“Because it is not a woman’s place…”

“I would like to believe we have all heard this statement before; either it was hurled at us or to a fellow woman. It hurts to say the least but living in a patriarchal society, we’re told to suck it up and do as the “society” says. But who is this society we speak of? I’ve come to the realization that we use this term to generalize our culprits by saying “society” when in actual fact we need to say “men” are saying this and that about women and what we can and cannot do.

Recently I was back home in Zimbabwe, and having been away for close to two years since I last visited, I had pretty much forgotten the kind of place that I grew up in. Zimbabwe is primarily male-dominated (and I’m not talking population-wise here). Growing up, we were always told that women are not allowed to dress in trousers, shorts or even short skirts regardless how hot the weather may be. We were told that a woman’s place was in the home taking care of everyone. If a woman desired to work she would only have to do a job that would not threaten the masculinity of her significant other. Jobs in the medical field or high power jobs such as law, engineering and being the executive of a company was frowned upon and pretty much is still the case today.

As I was saying, I went back home to visit my family and also to try and get myself an internship at some law firms there. Now, don’t get me wrong on this, there are some firms that will gladly jump at the opportunity of hiring an international student because they are aware of the exposure they’ve had over local students. But that didn’t matter to some because the moment I walked in through those doors, I was greeted by these words, “You’re a law student? Do you intend on ever getting married in this lifetime?” I was shell-shocked and enraged at how lowly women were looked upon even when we try to advance in our chosen careers. I was appalled at how this man thought that just because I am pursuing a career as powerful as mine I would never find love and get married. Has my life no value to such great lengths that all I can give back to the world is a golden wedding band on my finger, a few exchanged promises and children as a by-product of union with a man?

Ladies, I know some of you or all of you can relate to my situation. As a matter of fact, we all have a story to tell. It can be a completely different context, different words, different language but we can all agree that the message was loud and clear…there is no respect for us as women simply because it’s not our place to be what we want nor is it our place to say what we really feel. Well, that stops now! Today and many more days after this I want to see more and more women live their lives according to their own terms. Enough of this ignorance and classification of women’s abilities and roles. If you are a female who is studying or already working in a high powered career, then props to you, girlfriend! Love yourself, be yourself, believe in yourself and shine brighter than that negative shade being thrown at you.

 

You never chose your gender at conception so why should you suffer for it? The Creator has a purpose for your life and it isn’t to be subservient to a man’s opinions about your role in life. So ladies, get up every morning with a drive greater than your fears and go earn yourself that paycheck. When men give you strange looks in the workplace and you hear them whisper all sorts of things, pay them no attention and focus on you and what you can best do for your life. Yes, it will cost you a lot of material things, relationships and so much more but if it is for your good then it’s all worth it. I’d rather starve to death waiting for my own paycheck than to have a man tell me that I’m alive because of him. If you have a significant other who loves you and respects you then you are lucky and you should hold on to them but remind them that they are an addition to your life and you come first when it is about you and what you desire.

 

Above everything my dear ladies, let us learn to be supporters of each other. Where one of us gets it wrong, let us stand together to pick each other up and correct one another. Where one of us is victorious, let us not hate or be snide about it but let’s genuinely celebrate each other’s wins. United we stand, divided we fall. Let us build womanhood and make a fortress out of it. Let us be giants in whatever we put ourselves to but above all let us celebrate our femininity.
Love to you all!”

 

Nyasha Cassandra Chimangah ,a law graduate from China, is a Zimbabwean native and a rising advocate for women in Africa and elsewhere. 

Stay in touch with her at: cassandrachimangah@yahoo.com

“In my country, sadly, fear is taught to women from a very young age.”

When I was asked to write this, my first thought was that I did not have the right story yet. I was not quite there, and to be honest, I had no idea what to write about. However a few weeks ago, I was sitting in an airport early morning waiting for the flight of my first solo travel.

This came as a surprise to myself and to my family. That’s because I didn’t plan to have this trip, I just woke up one day and decided I needed it. But that’s another story.

In my country, sadly, fear is taught to women from a very young age. I was born in a society where I couldn’t really be too observable, too expressive, and too present for fear of being aggressed. I grew up being taught of the right amount of invisible I needed to put over myself in order to be safe.

I am a very strong believer of education, but really, the environment where I lived made me rush through everything because there is a “certain age” for a woman to start being too late for education and needing to be in a family. People don’t say it that way though, they call it “settling”. I do understand that want for safety for many women in the world but I knew that way wasn’t enough for me.

But back to the story: As you might know, my parents were understandably skeptical about the trip. “Are you going to be alone?” “How are you going to survive there?” “Is it safe?” “What if you get lost?”…  This made my fear stronger. After all, I was the one sitting at the airport waiting for my flight terrified. It took me a while to get that feeling of fear away to be replaced by excitement.

I remember when I landed at the airport of destination around 8:30PM and I didn’t know how the conditions were at night. I only knew that I had to take the bus to my hostel because that’s how I planned my budget.

On the bus, there were two girls travelling together, a couple, also traveling together, a homeless man (I think), the bus driver and me. My stop was the last one and everyone already left when I suddenly felt a bit insecure: I mean it is dark outside, the streets are rather small and even if the lights are on outside, the roads are not busy at all. So I asked the driver to tell me when we get there. He said okay.

In my country, I would’ve called people and let them know exactly where I was. Instead, I texted my friends because, well, like I said earlier, that fear is all I knew before. But the bus stopped at the right station and the driver told me to enjoy my stay.

Believe it or not, I was grateful towards that driver, towards the whole country altogether and towards the world to have such people and such places.

During this trip, I often got asked:

“You travel alone?”

I answer “yes”.

The reactions I got ranged from: “You are so courageous” to “How are you doing it?”

And I have met so many women doing the same as well.

I guess my message is not that people are viewing the fact that a woman is travelling alone as something courageous and fierce. Because I think in certain ways, everyone is courageous and fierce if they decide to cross the barrier of their comfort zone towards a land they hardly know about.

My message is simpler one. It is more of a thank you letter for the world. A world where there are places I can feel safe, as a young foreign woman.

Sedra is from Madagascar and is currently doing her Masters in International Relations at ZhejiangUniversity, China. Sedra is also an artist and a poetess. (Watch this space for more of Sedra’s work!) Connect to her at https://www.facebook.com/sedrarajao.