A Shout Out to the Ladies

Let's hear it for Zimbabwean women!

Each morning as I move from my car to the office building in which I work, I pass a white Volkswagen with a bumper sticker featuring two silhouettes: a Triceratops and a tiny girl who leads it calmly by a string. Like the worker ant that composedly lifts several thousand times its body weight, the girl does not seem aware of how improbable this scene looks from the outside: in her bumper-sticker world, the Triceratops is a present obstacle which she must either reckon with or try to avoid until the inevitable occurs, and in the end, she makes the brave choice.

TheZimbabwean women we work with are a lot like this girl. One of the first sentences they taught us upon our arrival was “aka simba musikana”—“I am a strong girl”—and we’d yell it often while cultivating the clayey soil with our mattocks, but we looked like loose bundles of string compared to these women, who often spent a day’s hottest hours hacking tirelessly at the ground with babies wrapped in cloth pouches on their backs.

I asked Caroline, parent of a Munyawiri School student and daily volunteer at our garden there, what a typical day looks like for her. She responded that ever since her first husband left (“He just disappeared”), she wakes up early to prepare breakfast for her family of six, sends one child off to school, and then spends the rest of the day caring for the others while looking for piecework in the village, as longstanding jobs are scarce right now. Although the exact unemployment rate is difficult to gauge, Forbes asserts that at least 75% of the country is underemployed, if not unemployed outright—and, as Caroline illustrates, this is not for lack of trying.

One day I asked her offhand what her favorite food was—stupid question to ask someone with a limited food supply. She thought a moment and replied, “Sadza” (the staple), then burst out laughing, only to sling the baby back into his cloth pouch and return to work a minute later.

I struggle to describe to you the eminent toughness, practicality, and warmth of Zimbabwean women, because in using adjectives, I risk diluting the central message that, as one 2SOL member put it, “if your salary was strictly based off of how hard you worked, the women of Zimbabwe would be the richest people in the world.”

We want to take a moment to celebrate Zimbabwean women, because in countries facing malnutrition, the mother often eats last. This is why our wells and nutrition gardens are so important: they help make the obstacle to optimal life, whether it be malnutrition or unemployment or a really big Triceratops, a little less powerful.