Today we met with Glanis. She is a young women, who has been involved in political work since college and she is the founder of the organisation Institute for Young Women Development, which is working to empower young women in Zimbabwe.
From her own experience in politics and civic action, Glanis knows the challenges facing women who want to become actively involved in political and democratic processes. In Zimbabwe it is traditionally the men who become politically active, while women are expected to remain in the domestic sphere, looking after the family. Women who choose to become politically active are therefore perceived as challenging the male dominance of the political sphere, and as a tool to discredit their political credibility they are often accused as being ‘loose women’ and it is not uncommon that they are referred to as ‘prostitutes’. It happened to Glanis when she became politically active in college. She was running for the position as Secretary for Gender and Welfare in the Student Representative Council, but her fellow students branded her as a ‘prostitute’, claiming that she slept with older men in the Council to win the position.
For a Zimbabwean woman to become politically active she therefore needs to consider not only the risk of violence, rape and arrests. She also needs to be willing to take the risk of being publicly discredited by opponents as well as women and men in her local community, and she has to be prepared to face rumours and accusations directed at her gender rather than the cause she is fighting for.
Africa Contact activist, Harare, Zimbabwe