Freedom-Nyamubaya
The Late Tichaona Freedom Nyamubaya. (Image taken from Newsday)

As we celebrate Independence Day in Zimbabwe, I’ve thought to celebrate 36 named and unnamed women that have brought the nation to where it is today:

  1. Ida Mtongana: One of the countless women that provided hospitality to the freedom fighters and helped sustain the liberation war efforts. In her words she says, “we knew that they stayed in the bush and we were the only people who could feed and help them and we were determined to help in any way that we could. … We were never afraid of the freedom fighters. We were just determined to do what we could” (Kaler, Amy & Staunton, 1993: 177-8).
  2. Danish Girori: One of the many mothers that gave their sons and daughters to the struggle and never got them back. In her words she says, “It is better when one’s loved ones die and you have buried them. You can comfort yourself in the knowledge that the dead are at rest. But with my son it is different, because I do not even really know where he is” (ibid: 267).
  3. Juliet Makande: One of the many young women fighters that experienced sexual abuse during the liberation war at the hands of male comrades (ibid: 49). These are the stories we never tell.
  4. Nehanda Nyasikana: One of the earliest motivators of the insurrection, and the earliest martyrs of the cause.
  5. The women that joined the liberation war in order to assert their equality as human beings.
  6. The women that joined the liberation war in order to uplift themselves and access opportunities to be educated.
  7. Margaret-Dongo-1024x644
    Image taken from margaretdongo.com

    Margaret Dongo: One of the female combatants that carried the ammunition that drove the revolution and went the distance in their involvement in the struggle.

  8. Sally Mugabe: The first female national liberation war hero recognized as such and buried at the National Heroes’ Acre, countering male dominance and preparing the way for the recognition of more female heroes.
  9. The female ex-combatants living in poverty today, in a country they fought to bring to being and not compensated for the important roles they played, aside from those that held guns and led politically.
  10. The female ex-combatants that were rejected by their spouses upon return and labeled as murderers.
  11. The silent female ex-combatants tortured today by memories of sleepless nights in the bush, experiences of rape, hunger, thirst and the daily threat to their lives during the struggle.
  12. The women that gave up a valuable and irreplaceable chunk of their lives to fight for the country. Forsaking their livelihoods, dreams and families to fight for the country.
  13. Tichaona Freedom Nyamubaya: One of the few women that had the courage to talk about the war, it’s challenges and the costs born by women in bringing freedom to the country.
  14. The women that took up professional work roles in the struggle, as teachers, nurses, operations managers and other responsibilities for the efficient management of the struggle.
  15. The women that served as instructors for military training, preparing soldiers for war.
  16. Sheba Tavarwisa: The only woman appointed to the ZANLA High Command, although she was denied National Hero status.
  17. Joyce Mujuru: The first woman chosen to be a member of the  ZANU PF Politburo.
  18. The female combatants that had babies whilst in military camp and suffered immense challenges in meeting their needs and those of their children, and faced further challenges in being reintegrated in conservative societies when they returned with their children.
  19. The female fighters with dignity denied, without access to sanitary ware during the struggle.
  20. The daughters of ex-combatants that never got to meet or know their fathers.
  21. Miss F. Siziba: A senior secretary in the ZAPU delegation and the only female Patriotic Front delegate to the historic Lancaster House Agreement.
  22. Victoria Chitepo and Naomi Nhiwatiwa: Two of the first three female cabinet Ministers in the post-independence government.
  23. Ruth Chinamano: One of the first 8 female parliamentarians voted into the House of Parliament, in the post-independence government.
  24. The female fighters that were maimed for life and are living with a disability today because of the liberation war.
  25. The female fighters that died without celebration or mention, before and after independence.
  26. Mama Mafuyana: One of the women that served as nationalists in their own right, driving and supporting progress in the quest for independence alongside their husbands.
  27. The women that served as informants for the guerrilla fighters, monitoring the movements of Rhodesian forces and their secrets.
  28. The women that spread the word about the war and encouraged young men and women to join the fight for freedom.
  29. The women that stayed behind to look after families, to tend livestock and cultivate the land when their husbands and older children left to join the war effort.
  30. The female fighters that were forced to marry people they didn’t love because they were pregnant by them.
  31. The women that suffered torture at the hands of Rhodesian forces and lost their homes, crops and security as a result of raids by these forces.
  32. The women that joined industry, the civil service, entrepreneurial work and the service industry to help drive the post-independence economy.
  33. The women that taught and continue to teach their children of the sacrifices women made to bring the nation of Zimbabwe into being.
  34. The women that took up activism post-independence as part of civil society, in driving efforts towards gender equality.
  35. Women leading change in Zimbabwe today, doing phenomenal work in business, politics, civil society, the arts and other development fields.
  36. Young women and girls fighting their own liberation struggles today, as they strive to go to school, avoid unplanned pregnancies, seek respect from society and drive their own empowerment.

Let’s not lose sight of the value of women in the nation’s struggle for independence; and of the experiences they sowed into the grounds of liberation.

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References:

  1. Kaler, A. and Staunton, I., 1993. Mothers of the Revolution.
  2. http://www.thestandard.co.zw/2015/02/08/female-ex-combatants-demand-compensation/
  3. http://www.postcolonialweb.org/zimbabwe/miscauthors/mothers14.html
  4. https://www.newsday.co.zw/2015/07/10/nyamubaya-died-a-true-freedom-fighter/
  5. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dK1borNjTBMC&pg=PA233&lpg=PA233&dq=zimbabwe+female+war+heroes&source=bl&ots=VxPG9Kj4qf&sig=RbFOqeGLsFQicAskjx1wQkJNpp0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj5jcKInpjMAhWIND4KHRXqDr8Q6AEIRTAI#v=onepage&q=zimbabwe%20female%20war%20heroes&f=false
  6. http://theelders.org/article/women-zimbabwe-making-history
  7. http://origins.osu.edu/article/other-half-african-sky-women-s-struggles-zimbabwe
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