The Women Look Forward (and Back)

Part Sixteen of Mothers of the Revolution: Oral Testimony of Zimbabwean Women

Irene Staunton: Publishing Director, Baobab Books

The women retained their courage, their strength, they kept going and they hoped for a new society:

They said that after independence everyone would be free from colonialism. No one would be forced to dig contour ridges; we would have as many cattle as we wanted; a married woman without a marriage certificate would have the right to be treated as legally married; and that we would be treated like human beings. --Meggi Zingani (125)

They are proud of their contribution:

I think if the women had not been there the freedom fighters would not have won the war. Women did a great job. Cooking and providing food for the freedom fighters was a way of fighting on its own. ... The fact is we fought a war. Carrying pots of food up the mountains is no joke. I do not think that the men would have managed if the women had not been there to do all this. I think they would have ended up being killed by the freedom fighters after they had refused to cook and carry food for them. The men were around but they only used to tell the women to 'Hurry, before the soldiers come and beat you up!' --Margaret Viki (156)

But realistically they know that their contribution has barely been recognized:

Now that we are free, I ... am not very happy. My children cannot find employment. ... Sometimes I think it is even worse than the period when the children were fighting. ... The children are supposed to be free but the situation is not good. I feel betrayed because many children who fought for this country have nothing to do, instead they have turned to stealing and doing all sorts of bad things. --Betty Ndlovu (248)

The comrades fought the war and got their rewards. Some are in the army, some got demobilization money, but some of us got nothing. First I served on the base committee and I am still serving the people, but I have not received anything, no matter how small, as a token of appreciation. ... We who suffered, killed our chickens and goats, had children who died; we, mothers, who carried food on our heads to the guerillas, while others hid in safety, now we see that they are the ones who are getting paid and we are getting nothing. It is most unfair. --Meggi Zingani (135)

Sometimes we comforted ourselves by saying that, once the freedom fighters won the liberation war, we would sit pretty. ... We said, surely the vakomana will not forget us, after we have done so much for them. Such a thought would comfort us for a while... Now some of those freedom fighters are in high places and they have forgotten that we helped them. Today when we talk amongst ourselves we remember how we suffered and lived under such hardships and yet these freedom fighters have forgotten us. --Margaret Viki (151)

I can only hope that this book, and others of a similar nature will help us to remember the huge strength, resilience and courage of women of the women who were left in the rural areas when over over 70 000 men, women and children left the country to join the guerrillas 1.4 million people were displaced.

Now that you have come and I can say this to you, I am relieved and thankful. I hope when the book is published, my grandchildren will be able to read my life history and, at last, people everywhere will know what I think concerning my child and the war. --Seri Jeni

Zimbabwe OV Literature [Politics]