Patriarchy subjects women to matrimonial servitude
By Bekezela Mguni
In Zimbabwe, rigid gender roles dictate that women must be submissive to male family members. When married, women are expected to obey their husbands, act according to their wishes and not strive for equal decision making. If they transgress these norms they may face physical violence used by husbands as punishment or discipline.
Nomalanga Dlamini (34), from New Lobengula in Bulawayo province says when she got married, she expected her husband to treat her with dignity and love just like the situation when they were dating. She says soon after her marriage, she realised that her husband’s family would dictate how she was to run her own family’s affairs.
“My husband grew up under the care of his grandmother. His mother passed away when he was very young at the age of five and no one knew about his father. I am also from a traditional family but I have never witnessed my parents or grandparents interfering in my sisters or brothers’ marriages. Her grandmother is literally in charge of our affairs and we have to listen to everything she says,” says Nomalanga.
Nomalanga says she has tried to advise her husband that they should move out and start their own life somewhere. She says her husband refuses, arguing that he cannot leave his grandmother without anyone to take care of her.
Nomalanga says she is practically the housemaid, cleaning after seven people yet she has a new born baby to care of. She says she never has time to breath because the sink is always full with dirty dishes and the washing basket is always full. She says it is unfortunate no maid can tolerate the grandmother’s treatment so she has to do all the work herself.
She adds on that the grandmother is the one who cooks always and controls what and when they should eat. She says even when they get a helper the grandmother ill-treats her until she leaves so that she does not have anyone to help her or sometimes the grandmother makes ugly comments about how the helper would make a good wife for her nephew.
“I try to reason with my husband but whenever l say anything about his grandmother, he raises his voice for everyone in the house to hear. I have asked him several times that we move out and he says his grandmother would not allow it. It is difficult for me because the grandmother does not like me but l cannot walk away because l now have two children and have no means of making money, says Nomalanga.
Nomalanga says she cries alone in her room wondering why her in-laws hate her so much. She says her husband does not even give her money to buy the things she wants. She says even with their baby, the husband refused to buy new clothes saying the baby will wear clothes that were used by his sister who is now five years old.
Sheila Moyo (29) lives in Nkulumane suburb in Bulawayo metropolitan province and has been married for five years. Sheila says she faced difficulties when she got married because her husband preferred to discuss marital affairs with his male relatives.
“My husband never consulted me on any issues related to our family. He preferred to discuss issues with his own parents. He treated me like a child and did not give me any platform to express myself,” says Sheila.
Sandra Gama (34) the Programmes Officer at The Girls Table says it is so painful what women go through in marriages but blames society for the patriarchal and cultural norms that give men too much power over women and make women seem like they have no voice in marriages.
The Girls Table is a non-profit making organization whose work focuses on amplifying the voices of girls and women on socio-economic, political and cultural issues through the use of media channels.
“As women growing up in a patriarchal environment in Zimbabwe, we are taught to bow down to our husbands and we fear walking away from our miserable marriages because of the fear of being judged by our communities. The patriarchal and cultural norms in Zimbabwe gives too much power and freedom to men making women passive,” says Sandra.