…or do they? The truth is I am absolutely in awe of the African Woman, not only because I was raised by the strongest and smartest one of them all, but more importantly because of her role in the African society. I will focus on Zimbabwe to illustrate a few points here. It just so happened that I started writing this during the month of August which is also Woman’s Month in South Africa. Mind you, I would have written this irrespective of this occasion – a mere coincidence really.
Zimbabwe’s economic demise and now rebirth has been and continues to be widely documented by various entities across the broad spectrum. However what I haven’t seen (or much of) is the fact that women in my opinion have held this country together both economically and otherwise. I drove to South Africa recently and I drove across the bridge linking South Africa and Zimbabwe and I couldn’t help but think of all the cross borders traders that continue to do their work by supplying various organisations and/or individuals with the basic service of travelling to Johannesburg (Joburg) or Polokwane to buy some products and simply bring it back for them. This is not always an easy journey and they will testify to this. I too have engaged a lady I know, who does this same thing to help me bring these lovely curtains I saw in one particular shop a few months ago when I was visiting Joburg. I am constantly reminding people (and here is yet another opportunity) that the Zimbabwean economy wouldn’t be where it is now was it not for the Zimbabwean women –Fact! Their entrepreneurial skills are second to none. Look at the African farming sector alone. I read some statistics on Twitter late last year; apparently 70% of farmers on the African continent are women. I’ve said this before. I refuted this tweet initially but then I looked at my own family and what do you know? The majority of farmers in my own family tend to the women.
I’m constantly reading about the unemployment levels in Zimbabwe. I used to be extremely worried and kept my mind busy thinking of ways we could lower this figure to a ‘more acceptable level’ whatever that means. Now, I focus my energy and time on the informal sector because this is where the bulk of the unemployed operate and sustain their lives. They continue to feed their families somehow. The only difference is that they are not involved in the formal sector like most developed nations. They hardly pay taxes apart from the typical VAT (Value Add Tax) on most goods and services. They don’t pay tax on earnings and so forth and yet they continue to survive somehow. I often feel that it is the somehow we should be focusing on especially at this very crucial moment. Families continue to find resources to send their kids to school and to provide a home for their families. I am obviously more interested in the role that women play in accomplishing all this because their role in this is immense. You don’t have to go too far to see exactly what I mean. How about the women who left Zimbabwe many years ago in search of work in the UK? Many ended up in the health sector. I read some other report somewhere that suggested that if all the Zimbabweans (the majority of whom are women) were to leave the health sector in the UK; this would have a catastrophic effect on the overall health sector in the UK. Those same women continue to provide various support functions (especially financial) to those family members who remained in Zimbabwe, especially during the most difficult years (for example 2007 and 2008). Zimbabwe survived and is still surviving. I attribute this survival to the Zimbabwean woman!
I spoke about this issue before in a previous blog where I described 2 women I know who started their own business during the height of the shortages in Zimbabwe. They made peanut butter and soap. Mind you they weren’t the only ones doing this. They bought the machinery and continued to make these products up until very recently. With things normalising in the market in the last 2 or so years, they decided to sell the machinery and move into another area altogether. This illustrated one key point about resilience and our typical Zimbabwean attitude of ‘making a plan’ when faced with adversity. My own mother taught me this. You see these 2 women survived and I have no doubt that they will continue to grow in their entrepreneurial journey. I could go on using various examples of how women contribute and in fact uphold our African society in various ways. I only need to go to any typical African market. Most of the ones I have visited are filled with women selling their produce et al to make a few dollars here and there. That is what I’m talking right there.
Today I write not so much to praise but as a reminder to us all to remember and appreciate the vital role of the African Woman in our daily lives. To the African Woman wherever you are, I salute you…