Gender Politics and the Pendulum of Political and Social Transformation in Zimbabwe


Ranchod-Nilsson, Sita. 2006. “Gender Politics and the Pendulum of Political and Social Transformation in Zimbabwe.” Journal of Southern African Studies 32 (1): 49-67. doi:10.1080/03057070500493761.

Author: Sita Ranchod-Nilsson


In the two decades following its 1980 independence, Zimbabwe's gendered social and political transformation seemed, on the face of it, to be characterised by a swinging pendulum of state led progress on women's issues followed by a period of back-sliding on earlier commitments. However, upon closer examination, the state's commitment to women's issues was always ambivalent, at best. If the story of gendered social and political transformation begins during the decade-long liberation war that preceded independence, the contradictory gender ideologies of ZANU(PF), the liberation movement that became the dominant party after independence, and the contradictory expectations of women who supported the liberation struggle in different capacities are clear. These contradictions, combined with the state's shallow commitment to improving the lives of Zimbabwean women, help to explain the state's lacklustre gender transformation, particularly in the areas of legal reform and developing state institutions to address women's development needs. As the state's increasing authoritarianism effectively eliminated spaces for advocacy that it created after independence, a growing number of women's NGOs developed issue-oriented approaches that criticised the government while at the same time developing relationships with particular segments of the government, and the increasingly organised opposition, in order to address women's issues. Thus, the gendered social and political transformation in Zimbabwe has been both non-linear and reconfigured to fit the spaces of the transformed state.

Topics: Armed Conflict, National Liberation Wars, Gender, Women, Governance, NGOs Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Zimbabwe

Year: 2006

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