When the He4She campaign came up I was or maybe still am a typical radical feminist about that view and thought *shoot me* #laughs. But I still believe that men should just allow. Many a times women are told they cannot achieve change without the help of men…eerrrmmm, wrong. Tell me women cannot achieve change without the help of other women and I will agree. I would rather the support and vote of the majority than the minority but then again that is a story for another day.
I received these images and story via a Whatsapp group from my church [disclaimer – I have not verified these reports but the placards speak the message]. We were not allowed to discuss this issue on the group for reasons beyond most of us, but because it involved something I am passionate about (women) I was itching to say more about it. So here I am taking it to my blog.
This was the message; “Nemaziso angu aya, nhasi ndaona mashura. Was in church minutes ago. Mufundisi vepa Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, Dzivarasekwa circuit received an embarassment of a lifetime.Just as he was ready to preach varume vemu church vasimuka with placards written, “USANYENGA VAKADZI VEVANHU CHIGABA” Ambo freezer, akazowana hake maguts ekufamba achibuda coz abva anzi don’t preach hako, we will find another preacher. Ma funnies ini neimwe almost third of the church tabudawo. Ranga richanzwika shokoipapo? Problem ndiReverand here or madzimai ainyengwa acho ndodambudziko. A wasted Sunday, can’t even believe it happened right in my face”,
(directly translated this would read – with my own eyes today i witnessed a shocker. I was in church minutes ago The reverend from the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, Dzivarasekwa circuit received an embarrassment of a lifetime. Just as he was ready to preach, some men from the church stood up with placards written “DO NOT MAKE LOVE ADVANCES TOWARDS PEOPLE’S WIVES”. He froze for a while before getting the guts to walk out as he had been told not to preach as they would find another preacher. These were jokes, then about a third of the church and I also walked out. Would hearing the word have been possible after this? Is the reverend the problem or the women are the problem? A wasted Sunday, can’t even believe it happened right in my face).
First thing, it is pleasing when men start to get it and stand up against sexual harassment. These kind of issues have been swept under the carpet, especially in the church where not only do the women speak out, but even when they do, they are met with various threats and shaming from other congregants. When women do speak out, they risk being judged, being shunned by the church and it is very common that women are made to feel like they are to blame for these advances – do not mention if this woman is a widow, single mother, or a young adult. When women speak out, the issues are likely to be covered up not by the congregants alone,but also by the clergy #touch_not_the_anointed. But who stands up for the women who do not have a male figure to stand up for them? Who stands up for the widows and the single mothers? In the same breath I salute these men that were able to stand up to this abuse.
Secondly, can we talk and answer that last question asked by whoever wrote this message that was forwarded. They ask if the reverend is to blame or if the women are to blame. let’s just stop there. It is common for the first questions and the blame to be put on the victim, shifting the blame from the perpetrator. These kind of questions are amongst reasons why women do not report sexual harassment.
According to a research done by RAU, the problem of sexual harassment stems from the history of our country. Zimbabwe is a patriarchal society and women are often raised to be submissive to men even in cases where they are abused. Many feel powerless to challenge things that make them feel uncomfortable. When a woman does raise issues of sexual harassment she also risks becoming the subject of scrutiny; her dressing, her conduct, her lifestyle. She is often blamed for the behavior of the perpetrator. So sexual harassment continues to be a problem, something that we do not talk about yet it happens in our society all the time.
The other day i felt violated when one of the pastors only used words that describe the physical structures of the girls as the good on them. I remember complaining about it but after I did I started questioning my own complaint; was I being too sensitive, was I over-scrutinizing the whole incident? Was I over-imagining what had just been said? Not being allowed to discuss issues that include the story shared on the group about the reverend that was abusing women remains to show the oppression that continues not only in the church but in society. There are issues you are not allowed to challenge, once you challenge the status quo you are considered a rebel.