Oxfam staff members in Zimbabwe, Sharon Mafunga and Blessings Chapfunga, talk about what the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day means for them.SHARON MAFUNGA – Receptionist
She’s the face of Oxfam Zimbabwe, your first port of call, your go-to person, the oil in the cogs that keep the office running. A while ago though, Sharon had hoped but never really believed she would be where she is today – with a decent job.
“I am a rural girl. The most vivid memory I have of my childhood is that of being roused at 3am to go and put in some work in the fields, then later going to school barefoot. Those circumstances pushed me to work hard. I would sell guavas, peaches and sugar cane to be able to buy books and it paid off, here I am.”
Sharon believes the key to young women attaining their goals is a combination of access to opportunities and loads of self-esteem. “I agree education is part of the solution, but beyond the education there are personal qualities that one must adopt or strengthen in order to make that education count.”
Had she been complacent, unmotivated and lacking in confidence, Sharon says her life would be a very different picture. “So for me International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on my situation as a woman, where I’ve come from, where I am and the future.
“I think of girls in the same circumstances I came out of, and cannot help but think that we are missing on an opportunity and denying one for many of them by focusing on attainment of formal education as the ultimate goal. This fosters a negative attitude where, once they fail academically, they think their life is over. I think they should be encouraged to grow their non-academic skills and talent. We could do so much for science and technology by tapping into these.”BLESSINGS CHAPFUNGA – HR Officer
This being the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, Blessing says she would have hoped that much ground had been covered in terms of women’s needs. “However, in my experience as a woman and in interacting with others, it isn’t so at all. It probably points to the fact that as a country and continent we are lagging behind those who have been really working at it for 100 years.”
So do you think because we came late to the movement, we can be excused for the disparities that exist? No, not at all. If anything we should be on par with the rest by merely walking in their shoes. I would like to believe they have paved the way. It could be the case that our priorities are focused on other seemingly more pertinent issues than women’s issues. We also have deep-seated traditional beliefs and practices that are difficult to change.
What do you feel are the gaps in education, and the workplace? Opportunities exist but they are limited by the fact that they still occur in a male-dominated environment.
In light of what you’ve just said, what is your ideal situation? I would be happy to see more women occupying the decision-making positions in all sectors. In practice education must be treated as a right and where denied, corrective steps must be taken. The area of science and technology must be demystified and made accessible. And when I think of a decent job, it is not just about a high-ranking job, it is about what you get out of it. It stretches into equal pay, equal benefits and recognition of women’s reproductive and other roles.
What would be the key piece in advancing the status of women? I think we could make great strides by engaging men vigorously. As it is, as women we know the issues and have been talking about them for so long and yet I feel the men are not quite appreciative of the issues. We need to make changes in all sectors for the change to be sustainable.