By Vannesa Yashmin Chingeya and Tendai Edwin Foto
Once upon a time, the girl child was viewed as a tool around the house.Â She was meant to stay at home, do the dishes, clean the house, fetch fire wood, till the lands, and get married at the age of 14 or 15 years.The girl child was looked down upon by society and viewed as someone who had no dreams, hopes and aspirations of becoming a somebody in life.
Girls were viewed only as a means to obtain wealth, as they were married off at an early age for one to acquire a few cattle and some money.
They were also betrothed to a friend to pay off a debt, or given away to appease an avenging spirit.
The only thing that the girl child was taught was to be submissive to her male counterparts.Â To bow down when they passed and obey what ever they said.Â Never to question what was said or done to them.
The boy child is the one who was seen as the head of the house, one who everyone had to respect and the one who deserved to get an education.Â Whether intelligent or not, the boy child was given all the opportunities to progress in life at the expense of the girl
As the liberation war came about and the leaders of the struggle called for all to join the fight, the girl child found an opportunity to speak up, take a stand, and be counted amongst her male counterparts.
Youths from all parts of the country came together to assist in the liberation of the country as they crossed the borders for military training into countries such as Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, while others flew to countries such as Russia, Cuba and China in an effort to return and liberate their fellow man and country.
Others took part on the ground by assisting the freedom fighters with food, clothing, scouting, information dissemination and recruitment of other youths.Â They were called â€˜chimbwidosâ€™ and â€˜mujibhasâ€™.Â However, it was mainly the girl child who mobilised food for the fighters and kept them company during the trying times.
The likes of Cdes Joice Mujuru, Oppah Muchinguri, Olivia Muchena, Maud Muzenda, Angeline Masuku and the late Cdes Sally Mugabe, Mama Mafuyana Nkomo, Tenjiwe Lesabe, Ruth Chinamano, and many others alive and late, all took to arms to liberate the country alongside their male counterparts.
The same bravery that was shown by men was also shown by women. For example, Cde Joice â€œTeurai Ropaâ€ Mujuru was the first woman to shoot down a helicopter belonging to the Rhodesian army – an act that was considered unattainable by a woman.
Through the sacrifices of both man and woman (some of whom died during and after the struggle), Zimbabwe was liberated from the colonial bondage of the Rhodesian government.Â It was through both man and woman, and not the man alone, that we now enjoy the fruits of liberation. The fruits of their tears, blood and sweat.
The girl child made her mark in Zimbabwean history as having contributed immensely in returning the land to its original owners, the black majority, who have been led by the Head of State and Government and Commander In Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, President Robert Gabriel Mugabe since independence on the 18th of April, 1980.
Through the hard work, sweat and tears of the liberation heroes and heroines, the girl child now has equal opportunities with her male counterpart.Â The girl child now has access to basic education, medical care, ownership of businesses and houses, and freedom of expression as women can now vote alongside their male counterparts.
No more shall the girl child be looked down upon.Â No more will she be considered an insignificant other.Â No more will she be sidelined by her male counterpart in all sectors of the country.
Women have become role models, leaders in business, and individuals with degrees. They now sit on board of big companies and also hold positions of power in public office.
Such women include the first female Vice President, Cde Joice Mujuru, Zanu-PF Secretary for Women Affairs, Cde Oppah Muchinguri, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, Minister Of Small And Medium Enterprises And Corporative Development, Cde Stembiso Nyoni and the Minister Of Women Affairs, Gender And Community Development, Cde Olivia Muchena.
Many more, with the likes of Dr. Hope Sadza, have excelled in education while others like Grace Muradzikwa, SECURICOâ€™s Divine Ndhlukula and Jane Mutasa have acquitted themselves very well in business.
With the hard work and contribution of women, and the need to avail equal opportunities to all, President Robert Mugabe declared education a basic right for all Zimbabweans.
The countryâ€™s policies on gender equality as well as the recently-promulgated indigenisation and empowerment drive have all resulted in women rising to levels that were unimaginable in pre-independence times.
Womenâ€™s issues are now regarded with the seriousness they deserve.Â With the inception of the Womenâ€™s League, they can now be represented and can freely lobby for inclusion in various sectors of the economy as contributors or leaders.
For example, the issue of maternal health which was unattainable to most women due to high fees that were charged by health institutions is being addressed much to the satisfaction of Zimbabwean mothers.
After realising that women continue to die during child birth, especially in rural areas, hospitals in remote rural areas now offer maternal health care free of charge. The government is working on modalities to also alleviate the burden of maternal fees in urban areas.
Zimbabwe, as a signatory to the United Nations eight millenium development goals (MDGs) that are to be achieved by the year 2015, has implemented various programmes to ensure the attainment of the goals and improve the lives of people especially women who tend to suffer the most.
The MDGs are; eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality rates; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development.
Post independent Zimbabwe has seen the girl child have a better life, a better tomorrow, a better outlook, a louder voice. However, more still needs to be done to empower women and change the perception that some of their male counterparts still hold true.