Review of Masimba - The Financial Gazette

Women Writers of Zimbabwe
2003: 205 x 138; 160pp
ISBN 1 77922 024 3

Review from Financial Gazette
January 9, 2005
Reviewer: Sheuneni Kurasha

Another Book from Zim Women Writers

Realising the truth of the Igbo (Nigeria) idiom, that until lions have their own historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter, Zimbabwean women writers have come together to tell their own story in their own voices through an anthology of short stories, Masimba, which translates to powers, reflecting the power that underlies speaking with one voice.

This sharply contrasts with the tendency by some male writers who claim to write for and about women; speaking on their behalf. Most critics, and rightly so, have questioned the sincerity and genuineness of such male writers, expressing scepticism on their capacity to capture fundamental and underlying issues surrounding womanhood and the challenges posed by male domination and male oppression.

Edited by the founding and current editor of Zimbabwe Women Writers (ZWW), Chiedza Musengezi, an award winning writer and editor, the book marks the emergence of new voices and indeed powerful voices that seek to highlight peculiar problems women from various backgrounds face presently – acute shortage of accommodation in urban areas, marriage problems, juvenile delinquency, HIV/AIDS and care giving, women rights, gender stereotypes and gender inequality among others.

The editor of the anthology says the book which was first published by ZWW in 1996 is evidence that women have come of age by taking the initiative to tell their story without fear of being labelled by society which has the tendency to stereotype women, especially those that dare challenge male domination and male oppression. She thus applauds women writers for finding time to write despite their tight schedules due to the demands of motherhood and demands from elsewhere.

The book that has been translated into Ndebele as Vus’ Inkope, opens with a short story by Keresia Chateuka entitled ‘Mavambo naMagumo’ (The beginning and the end) which tells of problems of accommodation and the burden of care-giving facing women as they try to meet social roles of ideal wives in the context of extended families. The story vividly captures the fact that while these problems affect everyone in the family, women are the most affected given their role as mothers.

Another story by Peldah Hove called ‘Bedzapfuma’ (Wealth Squander) chronicles the abuse that women suffer at the hands of their husbands – promiscuity, squandering of resources etc, despite having the same level of education and having equally contributed to family wealth. It also highlights how some women have helped to perpetuate child sexual abuse by their husbands by keeping quiet for the fear of jeopardising their marriages. The story therefore questions the rationale of marriages that are hanging on one spouse – the wife who fears divorce if she exposes the cheating husband.

The story seems to blame this behaviour by certain women on society which teaches them to tolerate promiscuity by their husbands as natural and as such normal.
Emma Chitehwe in the story ‘Kufundisa Mwana’ (Educating a child) highlights how education has become the single most important investment that parents can give to their children – ‘ndazozviona kuti kudzidzisa mwana inhaka yeupenyu. Mombe dzandaifunga kuti ndiyo nhaka hapana zviripo.’ (p.68) (I have realized that educating a child is the most important form of investment one could make. I used to think that keeping many herds of cattle is the only way of investment but it is not). The same short story also highlights the vital role mothers play in the socialisation and upbringing of children.

The book contains 28 stories by over 20 writers. It also focuses on such issues as laws governing women’s rights and entitlements, male chauvinistic stereotypes that denigrate the individuality, independence and sex of women, emancipation of women from male domination with the view to achieving gender equality, child abuse, traumas of rape, ill-treatment of daughters-in-law by the aunts and mothers-in-law and industriousness of women, among other things.

Some of the leading women writers in the book include award winner Barbara Makhalisa, Virginia Phiri, Ruby Magosvongwe and Valeria Chauruka, among others.

This anthology is a must read for all those with interest in Zimbabwean literature on one hand and issues surrounding the debate of gender equality on the other. The publication of Masimba is a demonstration that women writers, through ZWW are here to stay considering that they are the brains behind trend-setting publications such as Women of Resilience – the voices of women ex-combatants (2000), Tragedy of Lives – Women prisoners in Zimbabwe (2003) and Anthology – Over 100 works by Zimbabwe Women Writers (1994) among others.

© The author/publisher