Linda Tsungirirai Masarira is a human rights defender, pro-democracy, socioeconomic and political activist who is passionate about women and girl child rights. I am currently campaigning for Harare central parliamentary seat in the 2018 elections as an independent candidate.
Am currently studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Peace and governance. I am a human rights defender passionate about equality, gender balance, women and girl child rights, democracy, economic and political freedom for marginalized groups of society.
I am a widow and a proud mother of 5 children.
Following a series of demonstrations, petitions, and protests for violations of human rights by the Government of Zimbabwe. I was incarcerated for more than 80 days in prison for challenging the ruling system to respect human dignity. During the days of incarceration, I mobilized fellow women prisoners and led an inmate protest against poor and inhuman conditions that women were being subjected to including lack of sanitary pads and access to medical services. Because of that move, I was brutalized and moved to a male prison and placed in solitary confinement until I was granted bail by a High court order in September 2016.
I am the Founder and national coordinator for Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance, National Coordinator for the Young African Leadership Forum (Zimbabwean Chapter), Founder and Chairperson of the Association of Railways Terminated Employees and former President of the Trainmen workers Union (2008-2013).
I have been involved in trade unionism at the National Railways of Zimbabwe and Systems Technology (Pvt) (Ltd) where I mobilized fellow employees to fight for their labour rights, which culminated in victimization and termination of the contract in both companies.
I have organized several successful campaigns including the “Bring back our women from Kuwait” campaign where I took a leading role in petitioning the government of Zimbabwe and the Kuwaiti Embassy to expedite the repatriation process to the stranded Zimbabwean women who had fallen victim to human trafficking. Following this campaign, the government of Zimbabwe later came up with an expatriation plan for all trafficked persons outside Zimbabwe which saw more than 200 women victims coming back home.
Besides political activism, humanitarian and democracy work, am a former member of the executive management committee of the People`s Democratic Party (PDP) responsible for recruitment and mobilization.
To compliment my vision for sustainable development not only in Zimbabwe but the whole Africa, I am also a businesswoman who utilizes her skills to educate young aspiring women to venture into income generation projects so that they can be independent economically.To that effect, I strongly believe in Youth Leadership and groom young people to effectively advocate and fight for social economic and political justice in our country.
WHAT FUELS ME?
MY GREATEST INFLUENCE:
The harsh economic climate, gender, and labour injustice. Powerful women in the struggle in Zimbabwe have also influenced me to remain resolute in the struggle for the emancipation of women’s rights, democracy, and inclusion.
MY TOP THREE ROLE MODELS:
Lucia Matibenga she was the first female black labour activist in Zimbabwe and co-founder of the Movement for Democratic Change the first vibrant opposition party in Zimbabwe. To date, she is my mentor because she is not tired to fight for a just Zimbabwe. History always shapes future and intergenerational convergence is critical in our quest to build a fair, just and equal Zimbabwe.
Winnie Mandela is my role model because she remained resolute in the face of apartheid and injustice. She was not deterred by anything and took up leadership in the struggle to end apartheid in Zimbabwe.
Priscilla Misihairambwi, she is a celebrated feminist who is not apologetic about her feminism and will do whatever it takes to champion women’s rights
IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS…..
I am currently campaigning for the Harare central parliamentary seat in 2018 elections. I feel I will be more effective as an activist in the national assembly than outside the legislative arena. I do have an accountability partner that I discuss my journey with. My vision is to clean up politics in Zimbabwe and gradually change the political culture in Zimbabwe. Impossibility is in the mind and I thrive on changing mindsets daily through conversations with everyone I meet in the different spaces I go to. I also encourage critical thinking through my blog and social media platforms. Change is a process and I am willing to walk the journey to change the mindset of my fellow countrymen.
THE AFRICAN WOMAN’S CHALLENGE:
Our world is structured as a man’s world. An African woman has to fight so hard to get recognition. A woman wears so many hats, women have to multi-task. It is never about merit for a woman but about gender.
Most African women lose confidence in participating in democracy and governance issues, given how elections in Africa lack credibility and are usually characterized by violence. Violence is greatly inhibiting the meaningful participation of women in democracy and governance issues.
There is limited access to the various media platforms (Print, Electronic, Internet sources, including community media platforms). There is a general blackout of media to the common woman in Zimbabwe. This is because of the exorbitance of newspapers in Zimbabwe. With 65 percent of the people in the rural areas surviving on a dollar per day (Central Statistics Office, 2017), it remains a dream for the majority to access news through newspapers. Equally, the electronic media is limited to some areas whilst some still have poor networks and besides the monopoly of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation cannot go unmentioned. ZBC, just like other state media channels in Zimbabwe is a mouthpiece of the ruling party that has at best-polarized society. The independent media, on the other hand, sympathizes with dissenting voices; nonetheless, there are some areas where the papers are not allowed, especially in ZANU PF strongholds and I suppose this is also true in most African countries.
I try and make information readily available to the marginalized woman by newsletters which we distribute to the rural areas through my organization Zimbabwe Women in Politics Alliance. The tragedy of the African woman is lack of information, no access to information and ignorance. The highly patriarchal societies we are raised in still favours men against women, which is a norm I try to fight and adjust every day of my life. We are all equal and cultural barriers should not be used to discriminate nor weigh women’s capacity in leadership roles.
The economic crisis in Zimbabwe has put a heavy burden on the lifestyle of a woman in Zimbabwe. I try in my small way to teach women how to fish and sustain their livelihoods. Women are now breadwinners of most families in Africa through informal trade and their efforts are not recognized in the family, society and nationally. There is a real need to formalize the informal sector in most African countries so that women vendors can have decent and safe spaces to sell their wares. I have been working with vendors organizations on a policy to formalize the informal sector in Zimbabwe.
Gender-Based Violence is still a big issue in most African states which needs more attention as many women die from violence in the home, workplace or do visit faces. It is my endeavor to ensure that the world will obey day have a strict policy against instead gender-based violence. African women are still being excluded from governance processes and that has to change. There is nothing for women without women.
WHAT I DO TO RELAX:
I spend time with my children, travel and read books to get inspiration and try to connect with nature. This helps me refresh and appreciate life more.
MY – I.C.E. [INSPIRE|CELEBRATE|EMPOWER] VISION
The African Woman should be inspired because she is a bag of enormous, organic talent, she is resilient and organized. She must be celebrated because she works twice as hard to get recognition in a space that is predominantly male and she must be empowered because she gets things done, in short, she is an agent of real, meaningful change.
MY AFRICAN UNION PLANS:
I would seek to be responsible for empowering women to know their rights and advocate for what they believe in. African women are still suffering from vicious cycles of exclusion because they are ignorant of their rights. They are abused in the workplace because they are socialized to submit to men. We need to change the way the girl child is socialized and inform a new culture of independent women who can decide what they want, lead and influence change in their communities without victimization and intimidation. I believe that women can actually perform better and do exceedingly and abundantly well in all spheres of governance.
FINAL WORDS OF ADVICE:
You are born to make a difference. Do not limit yourself, go years into the world and make a difference for all the women in the world, they are waiting for your leadership. Everyone is born a leader is endowed with her own unique leadership qualities. Stop looking down at yourself. Look yourself in the mirror, say I am a great person, and make yourself GREAT.