On 8 November 2010 I attended a meeting called by the Minister for Africa who invited UK based Zimbabweans to a meeting on the politics and situation in Zimbabwe Monday, 8 November in London. Speakers included the FCO Minister for Africa, Henry Bellingham, MP, and the British Ambassador to Harare, Mark Canning. The two gave their views of the political, economic and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe and an outline of Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) policy towards Zimbabwe. All the presentations gave me so much hope that I thought anytime I would end my self imposed exile situation and return home and continue with my work of supporting girls empowerment. Of course working an environment where there is 8% economic growth would be the best things ever to happen
Then we came to question and answer session and I wished Zimbabwe did these back home more than in UK so as to mingle and understand which direction our country is going to. Talking to a problem direct is better than talking about a problem. Since I am not a politician and I will never wish to be one, I did listen to groups that represented on various political issues . After they presented I just felt the whole political situation is very complex as there are many layers of power and money hungry selfish individuals who are not so well concerned about the poor out there but who want to enrich their pockets
The woman whose comments touched my heart is the woman who during her presentation was triggered to recall violence that affected his father from the days of Gukurahundi. She felt Zimbabweans in UK work so hard and are so loyal and yet their lives are a sorry site. She cried her heart out in a way that touched me
I stood up and made three commentary comments directed to the Minister and the Ambassdosor
1.A lot of times when rape is used as a weapon of war ,the effects for women and girls are devastating and they live with trauma for the rest of their lives.I took part in a project spearheaded by AIDS FREE WORLD in Botswana where women deposited evidence on rapes that took place during political violence. I can see that from the way healing, justice and reconciliation has been tackled in Zimbabwe these women and girls are a forgotten group and yet their bleeding genital wounds which I helped nurse are real. I have a report that made me understand how such rapes occur and how devastating they can be. Women and girls cannot strip naked and show their genital organs and so anyone who is dealing with Zimbabwe must face the contents in this report and take recommendations and way forward for true healing, rehabilitation and transitional justice contained in this report. It is so sad that a girl at 16 years has to look after a baby conceived in a youth militia base.I know most people here present are not so sensitive to issue of rape as a weapon of war but lets all know that there are many Zimbabwean women and girls in and outside Zimbabwe who will never heal unless something is done.Unless Zimbabwe faces truth ,reconciliation and justice then we will never move with everyone on the same boat.So my question to the Ambasodor was if he ever read this report at all and if ever in their development aid such women got anything because as far as I can see this is the most wounded group of Zimbabwean women and girls and none of them confirmed they ever received help like the case with groups in the capital city
I also shared my concern on the many cases of forced marriages in the Johanne Marange church where right now I am fighting through whatever means to have a girl aged 13 married to a 67 year old man in the Johanne Marange church who are like law unto themselves because of their political affiliation to Zanu PF .It is not always direct political violence that scares a woman to leave her village but such harmful religious practices closely linked politically are often overlooked and so returning women to such environments can be devastating. There are many girls held hostage in bedrooms as sex slaves than those in classrooms learning and in any rehabilitation of women and girls we must be sensitive communities they are being sent back to do not subject them to sex slavery like it is right now
2.The policy on deportations on Zimbabweans has left the African girl child here in UK hopeless and with anxiety. If she was born here with illegal immigrants it means when deportations start their education would be cut and most probably back in Zimbabwe it would not be easy to get a good school and university like the case is right now. On humanitarian grounds I pleaded with the Minister to support these girls till completion of their education so that they return to Zimbabwe with something in their head to help rebuild Zimbabwe. Definitely there is no way an uneducated individual can help build Zimbabwe. If UK start a program of support right now by 2015 most girls would have been rehabilitated back to Zimbabwe with dignity. We should avoid a situation where deporting such girls would be same as being trafficked where they end up in brothels or forced marriages.
The Minister responded that this is a valid point they might have overlooked and he promised to look at it again but he said he can not promise anything
3.Girls in Zimbabwe lack basics such as University fees ,sanitary ware and sometimes they have to engage in prostitution to get these .Daily my inbox has over 200 emails appealing for some help with school fees and other basics. I was open and said even though I am not on the ground to see girls as I used to when I was still leader of Girl Child Network Zimbabwe ,I share their pain and agony to travel such long distances to get to nearest internet cafe just to appeal for help. It means their problems are real and something needs to be done.
So my appeals on behalf of girls to the Minister for Africa are basics like education, sanitary pads food ,shelter, protection from harm during conflict and support with healing and justice in post conflict .These are issues overlooked and as long as no one takes time to listen to girls they will remain silent victims of the situation in Zimbabwe and UK. When elephants fight it is always the grass that suffers the most.