Unsafe Abortions Put Women’s Lives At Risk in Zimbabwe

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha || Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | January 21, 2014

An estimated 46 million women throughout the world, 11% of whom are in Africa, have induced abortion each year. In Zimbabwe abortion is illegal, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, fetal impairment or preservation of the mother’s health.

Despite the stigma around abortion, illegal, self-inflicted abortions are rife in Zimbabwe and put the lives of women at risk. Unicef estimates that 80 000 illegal abortions take place in the country every year. Continue reading

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Why Zimbabwean Businesses Need A Social Face

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | iZivisoMag.com

It’s unfortunate that in this day and age most Zimbabwean businesses are still relucntant to embrace the opportunities provided by the digital age. The reluctance to embrace change in the digital era only means that local businesses will continue to be relegated to the dustbin of history. According to a recent Ernst & Young report, Into the Cloud, Out of the Fog, 64 percent of surveyed business respondents in Zimbabwe have implemented limited or no access to social media sites as a control to mitigate risks related to the platforms. The global average is apparently 54 percent. While on the surface of it, it may appear that social media causes time wasting among employees it is unfortunate to have such a negative approach to its use within business.

Social media integration into business can indeed contribute to the bottomline if implemented properly – if anything, it can help business to stay in touch with their target audiences and customers. Executives must embrace new media in order to not only compete for the future, but for mind share, market share, and ultimately relevance.

Corporate entities in Zimbabwe need to recognise that social media is a goldmine that can facilitate the achievement of key business objectives. With over a billion people on social media it’s irresponsible for any brand not to have some sort of presence. Now is the time for brands to engage on a direct-to-many basis. Social media is changing everything about the way people relate socially, in commerce, and politics.

An effective social media strategy is more than just setting up a Twitter, YouTube and Facebook account – in other words, it’s more than just broadcasting advertising messages to accumulated fans. Social channels need to be treated as integral part of the communication process.

In particur, social media channels need to be used to humanize brands and/or businesses. Such channels – if used properly – can help to build stronger emotional connections with brands. The key for any successful social media campaign is to generate more and deeper involvement with the product or service. Social media can give voice, credibility, and connections to both companies an their customers.

For starters, Zimbabwean corporates need to identify great conversations about their brands, it all starts with conversation – the kind of conversations that engage, enthrall and enrapture audiences as well as influence the emotional connection and subsequently sales. Of course, social media is not a cure for bad products or services but it can sure help in eliciting rapid customer feedback.

Social media allows us to open up an invaluable dialogue with customers in a way that was simply not possible previously. It’s important to state that the execution of social media within the corporate set-up needs to prioritise substance over cheap thrills and style. While putting the brand in the middle of a conversation is key, it’s even more critical to be real and authentic.

For corporates, especially those involved in the publishing business, engaging audiences is an essential part of their continued success and relevance in an ever-connected universe. As people continue to turn to the Internet for information, businesses that continue to stick to the old ways of engagement will soon find themselves in the cold.

Digital artist opens new avenues

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

INNOCENT Fungurani, aka, Answer, who is pioneering digital art in Zimbabwe revealed that he is on a mission to put the country on the global arts map.

Fungurani (23), who recently showcased his digital works at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) in an exhibition titled “Beyond Boundaries” said that his art is merely a dialect to communicate issues of social significance.

The works he exhibited were extracts from an ambitious journal project that he is currently working on entitled, “Superstition.” His works have a surreal, avant-garde, experimental and an almost dreamy metaphysical quality that speak in a way that language cannot convey.

Fungurani, who is a volunteer art teacher at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, said that he has always had a fascination for computers from a young age and always sought for ways to be creative around them using the most basic software.

“I define digital art as any art which is created through the medium of  technology be it cellphones, digital cameras or computer webcams. I find this really fascinating because computing systems are fast becoming more accessible, cheaper and efficient in Zimbabwe,” said Fungurani is also a spoken word poet and painter.

Fungurani revealed that he is inspired by everything around him, including the urban vibe, people, architecture and public spaces, culture and language.

“I believe my generation of digital artists is one of many that will emerge out of Zimbabwe. Digital art has greater potential to influence society because many of our spaces are becoming computerized. People also have the need to consume art is the same way that they consume commands at work,” he said

The artist, who was awarded the top poetry prize for the US Public Affairs’ Black History Month poetry slam, said that art for him has been a process of constant evolution towards self-knowledge.

“I was first fascinated by language until I felt that I needed to find other forms of expression to convey ideas that language could not easily express. Due to the some social taboos around language, I felt limited to express on issues such as sexuality, politics and religion,” he said.

“That is how I discovered that images could portray controversial ideas is a more effective way, and communicate to a larger number of people, including the illiterate.”

As a result of this realization, Fungurani said he took to painting and colour before he discovered the field of computerized art.

Fungurani has already made a significant mark on the arts scene in Zimbabwe through highly, innovative projects that have involved many merging young artists. In 2009, he co-founded Kreative Activists Overturning Society (KAOS) with hip hop poetess and filmmaker, Cynthia Marangwanda.

As part of his social contribution, Fungurani said his organization is currently planning a major festival of alternative arts expression that will be held early next year.

“Zimbabwe has been starved of alternative voices; society has become dependent on state and corporate media, yet these are mouth pieces of the rich and powerful. That’s why KAOS will hold a festival dedicated to alternative forms of expression. We are working to create a platform to show case different dynamic and radical art forms,” he said.

In Zambia Young People Have Sex to “Prove a Point” or Make Money

Young men and women in Zambia are under pressure to engage in multiple sexual relationships due to prevailing societal attitudes about masculinity and for economic benefits, respectively, according to a study recently published in the African Journal of AIDS Research.

 

The study states that young men are likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviour because that is the way men are expected to behave, with the majority believing that their identity is defined by their sexual prowess.

 

On the other hand, young women have multiple sexual partners as a way to escape poverty, which affects approximately 68 percent of the population.

 

“Among young women in the study, the practice of multiple sexual partnerships seemed fairly widespread and it typically involved powerful socio-economic ties, making it difficult for individuals to change their own behaviour,” said the study.

 

Young people’s sexual attitudes and behaviours comes against a backdrop of high rates of HIV and AIDS which have shortened life expectancy in the country.

 

According to UNAIDS, an estimated 16,5 percent (1,200,000) of people aged 15-49 in Zambia are living with HIV, of which 57 percent are women with the main mode of HIV transmission being heterosexual intercourse.

 

To make matters worse, UNAIDS reports that in Zambia there is also pressure on women to demonstrate their fertility, so they do not use condoms and a cultural trend for inter-generational relationships also puts girls at risk.

 

Statistics show that HIV prevalence peaks in men between the ages of 29 and 34; in women it is 15 and 24.Among young people ages 15-24, the estimated number of young women living with HIV in Zambia is more than twice that of young men.

 

In Zambia, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, epidemiological evidence shows that multiple sexual partnerships are contributing considerably to HIV transmission.

 

In light of this, there is need for increased emphasis on fidelity and partner reduction in the prevention of HIV transmission. However, a combination of cultural and economic factors push young people into potentially risky sexual engagement with multiple partners.

 

According to the study, although young people were aware of the risk associated with having multiple sexual partnerships, they described several barriers to translating safer-sex knowledge into health-promoting safer-sex behaviours.

 

“For many young men, having many partners was a way of demonstrating their virility and manliness,” states the study titled “Reasons for multiple sexual partnerships: perspectives of young people in Zambia”.

 

“It was seen as more acceptable for men than women to have multiple sexual partners.”

 

The study adds that a traditional culture that associates masculinity with having multiple sexual partners does exist among youth in Zambia.

 

“When respondents spoke about young men having multiple sexual partnerships in order to “prove a point,” it is evident that in essence the point they were trying to “prove” was that they could live up to the cultural expectations of masculinity in Zambia,” says the report.

 

Notions of masculinity have long been singled out as a stumbling block to safe sexual practices between men and women.

 

The study recommends that there is a need to challenge traditional notions of masculinity which puts both men and women at risk of exposure to HIV. Respondents also cited polygamy, which is widely practiced in some parts of Zambia, as a factor which influences multiple sexual relationships for young people socialized in a polygamous environment.

 

Effective responses to HIV and AIDS in Zambia, like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, need to continuously figure out how to tackle often-sensitive cultural issues that facilitate HIV transmission.

 

Among young men, existent concepts of masculinity need to be redefined so that the definition of manhood is not simply confined to sexual prowess or number or sexual encounters.

 

The study further recommends that young women need to be offered more opportunities to escape poverty because this will reduce the need to resort to multiple partners as a means of survival.

 

“While the majority of the young people were well aware that having multiple sexual partnerships increased their chance of contracting HIV, it is vital that youth be made aware of the sexual networks that are created as a result of this multiple partnering – and how the chance of becoming infected can depend on one’s position within the networks,” states the study.

 

Overall, sex education can play a key role in encouraging young people to either delay having sex or practice safer sex.

Young Couples Face Baby Pressures

Zimbabwean culture, like many cultures in sub-Saharan Africa, places a high value on procreation. Child-bearing is regarded as a rite of passage into becoming a normal adult member of society.

 

As a result, reproductive health choices and practices often play second fiddle to pressures to reproduce that are exerted by traditional and cultural norms. Usually, these pressures are covert so they tend to be ignored in the design of reproductive health programs and interventions.

 

Reproductive health generally implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.

 

But in Zimbabwe, men and women’s ability to exercise this right is curtailed by the unseen force of tradition and culture.

 

In many parts of the country, a woman is expected to have been married at roughly age 24, and within two years of marriage is expected to have a child. Young women, in spite of their educational status, are under immense pressure to fulfill this social expectation. On the other hand, a man who goes beyond 30 without getting married or having a child attracts significant social ridicule.

 

Failure to procreate especially in a marriage, even if it is by choice, is interpreted in negative light and is equated to reproductive health failure. For a man, becoming a father is associated with a sense of achievement, and failure to reproduce severely undermines the sense of masculinity. A woman’s place within a marriage is regarded as secure when she reproduces. If she fails to do so, she can become ostracized within the household and community.

 

“Failure to reproduce can strain family and other social relationships, particularly when the negative views of extended family members are taken to heart,” says a study conducted in Zimbabwe in 2001 titled Culture, Identity and Reproductive Failure in Zimbabwe.

 

“Generally speaking, about one year after entry into marriage or a stable sexual partnership, others expect there to be a child, irrespective of the reproductive choices of the partners.”

 

 

It is clear that traditional and cultural attitudes play a significant role in how both men and women construct their reproductive capabilities and choices.

 

As Danielle Toppin notes “given the often covert nature of socialization, certain gendered behaviours are often left untouched, resulting in reproductive health policies that fail to meet the specific needs of women, and of men”.

 

In Zimbabwe, the family, a primary unit of socialization, is often the root of pressure for men and women to prove that they can reproduce. The desire to conceive in order to gain social acceptance is given preference to adopting tools and methods that promote safe sex.

 

The social pressure on women to become pregnant and give birth leads them into conditions of vulnerability, where they have to acquiesce to their partner’s sexual demands. It can also lead men to have multiple sexual encounters exposing them to a high risk of contracting HIV.

 

Put simply, the effectiveness of sexual and reproductive health tools is inhibited by culturally and socially constructed layers that define people’s sexual behaviors.

 

However, instead of being an impediment, culture can be used as a stepping stone to promote reproductive health rights. To have effective reproductive health programs, therefore, a full understanding of a given society’s values and beliefs is required.

 

There’s need for an approach that is sensitive to contextual, cultural, traditional and gender practices that impact on reproductive health choices.

 

The traditional, spiritual and cultural beliefs that shape and define sexual identities and attitudes towards sexual and reproductive health need to be given serious attention in the design of programs and interventions. Traversing the cultural and traditional can be very difficult and requires a lot of sensitivity, investment and patience.

 

It’s imperative to involve the target communities in the design and implementation of reproductive health policy, planning and practice in order to challenge cultural norms that may put women and men at risk.