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She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.
She says: “The methodology of active public education, with a deep understanding and respect for Shona and Ndebele cultures, has benefited the program”.
She says also: “I became an activist early on in my life because of the discrimination and abuse of women that I witnessed growing up”.
Netsai Mushonga – Zimbabwe
She works for the Fellowship of Reconciliation Zimbabwe (For/z).
Netsai Mushonga was born in 1969 in Bindura, Zimbabwe. She is a media coordinator of Women’s Coalition and a member of the International Committee of International Fellowship. In 1995, Netsai worked as a social worker for Danhiko, an NGO providing education and job training for young people with disabilities. In 1996, Netsai joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Zimbabwe, and in 1997 she started the women peacemakers program of For/z. She secured funding to raise awareness within churches on the need to confront gender violence. Netsai was born when Zimbabwe was struggling for independence. At the time hopes for a free and self-reliant country Zimbabwe were at the top of the agenda of the new democracy. The political situation has since deteriorated. There are many problems ranging from shortage of food, petrol and decline in the economic and value of the currency.
Netsai began her work for democracy and against gender violence after studying at the University of Zimbabwe. She has contributed to raising awareness of the problem of domestic violence and violence against women in general in Zimbabwe. She has published an advisory booklet for the church community on violence against women and is now rehabilitating survivors so that they can continue with their life.
With her good organization skills she ran a regional consultation conference of African women in conflict situations in 2000. She has organized and conducted many training workshops in Zimbabwe and in other places within and outside Africa, focusing on gender and violence.
Netsai is a role model for rural African women and has taught them to stand up for themselves, to confront abusive traditions while retaining respect for what deserves to be respected in their cultures. Her fearlessness in speaking out against violence against women and political violence is an example for everyone concerned about peace and justice.
Netsai was born 1969 in rural Zimbabwe, the fourth in a family of eight children. She graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with BA in sociology. After she had started the women peacemakers program of For/z in 1997, she secured funding to raise awareness within churches on the need to confront gender violence. Beginning in 2000, she volunteered as an election monitor and supervisor, despite the risk of physical violence and political intimidation. She joined the Women’s Coalition in 2003 and developed a program to respond to politically motivated sexual violence against women and girls in Zimbabwe. With her good organization skills she run a regional consultation conference of African women in conflict situations. She has organized and conducted many training workshops in Zimbabwe and within and outside Africa focusing on gender and violence.
Her fearless speaking out about the deteriorating political conditions and lack of security for women in Zimbabwe has inspired others. Victims of sexual violence have benefited from her work in concrete ways. The Danhiko project has an emergency shelter to accommodate women victims of violence. Its programs include counseling, economic and emotional support. Netsai says, “I have benefited more from the work I do than the women I have come across, because they have taught me survival skills in dignity.” This is a modest statement typical of her. (Read all on 1000peacewomen).
She writes about herself on ‘Imaging ourselves, a global generation of women’ (excerpt of a long article): … When I was eight years old, I was required to work every waking hour yet the boys could be literally sleeping while I worked. There was so much waiting around to do for the men. We the girls had to look after the babies, weed the fields, clean the houses and yards, fetch water, warm it and set it for men to bath, cook and give the food to men, and the men always got the best food. Women got battered by their husbands frequently in my village and that irked me. I was asked to be respectful to some men who did not even respect themselves. Then I would wonder why God made me a girl because being a boy looked easy – everything was given to you. I was alarmed when my distant cousin was killed by her husband and then not arrested. He was made to pay a cow to his in-laws and got a younger fresher woman. That memory from my childhood sticks out to me as I finally realized that women’s situation was akin to slavery.
I decided to start a project aimed at gender violence in the church community. This decision was based on my perception that the church is the bastion and pillar of patriarchy and most of the churches do not question gender based violence. The head of the Catholic Church where I once worshipped preached that women who were abused should not come and seek comfort with the church. He explained that women who were battered provoked their husbands, so therefore they should bear the burden when they were abused. I knew then that this was the area we should focus on in our campaign to raise awareness. Mindsets are difficult to change but the groups we have met with through the church have all understood why they should not abuse women. The majority of the Zimbabwean community is Christian and so going through the church reaches out to quite a big chunk of the population. Many church practices assist to keep women in the subordinate position and church elders argue that this position is ordained by God; hence the need to work with the churches to dispel this myth … (read the rest of her long article on ‘Imaging ourselves‘).
“TOWARDS A NATIONAL VISION FOR ZIMBABWE“, A DISCUSSION DOCUMENT PREPARED BY THE ZIMBABWE CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE, THE EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP OF ZIMBABWE, THE ZIMBABWE COUNCIL OF CHURCHES;
Zimbabwe: Bigoted Criticism Over Church Document;
All Africa: Zimbabwe: Mpofu’s Head On the Block;
UNDP Microfinance Assessment Report for Zimbabwe;