Review of Girls on the Street - Nyasha Chabururuka

Entertainment News
Thursday, July 15, 2004
Weaver Press weaves a success story
Art Talk-Nyasha Chabururuka

WHEN Baobab books formerly, run by Irene Staunton and her husband McCarthy was bought out by an indigenous businessman, many book lovers lamented the development particularly when under the new ownership, no new books were forthcoming. But the husband and wife team rose like the phoenix and set up Weaver Press, which has proved to be a lifeline for many writers, particularly those who write
fiction. But Weaver Press does not publish fiction only. The publishing house has a number of books covering different aspects of life ranging from the writing of history, politics, social issues and literature.
Social issues. There are many social ills in the communities we live in with some becoming so common that they have become acceptable as the norm if not natural. Some of these social ills include the plight of street kids, women as prisoners, the plight of rural folk and so on. Rumbidzai Rurevo and Michael Bourdillon in their book Girls on the Street navigate the plight faced by the girl child on the streets. The ‘concrete
jungle’‚ to quote Robert Nester Marley is a tough world, sometimes tougher than the lives they would have fled from. It takes an exploration as to why the girls are on the streets. In the social spectrum, the theory of gender has been a subject of debate hogging the limelight especially the dying years of the twentieth century.

The book Tragedy of Lives; Women in prison in Zimbabwe edited by Chiedza Musengezi and Irene Staunton is a powerful and evocative book based upon interviews with (former) prisoners conducted by Zimbabwe Women Writers. The less marginalised groups in society such as the urban folk condescend upon farm worker‚s children in Zimbabwean communities. In schools peers usually jeer at them and their voice in society is seldom heard. This issue is successfully tackled in the book Children in our Midst-Voices of Farmworker's Children which provides the voices of hundreds farm worker‚s children. It provides a platform for farm worker's children to voice their concern. This was done through a
collection of essays and interviews. The kind of dedication shown by Weaver Press to various issues as shown by their publications entails that the Zimbabwean literary canon is kept very much alive. In our next instalment we will look at other publications that have continued to come out of the house.

Review of Girls on the Street - African Book Publishing Record

Girls on the Street
Rumbidzai Rurevo and Michael Bourdillon

2003: (pp: 78) 210 x 138 mm
ISBN: 077922017

African Book Publishing Record (No. 117)
Reviewer: James Cobbe, Florida State University

This short book reports on research done by Rumbidzai Rurevo as part of the work for her MSc. in sociology at the University of Zimbabwe, where Michael Bourdillon is professor. The book has three chapters, the first and last being joint work, and the central one, a good half of the text, being Ms Rurevo’s telling of the stories of some 13 girls she interviewed extensively. There are in addition two maps, a half dozen or so monochrome photographs and a bibliography.

The first chapter is entitled 'Background' and gives a summary of the problems of street children, their emergence in Harare, and attitudes and policies toward them. It discusses some of the intervention programmes to assist these children that have emerged since the late 1980s and then discusses one in particular, 'Streets Ahead', and how Ms Rurevo working with it was able to have extensive informal interviews, in Shona or Ndebele, with 20 girls living or working on the streets of Harare. The interviews and observations of the girls, together with interviews with officials, police and staff of care organizations, form the basis for the book.

The second chapter is called 'The Children’s Stories' and is just that, told in narrative form using pseudonyms. There are the stories of 13 girls, and they are depressing and distressing in most cases. I will make no attempt to summarize them, but will merely note that they are well written, show how varied the reasons are for children to end up on the street, and how difficult life often is for them. It includes reference to shocking exploitation by some close relatives and makes clear the awful danger these girls are in given the high prevalence of HIV in Zimbabwe.

The final chapter is jointly written and entitled 'What We Have Learned'. This summarizes the variety of causes for children being on the street, describes how a few girls are able to cope, for example by petty vending, without putting themselves at great risk, but makes very clear how a larger number are frequently harassed and have to survive by exchanging sex for income and protection. It then discusses interventions to assist street children, and girls in particular, and ends with a list of particular actions that would change the situation. This last, with its plea for profound changes in social attitudes, includes some that, although well intentioned, are probably utopian.

The authors write that the results of this research were so shocking they felt the need to bring them to a wider audience. The book is well written and produced, and it is to be hoped that they will succeed in their aim. Girls on the Street should be acquired by any library with serious interests in African society or child welfare.

© The author/publisher