Women and ZANLA in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle

For Better or Worse? Women and ZANLA in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle is a thought-provoking analysis of women’s experiences with ZANLA during the war of independence. It challenges official orthodoxy that a gender revolution occurred in this period and that a generation of liberated women emerged from the struggle.

However, the author’s careful investigations reveal that while ZANLA extensively mobilised women as porters, nurses, teachers, secretaries and cooks – all crucial to the struggle and glorified in the rhetoric, in substance, the movement perceived these roles as secondary to the
activities of men. By confining female fighters to the rear and limiting their participation in what the commanders perceived as the real battles – engagements with Rhodesian security forces at the front – ZANLA erased
women from promotion in the liberation army’s hierarchy, from decision-making or from voicing their very real concerns.

The author, who had access to the ZANU Archives, scrutinises a doctrinal terrain laced with tension between ideology and traditional principles, between the more and less educated cadres, and between the women on the
ground and the leadership.

For Better or Worse? will help us to understand the events of the last twenty years, a period in which we have developed a nationalism that is increasingly male in its orientation. Josephine Nhongo-Simbanegavi concludes by asking that if women were seen as genuine equals, as citizens not subjects, how might this affect the perspectives and goals of the post-war state.

For Better or Worse? Women and ZANLA in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle
Josephine Nhongo-Simbanegavi
Weaver Press

ISBN 0 7974 2105 X


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