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Breaking out of the Boxes: The Urgency of Representation for Marginalized Groups in Zimbabwe

Have you ever thought about the spaces where decisions are made and the people who are invited to participate in those spaces? Unfortunately, in many places, including Zimbabwe, these spaces are often dominated by men and women are only included as tokens. This means that women are only invited to these spaces because they are women and not because they have valuable insights and perspectives to share. I have reflected on most of the spaces I have been invited to, it was because I was a woman and the organisers were trying to diffuse their “ manels”. To diffuse it, my topic had to do with the impact of “ something” on gender. But wait a minute, I am not a gender expert, why is it that a man is not given the topic to talk about the impact of that “something” on gender.

This type of tokenism is a big problem because it reinforces the belief that women are only capable of talking about gender issues and ignores all the other important issues that impact our lives. This is why it’s so important for women to be included in decision-making spaces, not just for the sake of appearances but because they have valuable things to say about the economy, poverty, education, and other critical issues that affect all of us.

Women make up over half of the population in Zimbabwe, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the number of women in leadership positions. There are very few women in government, business, and even in civil society organizations. And when women do manage to secure leadership positions, they are often limited to discussing gender issues, while the “bigger” issues are left to the men. This is so unfair! Women are smart and capable and have a lot to contribute to important discussions.

The toxic and monolithic view of women has been perpetuated by the tokenism to pacify women and create the optics of representation from women, calling on women like me who have no right to represent the many women who are impacted differently by policy missteps by the government. Being a woman does not mean one has the right standing to talk about women’s issues. Women are not a homogenous group, with the same interests. Women have different challenges, issues and needs. I believe every citizen who interacts with women in different spaces, fields and platforms must be able to stand up and share those experiences. It is not about being a woman or a man. Spaces still qualify people to be in decision making spaces based on their sex and the gender discourse is relegated to that level.

That’s why we need to create spaces that are inclusive and representative of all marginalized groups, including women, youth, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. When these groups are included in decision-making spaces, they can bring their unique perspectives and experiences to the table. This helps to ensure that all voices are heard and that everyone has a say in shaping the future of Zimbabwe.

So, let’s talk about this for a minute as we shape our decision making spaces in 2023. Women in Zimbabwe need to break free from the boxes that have been created for them and take their place as leaders in all spaces. We need to challenge the notion that women are only capable of discussing gender issues and push for a more inclusive and representative form of representation. By doing so, we can build a future that is more equitable and just for all citizens of Zimbabwe. It’s time for women to lead the way and show the world what we’re capable of! For a generation of men and women who see beyond one’s sex and build citizens champions who rise up to speak about marginalisation and not relegate it only to a specific sector. In decision making spaces give women, youth, people with disabilities or community representatives the opportunity to speak to the crunch issues- energy, climate change, public finance management, conflict among other many issues bedevilling society today.

In conclusion, let’s work together to create spaces where women and marginalized groups are truly represented and have a voice in the decisions that affect our lives. It’s time for a change, and it starts with us!

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