The Herald (Zimbabwe)

Female freedom fighters hailed

- Tinashe Farawo in PARIS, France

THE critical role played by women in the liberation wars for Zimbabwe’s independen­ce dating back to the First Chimurenga needs to be amplified as they contribute­d immensely to the freedom the country is enjoying, Women’s Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprise­s Developmen­t Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said yesterday.

In a speech read on her behalf by Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Torerayi Moyo in France during the ongoing 42nd UNESCO General Assembly, Minister Mutsvangwa said women were actively involved in the struggle for independen­ce, including political mobilisati­on, recruitmen­t, logistics, intelligen­ce gathering, nursing and combat.

The women organised and participat­ed in protests, demonstrat­ions and acts of civil disobedien­ce.

Minister Mutsvangwa said the experience­s of the female combatant have rarely been highlighte­d by the media.

“I am not sure whether it was because jourAssoci­ation nalists had no access to female combatants during the war or because the leadership of the struggle was predominan­tly male,” she said.

“The media crews who covered our liberation struggle paid scant attention to women combatants. Their focus was trained on the male leaders of the struggle and this tended to annihilate the female combatant. What we often encounter are narratives of women and children as victims of armed conflicts not as protagonis­ts in efforts to dismantle oppressive colonial systems.

“Even our female heroes have had their experience­s brushed over by male experience so that the female experience is never audible. I make this point because if the struggle is viewed from male perspectiv­es, it overlooks a whole gamut of experience­s of the struggle that only women can narrate and relate with.”

Because of the patriarcha­l structure of societies, women never really made it to the upper echelons of the struggle, and that further concealed their voices and experience­s.

“Many women joined the armed forces, such as the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Zimbabwe People’s Revolution­ary Army (ZIPRA),” said Minister Mutsvangwa. “They fought alongside their male counterpar­ts in battles and guerrilla warfare, demonstrat­ing bravery and resilience.”

Women’s involvemen­t in the armed liberation struggle challenged traditiona­l gender roles and norms, empowering them and enabling them to take on leadership positions.

Historical­ly, armed resistance in Zimbabwe had always involved female figures.

“I give, by way of example, the First Chimurenga,” said Minister Mutsvangwa. “We had Mbuya Nehanda and many others who undoubtedl­y provided inspiratio­n to us as females in the Second Chimurenga war.

“It is important to note that the contributi­ons of women during Zimbabwe’s armed liberation struggle have been recognised and celebrated, as they played a vital role in securing independen­ce for the country.”

The country’s independen­ce was also a result of regional solidarity which resulted in people from many countries coming together to fight colonialis­m.

“The ideologica­l position which was advanced was clear, that the region was one, and we were all fighting a common enemy,,” said Minister Mutsvangwa. “Even in terms of strategic direction and consultati­on in terms of prosecutin­g the armed struggle, regional actors had as much say as were the leading lights of individual nation states in the struggle. ” ◆ Full story:

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