Resilience in Adversity
The women’s movement in Zimbabwe has gone through highs and lows in its long history of mobilizing at different levels and on various issues. The first years of the 2000s were such ‘low’ ones that many afterwards wondered whether the women’s movement still existed. Yet new initiatives have emerged and grown, and contexts are changing. New generations and new modes of organizing and agency have taken shape, and significant successes in legal reform have taken place. This paper thus reframes the question about the status of the Zimbabwean’s women’s movement and explores how it is reconfiguring itself and continuing to exist. We first document recent methods of organizing and mobilizing by women in Zimbabwe and look both at new players and new forms of action. Secondly,
we seek to document the movement’s achievements and challenges since the turn of the millennium. The focus will be on organizing through women’s NGOs. The women’s movement in Zimbabwe comprises many actors, key among them women’s NGOs and clubs; women in political parties and the labour movement; women’s religious associations and women’s professional or business associations. In this paper, however, the women’s movement refers to organizing through women’s NGOs. In documenting new players and new forms of action, as well as identifying challenges and achievements, the paper seeks to reflect on and rethink the women’s movement and its status in the contemporary Zimbabwean context. This also provides a basis for reflection on strategies for
transformative change and their underlying theories of change, and on how women’s organizing engages with the state in the pursuit of gender equality and women’s rights.