Chazan's Categorization of Women's Groups and Zimbabwe

Naume M. Ziyambi, M. Phil.

Although Chazan's categorisation accounts for the majority of women's groups in Zimbabwe, it has two major weaknesses. First, the term radical feminist is in itself problematic. Very few members of these groups would admit to being feminist let alone radical feminist. One could argue that, although not actually calling themselves feminist, many organisations which aim to challenge gender oppression in Society are influenced by some feminist ideas. Here feminist ideas may be taken in the broad sense to mean belief that women are oppressed and that there should be active campaigns to eradicate such oppression and achieve equality of the sexes (Meena 1992) It is clear, however that the kind of feminism that these groups subscribe to is very different from the radical feminism of Western groups which assumes universal male domination and seeks separatist or alternative lifestyles. The activities of these Zimbabwean groups are sedate compared to those by some radical feminists in the West

Second, this categorisation fails to account for groups that do not fall neatly under one category. It will be noticed that a prominent feature of women's groups in Zimbabwe is that they fall under two or more categories. For example, the majority of the urban based groups have a middle class leadership but also have a rural constituency. Although FAMWZ is an employment-based group, it has a grassroots component in the Radio Club members. Similarly, WAG also has a grassroots membership. In addition, both groups also have elements of the Voluntary category because they offer services to women based on their needs. A complimentary categorisation that makes for a clearer understanding of the activities of women's groups is Mannathoko's notion of a continuum of practical through to strategic needs (78). Practical needs are basic and refer to elements that are necessary to preserve life such as food, water, shelter and health. Strategic needs on the other hand are much broader, including gainful employment that enables women to meet their basic needs, varied and relevant information that allows them to make informed decisions and a favourable legal situation that enables women to enjoy and assert their rights (Mannathoko 1992). Strategic needs are important for this thesis because they involve creating an environment that is conducive for women to become effective social actors

References

Chazan, Naomi, R. Mortimer, J. Ravenhill, and D. Rotchild. Policies and Society in Contemporary Africa. Houndmills: Macmillan, 1988.

Mannathoko, C. "Feminist Theories and the Study of Gender Issues in South Africa." In Gender in Southern Africa: Theoretical and Conceptual Issues. Ed. R. Meena. Harare: SAPES Trust, 1992.


[From Naume M. Ziyambi, The Battle of the Mind: International New Media Elements of the New Religious Political Right in Zimbabwe. Oslo: University of Oslo, 1997, pages 34-35. Available from Department of Media and Communications [info@media.uio.no].


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