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Views from my end of the spectrum…

When silence is convenient: 6 reasons why women don’t report sexual harassment

 

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Georgina and Norma’s story…

When Georgina’s boss Dan made advances at her, she brushed it off and opted to deal with it the best way she knew how – through silence.

As his demands became more pressing, she maintained her silence. Georgina knew the signs of sexual harassment all too well, yet she chose not to report. The hand that crawled down her thigh and squeezed her knee, or strayed too far down her back and landed on her rump, the hugs that were tighter than normal around the chest and left her feeling defiled, the furtive stroke of her cheek when no-one was looking or the gesticulations that conveniently brushed past her breasts, the veiled threats and the distasteful sexually suggestive remarks, yet she still maintained her silence.

When a younger colleague, Norma who was experiencing the same abuse confided in her, she advised her to be quiet. A new colleague, Norma was on a short term contract and needed it renewed. Georgina feared that her young friend might lose her job, as the contract renewal rested solely in Dan’s hands.

“Look, it happens to all of us. Don’t ever breathe a word about it to anyone. Do you understand?” she whispered to Norma, as if she was afraid the walls would hear them and carry their conversation to Dan’s office, more than 250 metres away.

“But he’s abusing us, there is strength in numbers, can’t we do something about it? Surely we can report him,” Norma persisted but Georgina retorted with a stern warning.  “Do you still want your job?” Sure Norma wanted her job, but not at the cost of being abused, yet she would not dare to report without the support of her colleague.

Both knew they were being sexually harassed and the reporting channels for such cases. They were bombarded with information on how to protect themselves regularly, yet they still opted for silence and justified it in their own ways.

Georgina (55), driven and highly specialized, was at the apex of her career and would not let anything stand in her way. No organization could match her current salary and benefits, while she felt her age made it more difficult to find a new job and start afresh. She could not afford to jeopardize her job and was unsure of the repercussions of reporting Dan.

A mother of two, who was undergoing a brutal divorce and would soon be a single parent, her confidence was severely battered and she could not face another battle. So, she chose to focus on the positive aspects of her career and threw herself wholly into the only comfort she knew and the most successful aspect of her life at the moment – her work.

On the hand Norma (30), strong willed and choleric, with an acute sense of justice, felt they should report but was reluctant to face the battle on her own. She believed in the mantra “united we stand, divided we fall.” Her colleague’s reluctance to join hands held her back.

Norma had received a partial scholarship at a university overseas and needed to save up for her tuition so she could resume her studies.

Both were unsure of the consequences of reporting but lacked the assurance that it would not jeopardize their jobs. Although all cases were treated with strict confidentiality, the two did not have faith in the system. Besides, since Dan was abusing both of them, they would both incur his wrath when he was called up for his actions, regardless of who reported, the other would still bear the brunt. Most discouraging though, was the fact that the burden of proof lay with the two women and while each case was investigated thoroughly, it was extremely taxing on both the victims and the perpetrator.

Feeling angry and helpless as they sat in Georgina’s office, the two spent the rest of the day in depressed silence and ate imported chocolate, their shared comfort food.

A few months later, Norma could not take any more of the harassment and had an outburst. Dan could not fire her because he had to provide compelling reasons for doing so and her performance at work was outstanding. The morning after the outburst, Georgina and five other female colleagues sneaked to Norma’s office to congratulate and thank her for standing up for them. She had stood up for herself, but in doing so did not realize that she spoke for many others who were suffering silently.

Emboldened by Norma’s action, the others began to push back and stand up for themselves, forcing Dan to retreat and treat them with respect.

Dan was later dismissed for other misdemeanors. Sexual harassment never appeared on his charge sheet, after all, no one had reported it formally.

Tatenda’s story…

10-crazy-sexual-harassment-webWhen Nicholas bumped into Tatenda (38), a colleague, at a supermarket and waited for her to finish shopping then insisted on paying for her groceries, she felt very uncomfortable and made it expressly clear that she did not appreciate the gesture. Although they had both stretched forth their hands to give the cashier money for the groceries, he had opted to take money from the man, forcing Tatenda to reluctantly accept the unwelcome offer.

After asking him never to do that again, she was taken aback when a few months later, she received a list of numbers from Nicholas. He had bought credit for her mobile phone and sent her the numbers from the scratch card. Again, she was uncomfortable, but the friends she told saw nothing wrong with it. She never used the credit.

A few more weeks down the line, he discovered her love for Swiss chocolate and went out of his way to source some for her. She relaxed a little, perhaps he was just a kind man, but her friends immediately saw a red flag. Within days of the chocolate delivery, he demanded sex. Tatenda was taken aback, she’d been uncomfortable about being showered with presents but did not think it would lead to that. She made it clear that she had values, had never asked for any of this gifts and sex would not happen.

Nicholas was surprised. He had an 80 percent success rate. Most women he showered with gifts consented, so he could not understand Tatenda’s reluctance. As far as he was concerned, the gifts were a future investment for later sexual activity, a bit like depositing money into the bank for withdrawal later, so he didn’t see where Tatenda missed it.

Sadly for Tatenda, most of her colleagues had consented because Nicholas held a higher position, which he used to manipulate them. However, she and her friend Mary were in a better position to speak up as they had more senior posts and did not fall within his department, hence his 80 percent success rate – they were the 20 percent minority that stood up.

To her relief, he stormed out of her life and that was the end of his advances. He also found another job and moved to another city, permanently.

Neither Tatenda nor Mary reported the matter. After all, they had not given in to his demands so it was no big deal. Silence was convenient, they did not have to face the humiliation of discussing the matter with anyone. It never occurred to them that the colleagues who had consented did so under duress and that reporting the matter would have given the more timid and less empowered workmates a voice.

These few examples point to a larger, global problem. Sexual harassment was brought under spotlight recently, when women got the courage to publicize their experiences and named and shamed some prominent male perpetrators, prompting some resignations. Emboldened by the reports, the issue snowballed as more women came forward with their cases.

sexual harassment 2

As with most cases of sexual harassment, the first question people asked was “why now after so many years?”

Well, to feel the pinch, you have to wear the shoe.

There are many reasons why women take long to report cases of sexual harassment or choose not to report at all. Here are just a few:

  1. The risk of being judged and ostracized

Clearly the people who ask “why now?” do not realize that reporting or talking about sexual harassment or any form of sexual assault is not as easy as buying bread. It takes a great deal of courage for someone to stand up and speak out, particularly in a society that blames women for the harassment they incur, while excusing the perpetrators. In most cases the women, who are the victims, are judged and risk being ostracized.

Some years ago, I heard of a case where someone reported a case of sexual harassment to authorities in the organization she worked for. After conducting investigations and establishing that sexual harassment had indeed taken place, the man in question was dismissed while the lady retained her job. Unfortunately, the lady was judged for the rest of her tenure in the organization and treated like a pariah, who seduced men then got them fired when she was done with them. I’m sure when some colleagues saw her approaching they secretly sang the golden oldie:

“Oh oh here she comes,

Watch out boy she’ll chew you up.

Oh oh here she comes,

She’s a man eater.”

In another example, a male employee fondled a new staff member in the office. She immediately screamed and reported the matter. He was instantly dismissed and in his defence claimed a demon had possessed him. Interestingly, in discussing the matter later, work mates were quick to ask “what will become of his family, he was the sole breadwinner.” One could not help but detect the finger pointing. I suspect that sentence, rephrased, would have been “you shouldn’t have reported him, you should have kept quiet so he could keep his job, after all he didn’t do it, it was the demon.”

In both examples, discussion turned to the women’s conduct, dressing and voluptuous shapes. Both women were blamed, yet had they kept quiet, their silence would have been misconstrued as consent.

  1. Fear of possible loss

The stakes are also high. Take for instance Georgina’s case, she felt she had a lot to lose – her dream job, the prestige it brought and the associated financial benefits. Whether the loss was real or perceived is inconsequential because it prevented her from reporting and accessing her rights.

  1. Lack of trust in existing systems

Many organizations have put in place systems that protect employees, both male and female, from sexual abuse and harassment.  In such organizations, the various forms of harassment are clearly defined and reporting procedures are spelt out and communicated to staff, with assurance of protection and confidentiality.

It is a well-known fact that women are being harassed, yet the question is, to what extent are the policies and procedures to protect them being taken up?  The low uptake may be an indication of lack of trust in the system. Indeed systems may be good but they are implemented by people, who have flaws. Take for example a situation where Dan is best friends with the focal point for receiving such cases. What guarantees are there that he won’t informally warn his friend about the reported case and should he do so, what protection will the victim have?

(Although the policies and procedures protect both men and women, focus here is on women because on enquiring from male counterparts, they said they welcome advances from female colleagues and would not consider reporting cases of harassment as they did not view it as such)

  1. Lack of solidarity and support

One thing is for sure, there is comfort in numbers, as evidenced by the snowball effect of the #MeToo campaign. As long as women feel isolated and unsupported, it will be difficult for them to report cases of sexual harassment. Peer support is very important, particularly when reporting results in investigations and interrogations that are emotionally taxing and psychologically draining, with the risk of social sanctions.   At the same time, organizational support within the system is equally vital.

This is clearly illustrated in Norma’s case.

  1. Possible impunity for the perpetrators

It is never clear what will happen after one reports a case of sexual harassment. The pendulum could swing either way. While some organizations have been known to act without fear or favor, others have reportedly defended the perpetrators. In any case, impunity is always a possibility. In the examples shared, the perpetrators were punished, but that is not always guaranteed, particularly when the focal point for receiving cases is friends with the alleged perpetrator.

In some cases, particularly the private sector, men have reportedly joked about cases brought forward in private over a beer after hours.

A friend of mine always remarked about “old boys’ clubs” and these sometimes manifest when men rally together after one of them is accused of sexual harassment.

  1. Fear of reprisal and other unforeseen consequences

To every action, there is a consequence and while most organizations make every effort to protect those who report cases of sexual harassment, there are no guarantees that the victims will not suffer unforeseen consequences.

There are numerous possibilities. In the examples of the two women who reported their cases and were blamed by colleagues for doing so, the unforeseen consequences included the accusations and isolation by colleagues, the scrutiny they were brought under, the ensuing judgment and the guilt of thrusting a family into economic deprivation by getting the bread winner fired.

In some cases, women who reported late have been accused of doing so after a relationship they had consented to turned awry. The implication of consent disregards the possibility of coercion and abuse of power.

In other cases, the men banded together and frustrated the woman who reported out of the organization.

There is also the possibility of reputational risk to the organization, should the case leak to the media, particularly if the company is a significant one.

In conclusion, women who come forward and speak out about sexual harassment, no matter how late after the incident, should be applauded for their courage, while organizations should look at improving their systems to make it easier for victims to report. Organizations should also act on such reports fairly and speedily as this would set a precedent and dissuade other would be perpetrators from abusing their colleagues. Men also need to join hands with women and condemn such behavior as this will shift the problem from being dismissed as that of “whining women,” to a universal issue. Just as there is strength in women uniting, there is even greater strength in women and men joining forces to battle the monster called sexual harassment.

Picture sources: https://goo.gl/Nzv2gh , https://goo.gl/ofuJEF , https://goo.gl/tP5VDZ

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Don’t die just yet: Advice to women 35 years and above

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One of life’s ironies is the claim that life begins at 40, yet many people start to die before 40 and behave as if they have died after 40. It’s as though they have reached the decline stage of their life cycle and begin to gradually check out.

Apart from voluntarily dying off gradually, it seems society condones this and expects people to stop dreaming and start checking out after a certain age. This is particularly so with women. I find some women stop living for themselves after birth and those without children give up on life and stop living after a certain age, usually post 30 when society writes them off as having lived past their best-by date.

Over the years, I have made a few observations about women over the age of 35. Of course there are many exceptions who have defied the odds and achieved great feats. Those are the women we look up to today and aspire to be like. However, if we are to reach the heights they have scaled, we may have to change some behaviors. Below are some concerning behaviors about women aged 35 and above, which I feel sabotage our growth and prevent us from attaining our dreams.

  1. Reluctance to learn new things.

I have noticed that as we grow older, we become reluctant to learn. Consequently, some people become redundant. Newspapers are a good example of this. Once upon a time, journalists used typewriters for their stories and newspapers were printed on printing presses. That has since changed. Now everything is computerized. When computers were introduced, some people went on strike and complained that “they are bringing machines to do our jobs.” Well, guess what, change came regardless of the strikes and those who embraced the new technology were absorbed into the system, while those who resisted became redundant. No prices for guessing the ages of those who were subsequently retrenched.

Such is life, the world is moving and you resist change at your own peril.

We are living in an era where almost everything is based on technology. Job applications, banking, shopping and bill payments, among most daily activity, are now being done online, yet some people refuse to adapt and opt for the same old way of doing things.

Some women over 35 have excluded themselves, particularly from anything to do with technology, because they feel it is “for the kids.” Not surprisingly, the number of women over 35 who embrace technology is small in comparison to men. For example, less women are active on social media than men. One could argue that access to the internet and the gadgets needed to go on social media is a challenge, particularly for rural women. However, even those women with access to the gadgets and the internet do not embrace technology as readily as their male counterparts. Although many finally caught on to facebook, rather belatedly, few have embraced twitter, instagram and snaptchat among other platforms, yet this is some of the technology that is influencing communication and driving the world we live in.

While it is true that younger people embrace technology much more than the older generation, there is nothing that stops people from embracing technology. In the same vein, I have heard social media being trivialized as being for immature people, yet let’s face it, it now plays a huge role in our lives, in some cases even recruiters look at one’s social media footprint.

Last year my older sister attended a forum for women in business. During one of the sessions, the facilitator asked the women how many of them were on facebook. Less than half of the participants raised their hands. The numbers dwindled further when she asked about other social media platforms. She then asked them why they were not on social media and most responded that it was for their husbands. Thereafter, the session shifted focus to why women should embrace technology and how they would benefit from it. Many of them left the forum motivated to embrace and tackle, rather than shy away from technology.

The truth is that those who embrace technology, learn new skills and adapt to the ever changing environment can never become irrelevant and it is time that women aged 35 and above embraced this reality.

  1. Deciding to simply stop dreaming

Some women simply stopped dreaming as they grew older. It’s as if their ability to dream is being chipped off with every year added to their ages. I believe it is possible to take on new challenges regardless of one’s age. We can all reinvent ourselves and trying something new certainly should rejuvenate us.

I recently remarked to someone that our generation will need PhDs to get ahead in their careers as everyone now has a Master’s degree. Her response was that it was too late for her and she was leaving it to the next generation as she was over 40. Really?

Interestingly, most of my male friends who hold PhDs attained them after the age of 40. They did not stop dreaming and certainly did not let the number of years they have been on earth stop them from pursuing what they wanted.

I believe more women ought to adopt this kind of self belief too. We cannot afford to resign so early in life.

I don’t know how many people realize this, but working with a retirement age of 65, at 35 one still has a good 30 more years in their career, while a 40 year old still has 25 more years. That’s ample time to undertake further studies, pursue dreams and to reach one’s goals.

  1. Fear to venture into new territory

Let’s look at a case study of three women over the age of 40. We’ll call them Christine (44), Martina (48) and Roxanne (49). Christine got an offer to move to another country and start a new job but turned it down because she was too old to start afresh in life. She is still frustrated.   The same opportunity was offered to Martina, who immediately took it up and moved. Within a year she had settled in both the new country and the new job and was happy. Roxanne was laid off and the only job she could land was totally different from what she had been doing for the last 20 years. She took on the challenge, learnt the ropes and excelled at her new job. She is happier in her new job than she was in the previous one.

I believe these stories illustrate that it is never too late to venture into new territory, learn new skills or take up new challenges. It’s all in one’s attitude.

  1. Voluntary stagnation

Some people have simply stopped growing, out of choice.  I call it voluntary stagnation. This entails choosing to refrain from anything that will aid one’s growth. For instance, when one stops reading, chooses to remain oblivious of current affairs, decides not to learn anything new and opts for like-minded friends, it is a form of voluntary stagnation.

I am amazed at the number of women over 35 I have met who find it taxing to read. One lady even boasted that since she left school she has not read even a paragraph from a newspaper. Really? That’s frightening. Where do people get the information to make informed decisions if they refrain from acquiring knowledge?

These observations sadden me because I believe women, like all members of society, have so much to offer the world at every stage in life. Any society that does not harness the potential of women can never develop to its full potential because it is only benefiting from the contribution of half of its population.

Unfortunately our operating environment also perpetuates this to some extent. While there are men who encourage women to grow to their full potential, there are also those with a false sense of superiority, who believe in oppressing women and maintaining the statusquo.  Unfortunately, the oppressive men are the majority and tend to discourage women from excelling. Some even use age to hinder women’s growth. It’s either the women are too young or too old to achieve, and one wonders if there is ever a right age for women to pursue their dreams.

About two years ago, a colleague overheard me talking about plans to take on a new job. His response was, “at your age, do you honestly think you can adjust to a change of environment?” I was surprised, considering I was younger than him. Thankfully, I did not pay attention to him and in less than a year I had a new job in a different environment. Needless to say I adapted very well to my new environment and excelled at my new job. I don’t think adjusting and excelling is a function of age. I believe sometimes it boils down to one’s attitude.  I know women who took on new jobs at 55 and still excelled because they were determined to succeed.

Ever wondered why most younger women complain about the shortage of mentors? Well, apart from the historical gender imbalance that deprived women of opportunities, I believe women also contribute to that shortage when they stop achieving and aspiring for greater things because of their age and it is time to change that narrative.

My advice to women aged 35 and above is let us not die before our time. We have so much to offer to the world, but  before we can give anything, we need to grow. That growth comes from learning, embracing innovation and investing in ourselves. We can rise up to any challenge regardless of our ages. Let’s get up, go out there and conquer the world.

Don’t die just yet!

Picture source: https://goo.gl/jQ4Cen

Same monster, different face

Different face

Same monster

Just another side

Of the same coin

Like Janus

The two faced one

In Roman mythology

Who coincidentally

Was the god of beginnings & transitions, 

gates, doors, doorways, endings and time.

When dreams are like raw material for movies

For me, going to bed is like booking a seat in the front row of a theatre to watch a free movie.

I have the most vivid and sometimes rather entertaining dreams. They range from cartoons to romance and sometimes more serious dramas. The nightmares are particularly horrific.

On some occasions I’ve woken up to the sound of my laughter, when I have a comic dream. Similarly, nightmares induce occasional screams. Once I was woken up by sobs, only to realise it was my voice and I was crying in my sleep. I still remember that dream more than 15 years later, but I’ll leave it for another day.

By the way, on a normal night, I sleep in three hour intervals and usually have a different dream for each segment, although the dreams in the last interval are the ones I remember most.

So today, in the wee hours of morning and during my final interval, I had an interesting dream in which I was not an important person, but just a casual observer accompanying the main protagonist.

It so happened that while completing some forms in a banking hall in some country, I struck up a conversation with the man beside me. He was a six foot tall, lanky Caucasian man probably in his early 50s, with weathered skin because of the amount of time he spent outdoors. He looked every bit the outdoor type, clad in khaki pants, a blue shirt with rolled up sleeves and a well-worn beige leather hat.

He was just one of those ordinary looking but interesting guys with an odd habit. It’s important to mention the habit because it’s a central part of the dream.

During our first conversation I learnt that this man always carried two sets of keys – one for a car and one for a helicopter – the Cessna type that uses an ignition key.

He and his partner, whom I later met, were in the business of rescuing people in distress, a bit like The Samaritans in action. Their rescue operation was designed so they could access cars and helicopters across the globe using the same two keys.

We instantly became friends and they started taking me on their missions.

One day they were called to rescue twins aged somewhere between the late 30s and early 40s, who were planning to commit a double suicide while skydiving. The two Black ladies of mixed descent, intended to jump off the plane, quickly undo all measures designed for their safety, then free fall to their deaths. In this dream, they were to dive alone and had calculated what it would take to ensure they were dead on landing.

They had envisioned every detail of their deaths and the ensuing media coverage.

Twins, together at birth and in death, exiting the world a few seconds apart, in a tragic but well executed double suicide. Their grievances were well documented in a note that would probably be discovered during the investigations following their deaths.

My hero, whose name I didn’t know throughout the dream, got wind of the suicide plan through the ladies’ family – his business was well known back in his home country.

I travelled with him and his partner on this particular mission.

As in an action movie, they managed to catch up with the twins as they began their descent. With his partner controlling the helicopter, they circled the air while my hero jumped out and managed to catch both women in the nick of time so they all landed neatly in the back of an open truck in some desert.

Of course the helicopter and truck used the universal ignition keys.

The twins were grateful to be alive because at some point during the fall, they’d changed their minds about the suicide.

On our journey back to the city, my hero and one of the twins fell in love. They got married and had twin girls, who looked exactly like their mother. They travelled the world as a family, sometimes on rescue missions and other times on vacation.

One day, while on holiday in Zimbabwe, the father went out on an errand, while the mother remained at their temporary home with the girls who were then toddlers. One of the twins wondered off and had a traumatic experience while the mother was preoccupied with some household chore. It’s not very clear what happened to the little girl, but she was dishevelled and distraught when she was found. The father got home in time to rescue her. The mother blamed herself for the accident, but although he secretly felt the same, he consoled her. In the end it all worked out well and the dust settled. That was his last rescue mission before I woke up. The dream ended as the father took an afternoon nap in their temporary home, after ensuring that his wife and daughters were safe.

In the previous episode on the same night, I dreamt I was at a gig where Zimbabwean contemporary musician, Jah Prayzah, released a new song. It was a beautiful composition in Shona and an instant hit. Of course should he ever sing such a song, I’ll be the first to recognise it. I attended the show with my friends and we danced like crazy. My dance was so breath taking, I wish I could transfer those moves to real life.

So, what’s your dream life like? What images do you see when you go to sleep? I hope they’re as pleasant and entertaining as mine.

Photo sources http://arseurope.com/ and http://bit.ly/2i14u9m

Stressed? Try screaming

Reblogged retrospectively in light of Day 14 of the #30DayAfriBlogger #BlogTemberChallenge #MyAfricaMyWords on mental health…

sheXpress Blog

Screaming has been known to have a cathartic effect on people. A loud, shrill, intense scream gives one a sense of release and leaves the screamer feeling at peace. Screaming is no doubt, a cheap outlet for pent up anger, energy and tension.

A few years ago, as students my friend and I discovered a simple way to manage life’s problems. Rather than bottle up stress or down tablets, booze or whatever options fellow students chose to drown their sorrows, we developed the habit of taking long walks at night, to a place where we could scream. Yes, we would just scream!

Once in a while, after a build up of stress, we would take our crazy, screaming walks, let out the steam and live happily until it was time to scream again. We would find an isolated spot in Harare’s concrete jungle at a time when traffic had subsided…

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5 Benefits Of BlogTemberChallenge Halfway Down the Road

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It’s been a number of days of blogging in the #30DayAfriBlogger #BlogTemberChallenge #MyAfricaMyWords and halfway through the challenge, I must say it’s been fun, although it hasn’t been easy.

Life is happening concurrently as I blog and in between hustling, eking out a living and fulfilling social obligations, I’ve tried to live up to the challenge and blog daily.

My journey has not been smooth.

Thankfully I’ve managed to blog on most of the days – say 90 percent of the time – and I can count the few when I didn’t.

On some days I’ve had to cheat a little and post on the following day but I guess it’s better late than never, right?

Here are five things I’ve enjoyed about the journey so far:

1. Being pushed out of my comfort zone.

I’ve had to write about diverse issues, some of which I’m not familiar with. On some days, the topics have been fun but time was not on my side, on other days the topics have been tough and  not what I would ordinarily write about.  There have also been days when I really felt I couldn’t do the topics justice without spending some time on research, yet I didn’t have time to research. I guess that’s the essence of the challenge and it’s certainly stretched me to go the extra mile in my writing.

There have also been days when I just loved the topics because they were close to my 💓 and I wrote from my heart. Naturally music is one of them.

2. Reading the work of fellow bloggers has been beneficial.

I’ve read to learn about our cultural diversity, get exposure to various writing styles, glean new ideas, get inspiration and be a part of fellow bloggers’ journey in this blogging challenge.

3. Developing the discipline to write daily.

I normally write when I feel like it, but I gave up that choice when I signed up for the challenge. Some days I was just not in the mood to write anything, but once I got started inspiration came from somewhere deep within me I guess. There have been times when I’ve had to write just before midnight to catch the daily deadline.

4. Growth. Personally, I feel I’m growing as a blogger.

I imagine my writing has improved. To start with I’ve noticed my posts are shorter, which indicates that I’m learning the art of brevity. The number of people who are reading my blog has also increased and I hope and pray that momentum will continue. The challenge has also come with benefits such as practising writing daily.

5. The support, encouragement, camaraderie and sense of community that comes with being part of this family of bloggers.

Conversations have been started and new relationships built over this short period. I look forward to continued engagement with this great community.

That being said, I intend to continue with the challenge and hope to blog daily.

Picture source: http://bit.ly/2f1Q6fj

 

Life as I live it

Day 13 of #BlogTemberChallenge #30DayAfriBlogger #MyAfricaMyWords

Researcher

A mentor of mine once told my friends and I that she used to pray for a job where she would talk for a living and get up every morning to do nothing but talk!

“I love talking and I could do it all day, so that’s the sort of job I’d like to do,” she often said.

Well, she certainly got what she asked for, a talking job!

Armed with a medical background and her passion for talking, she was hired as a trainer and traversed the globe to “talk” to various groups of people about HIV and AIDS. This was some time ago, when the virus was new, information limited and the death toll high.

Emboldened by seeing someone else’s dream come true, I did some soul searching and asked myself what I wanted to do. I figured since I love writing, I too could write all day, so I prayed for a job where I would do nothing but write all day.

However, I didn’t just want to write, I wanted to write for an audience and to make a difference. If someone could read what I wrote and either learn something from it, or feel inspired to take action to improve their life, then my work would be done.

I, too, got what I asked for, a writing job. Not only once, but repeatedly over time as I changed jobs. My entire career has revolved around writing. So, with my background in journalism and passion to impact lives combined, I started writing for particular causes and that has been my life for over a decade.

So, on a typical day, I interact with different people, obtain information from various sources then write it in such a way that it makes sense to the ordinary person. I enjoy breaking down a seemingly complex issue so the average person can understand how it impacts their life at individual and community level. For example, what makes you vulnerable to certain diseases and how you can protect yourself and your community at large over time? It seems like common sense, but only if you have access to information. We live in an unequal world, so not everyone has the same access to what seems basic.

I’m often amused by people who dismiss writing as a “soft science,” without realizing how writers like us, make their “hard science” more accessible and practically applicable to the majority of people.

I find my work very rewarding when I realize that someone, somewhere has read something I wrote, applied it and benefited from it, or when a policy I have written consistently about is changed. Although I acknowledge that it takes a lot to bring about change, I also realize that every effort, no matter how simple, contributes to the final outcome, just as grains of sugar contribute to the spoonful and add to the taste of food.

Knowledge is powerOver years I have written about diverse issues ranging from constitutions to technology and diseases. I enjoy the flexibility that comes with my work and the fact that I can apply my skills to various causes. I also enjoy breathing life into the mundane by tackling seemingly boring issues, and making them interesting enough for people to actually pay attention. That is both the joy and challenge of my work.

Essentially, I learn and share, then hope that armed with knowledge, together, we will make the world a better place!

Picture sources: http://tinyurl.com/y9gndxjv and http://bit.ly/2vUxPqT

A Human Work of Art

Day 12 of #BlogTemberChallenge #30DayAfriBlogger #MyAfricaMyWords

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Yesterday you asked
If I was done painting myself
Unsure of that question
I did not answer
But today
I can confidently reply
Yes, I was done
Painting myself for the day
Today is a new day
I will paint myself again
It’s a daily ritual
I associate with my femininity
Daily I paint myself
For when I look in the mirror
I see raw beauty
Like a skilled painter
I enhance it
Armed with my make-up palette
And my face as the canvas
I sit before the mirror
And start to paint
Like spices and condiments
Add flavor to food
My paintworks
Enhance my beauty
A little foundation
To smooth the complexion
Some shadow on my large eyelids
So they look like awnings
Over the windows of my soul
A dab of lipstick
To enhance the pout of my lips
A touch of blush
To make my cheeks flush
Some tweezing of the eyebrows
Into a permanent arch
A brush of powder
For that polished dry look
And finally some spray
To make the look stay
And I’m done for the day
Now I can go out
For all to see
This human work of art
That is me!

By Matilda Moyo 29 August 2010
First published on: https://www.worldpulse.com/en/community/users/matilda-moyo/posts/11508
Picture source:http://bit.ly/2h37bpH

Tying The knot in Zimbabwe

Day 11 of the #BlogTemberChallenge #30DayAfriBlogger #MyAfricaMyWords
zimbabwe-traditional-dance-wwwpachikorocozw
Marriage, in any society, is always exciting. Today, I’ll share a little about our customary marriages, informed mostly by my Karanga culture.

Although cultural practices have evolved over time, the practice of lobola (siNdebele) or roora (Shona) has withstood the test of time, although it is sometimes highly misunderstood.

Roora is usually paid by the groom to the bride’s parents as a token of gratitude for raising a wife for him – that’s how it was explained to me. The amount charged varies from place to place and has related sub-charges. One of the related charges that intrigues me most is “matekenya ndebvu” literally translated as a charge for “tickling the beard.” This amount goes to the bride’s father. Whoever came up with it was very clever because children generally play with their dad’s beards, particularly when he is speaking. I guess they are fascinated by the movement of the mouth and beard. When my young nieces touch my brother’s beard, I tease him about how he’ll need to charge extra for matekenya ndebvu when they get married.

The practice of roora has been highly misunderstood. In some quarters it has been misconstrued as buying a wife. I do not think any human being can ever be bought, nor do I think human life can have a monetary value.

Some have also misunderstood the practice to mean the groom is paying for the bride’s virginity, so he should not be charged if she’s not a virgin. None of those propounding this argument question the groom’s chastity.

In the past, lobola/roora could be paid using cattle, labour or implements such as a hoe. The bride’s parents were usually considerate in their demands. However, in modern society, some tribes have abused the culture, demanding cars or high value assets while milking the groom dry before he begins his new life with the bride. I know a few ladies whose grooms opted out and chose to marry someone else because the lobola/roora being demanded by the bride’s parents was too steep. In some cases, when the charges are too steep, the bride can secretly assist the groom by contributing. However, the bride’s family should never find out as this would be tantamount to “kuzviroora” or marrying herself. I have a relative or two who were stigmatized because of that.

Once lobola/roora has been paid, the couple is considered as married. However, most Christian couples, which is the dominant religion in Zimbabwe, prefer to wait until they have their white wedding before they start living together as a married couple.

Photo source: https://www.musicinafrica.net/magazine/traditional-dances-zimbabwe

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