“I’m keeping my maiden name, even in marriage.” “My albinism doesn’t define me.” “Cervical cancer: Zimbabwe’s silent epidemic.” “What exactly do people mean when they say homosexuality is un-African? Define Africanness.” “Pushing 30 and still single: is there any hope?”
These are some of the talking points on Her Zimbabwe, a website that aims to give a voice to Zimbabwean women, and which is fast gaining hits and attention since its launch three months ago.
With a mix that includes musings on romance and relationships, as well as some humour, the site offers respite from the relentless diet of violence, politics and poverty that dominates much of Zimbabwe’s media.
Fungai Machirori, a feminist journalist and blogger formerly resident in Britain, has returned home to run the site. She was inspired by meeting young people at an international awards ceremony in Austria last year.
“When I landed back in the UK from the awards event, I was immediately on my laptop writing out my first thoughts about how a web portal for Zimbabweans could look,” Machirori, 28, recalls. “I must have slept a mere two hours that night.
“It was a cold UK evening in December when my friend Tafadzwa Dihwa and I first took to the task of trying to name Her Zimbabwe. In between chats, Tafadzwa was watching CSI Miami in warm Bulawayo, while I was trying to find the most convenient position I could sit in to get maximum heat from the radiator in my room. The temperature was -3C. I couldn’t have felt colder in my body. And yet the heat of our collective creative energy was insatiable.”
They hit upon Her Zimbabwe, with the tagline: Her Voice. Her Revolution. Machirori decided it was time to give the project her all, starting on a zero budget.
“The road less travelled is always the scariest to pursue. It entails courage, self-belief and a lot of hard work. The day I finally decided to book my return ticket to Zimbabwe from the UK was the first step of courage I took. I decided that the UK didn’t represent the greener pastures that everyone told me it did, at least for me. Zimbabwe was more fertile and rich with possibility.”
The site covers human interest stories, identity politics, health, lifestyle features and reflections on emotional highs and lows. A leading Zimbabwean comedian describes his battle against depression.
There is also more familiar fare, such as an interview with a young human rights activist, and an attempt to find the lighter side of life. A link to the popular British Keep Calm and Carry on poster is accompanied by a Zimbabwean parody: Keep Calm, Be Zimbabwean and Make a Plan.
Her Zimbabwe has earned praise from The Zimbabwean newspaper as “an intimate space that is alive with human stories, provocative ideas and sizzling debate about gender … the writing is fresh and vibrant, …a kaleidoscope of Zimbabwean voices, both male and female.”
In one interview, Bonnie Dudzai Mureyi describes life as an albino woman in Zimbabwe. “I discovered makeup a few years ago, and when I apply it many people are not able to tell whether I am an African person with albinism or a Caucasian. Weaves now come in every shade of colour under the sun, and the colour code 27 of any kind of weave works wonders for a person with albinism.”
Machirori says she is aware that millions of women in Zimbabwe do not have access to the internet, and is also operating a line for mobile text messages.