al­lowed us to be. She never made us wish we were some­thing or some­one other than who we are.

TCM: How on earth do you jug­gle work, marriage and kids?

TM: I don’t jug­gle. I am ex­actly where I want to be and this is pre­cisely how I wanted my life to turn out. I don’t jug­gle be­cause it was my plan from the start. I knew what I wanted be­fore I got mar­ried. So no, I don’t jug­gle. Women are nat­u­ral multi-taskers and so we can han­dle any­thing we want to ef­fort­lessly. TCM: Tell me more about your hus­band. TM: I have been blessed with a great hus­band. We have known each other for 20 years and he is usu­ally within a 100-me­tre ra­dius from me. He is the most pa­tient per­son I know and he is great with the kids. He is very sup­port­ive of ev­ery­thing I do. He nat­u­rally is a pa­tient per­son be­cause he deals with me! I take a lot of pa­tience. We have a har­mony that works.

TCM: I love to hear peo­ple like you say that be­cause peo­ple think when you are pas­sion­ate about women is­sues, that makes you a man hater and you want equal rights.

TM: Gen­der is not about equal­ity with men. It’s about so­cial jus­tice. It’s about op­por­tu­ni­ties within the reach of women as well. Gen­der is not about women. Maybe the way that these topics have been in­tro­duced to us by so­ci­ety has then given the wrong im­pres­sion. Some­one once told me “nam­ing is norm­ing” – when you name some­thing, you nor­malise it. We tend to want to name a lot of things that have to do with women. Women are named more than men. They are la­belled more than any­thing. It’s ag­i­tat­ing be­cause I have both a daugh­ter and a son.

TCM: Did you go to school to be­come an ed­i­tor, or it em­anates from pure pas­sion?

TM: No! (She looks away and laughs at my ev­i­dent stage of shock) I didn’t hap­pen to Jewel, Jewel hap­pened to me.

TCM: So how did for it? TM: I was just do­ing me. I just do me! TCM: What are your fu­ture plans? TM: I am also the Ed­i­tor of the Edgar’s Club Mag­a­zine and we are ap­proach­ing our third year an­niver­sary. I’m also do­ing dolls. These dolls are named af­ter my daugh­ter, they are called Mu­faro Dolls. They are made of 100 per­cent cot­ton on the out­side and 100 per­cent wool on the in­side. I have a team of women who are eco­nom­i­cally ben­e­fit­ting from mak­ing these dolls. I de­cided not to put eyes and a nose or mouth on the dolls be­cause it lim­its the imag­i­na­tion of a child. Psy­chol­o­gists sug­gest that chil­dren can put their own nose, mouth and eyes to their doll through their own imag­i­na­tion. That way, straight noses, or cer­tain eyes are not en­gi­neered to be­come their norm.

TCM: Your work is an in­spi­ra­tion to Zim­bab­wean women and not only to us, but to ev­ery woman who comes across it. We rally be­hind you girl, and we will sup­port ev­ery­thing you do be­cause you have us in mind. Thank you so much for your time. TM: It’s a plea­sure Tsungi, see you. I felt so em­pow­ered af­ter this in­ter­view and I hope some­one will be in­spired to help the next per­son through Tsitsi’s in­spi­ra­tion

Tsungi Chek­erwa-Ma­chokoto can be reached on tsungi­ma­chokoto@gmail.com hap­pen if you didn’t study

Tsitsi Mu­tendi

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