Friday, 27 September 2013

Of Women, Power and Politics

Although I am not into politics and do not intend to get involved I thought I would comment on Zimbabwe’s new cabinet. I was disappointed by the government of Zimbabwe only having 3 women in the new cabinet. In many developing countries women carry the burden of care for the family ,discrimination, abuse, rape, violence like Female Genital Mutilation and it’s a miracle that they even get the chance to get educated.

Women make up 34% of the 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe, with 32% in the National Assembly and 48% of Senate.

Although the quota for women in parliament led to the dramatic increase from 19% in 2008 to 34%, the number of women who actually won fell from 34 to 26.

The cabinet appointments were the country’s last opportunity to bolster the numbers of women in power. Moreover, because these appointments are chosen and not elected, this presented a chance for political leaders to prove their commitment to gender equality.

Women’s representation in the new cabinet stands at 11.5%, down from 16% in the 2008 cabinet.

Mugabe appointed only three women ministers out of 26.

Dr Olivia Muchena is the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education; Oppah Muchinguri is Minister of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development and Sithembiso Nyoni remains Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises. Mugabe also appointed 24 deputy ministers of which only four are women.

Outside of cabinet, Flora Bhuka is now one of the Ministers of State for Presidential Affairs. Two female Ministers of State will lead Harare and Bulawayo provinces, while eight men will lead the rest of the country.

The underrepresentation of women in parliament, and now in cabinet means Zimbabwe has failed to meet the SADC Gender Protocol target of at least 50% representation of women in all areas of political decision by 2015.

This failure also mocks the new Zimbabwe Constitution, which specifically aims to promote gender balance.

The Constitution clearly stipulates, "1(a) The State must promote the full participation of women in all spheres of Zimbabwean society on the basis of equality with men; (b) the State must take all measures, including legislative measures, needed to ensure that (i) both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level; and (ii)women constitute at least half the membership of all Commissions and other elective and appointed governmental bodies established by or under this Constitution or any Act of Parliament.”

Asked why there are so few women in cabinet, Mugabe explained that there are less educated women in Zimbabwe.

“Education is for all now… It is no longer necessary for us to have affirmative action, it is now free for all.  Let women contest alongside men without any preferential treatment," Mugabe said.

He also added that women should perform better in elections if they want to make it to cabinet.

On the contrary, affirmative action along with political will is imperative for redress. Had Zimbabwe not fast tracked the land resettlement scheme, the country would still be sitting with unequal land ownership. The same is true for redressing women issues.

As long as our leaders do not strive to implement all the policies in place to address imbalances, then the oppression of the majority, those that actually put them in political office, will continue and this sadly will affect women more.

It is fact that there are more women voters than men. Denying women equal and full participation in decision-making is unmistakably undemocratic.

I call on the women leaders to reconfigure their role in the political sphere and encourage more women to stand for political office. They should identify and support those women who have the potential to lead. Men look out for each other and so should women.

On all election campaigns, women were on the forefront so why should they not be in the cabinet?

I urge all women to claim their space in politics and use their initiative and agency, because our empowerment cannot be left to male politicians. Politics needs Women.

It is high time women ensure that they shape the agenda and position themselves at the heart of our struggle for equality and liberation struggle.

Finally, those SADC countries set to hold elections before 2015, must take up the 50/50 campaign wholeheartedly, following in the footsteps of countries like Seychelles with 44% women in parliament, South Africa with 41% in Cabinet and Lesotho with 49% women in local government.


Women of the world, lets refuse to be branded sexually, socially, mentally and physically. Let’s be what we want and we can do it.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Ten ways to be positive

In life, we have many different kinds of experiences – good and bad, and it's up to us to create our own experience of the various situations we find ourselves in. This is why it's important to have a positive mindset, to make it our intention to live life positively each day.

To live a positive life you need to create positive habits so that you are able to focus on what truly matters. Here are ten simple ways to inspire you to do just that:

1. Celebrate being alive

Live your life as if you are the most fortunate person! All you have to do is make it your intention to remind yourself how fortunate you are and to apply it to everything you do. It really is as simple as changing your mindset.

2. Become aware of your thoughts

When you consciously become aware of your thoughts it's easy to spot the negative ones. Make it your intention to replace them with positive thoughts. You might be thinking that it is easier said than done, but with lots of mindful practice it will become second nature.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others

We often feel down and out when we start comparing ourselves to others. Remember, it's all relative - you don't know the journey of another person – you don't know what they are going through. Respect and accept it for what it is, but most of all, accept yourself as you are because you are amazing.

4. Surround yourself with positive people

Positive people are contagious! Get out there and mingle with them. The technologies of today are also making it possible to connect with positive people from all over the world through social networks, blogs and websites. Subscribe to motivational newsletters, read articles, and bask in others' positivity!

5. Stop complaining, take responsibility, and smile more

When you find yourself complaining, it means you are not taking responsibility. If you want something done, just do it! But remember to do it with a smile.

6. Focus on what you have, not on what you don't have

As the saying goes, “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. When you focus on abundance, more will be given unto you. You will attract more into your life by focusing on what you have, and in so doing, the universe will give you more of it.

7. See failure as a stepping stone to success

Failing at something doesn't mean it is the end of the world. Embrace the failure and know that a few weeks, months, or years from now this will become an inspirational story to tell others one day when you have achieved your success! Also remember that failure could mean the birth of something new, and better for your journey.

8. Be grateful for the things you already have

When you feel grateful for the little things, you will instantly feel shift in your mood. When you wake up, start counting all your blessings, no matter how small – be it the toothpaste so you could brush your teeth, the bread on your table, or even the mere fact that you have a table to put your bread on! Remember, you are fortunate – someone  else doesn't have these little luxuries. Don't take anything for granted. You are lucky.

9. Stop allowing criticism from others to get you down

When someone compliments us, we don't remember it. When they criticise us, we have sleepless nights trying to figure out how we can fix it! Accept that it is just one person's opinion – take what you need, and move on. Don't allow it to control you otherwise you'll just end up losing getting yourself down and it's just not worth it.

10. Realize that you have a choice to be positive today

It's a simple intention you set for yourself each day. When you open your eyes in the morning, make it your intention to say "Today is a great day!".

Remember, it's up to you to create your own experience.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Female Genital Mutilation, Your Vagina and Beautiful You

There’s so much more to it than you think

Your entire genital region is usually referred to as your vagina, but the vagina is just part of it. The outer portion is called the vulva – which includes the inner and outer labia, the clitoris, clitoral hood, and the opening to the urethra and vagina. The actual vagina is an internal structure, along with the other parts of the female reproductive system including the cervix, uterus, ovaries and Fallopian tubes (which are sometimes called the oviducts).

Women get ‘stiff’ too.
During intercourse, when you’re super turned on, we’re sure you know that certain things happen down there. Your clitoris engorges, your cervix widens, and your labia minora contains erectile tissue which gets slightly stiffer than normal. Having them cut is purely denying you the chance to enjoy yourself.

Sweating down there is normal
And is actually quite necessary. Below the skin of your labia and the hood of your clitoris, there are hundreds of teeny tiny little glands producing sweat and oil so that your lady bits don’t overheat or get damaged by friction.

The vagina is self-cleaning
And cleaning it with things like douchebags (this, not that) is not recommended by doctors. Your flower bud has colonies of mutually symbiotic flora and microorganisms that protect against dangerous microbes. Disrupting this balance can cause yeast infections, abnormal discharge, and more.

There are apparently over 200 names for your ‘special place’
These include passion flower, pink pearl, ya ya, fuzzy taco, crotch mackerel, cod canal, fuzzy lap flounder, yoni, warehouse of warmth, land down under, and chatterbox. And those are just the nice ones.

Each vagina has its own smell
The smell depends on a variety of factors, including the combination of normal bacteria that live in the vagina, diet, the types of fabric each woman wears, her level of hygiene, how much she sweats, and gland secretions. It can also change during the course of the day. After exercise, during menstruation, or after sex the vagina smells differently.

Masturbation is good for you
At least, it’s what most doctors say. It’s safe sex (but if you’re using sex toys, remember to clean them), it’s a stress reliever, and helps build pelvic floor muscles.

Do you really have a g-spot?
Most researchers believe that the little pleasure zone called the G-Spot is  two to three inches inside the vagina, on the anterior wall (near the belly button), just under the urethra. But there are others who believe it doesn’t exist at all. The best person to know would be you.

The clitoris is purely for pleasure
Made up of over 8000 nerve endings (double the number in the penis), that little pink nub is a powerhouse for pleasure. Here’s how to use it to its full potential.

Woman can ejaculate too
Not all women can, but it is possible, and completely normal. During orgasm, some women release a milky fluid from the para-urethral glands inside the urethra. This results in what is termed as a ‘squirt’. And, of course, there is actually a record for the farthest distance that a woman has ejaculated: 3 metres.


Do not have it cut or mutilated if you ever had a choice. We don’t need to change the way we look down there. No to Female Genital  Mutilation!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Female Genital Mutilation and Legislation

Having been campaigning for an end to the horrific practice of FGM, I would want to share some of my thoughts regarding prosecutions of perpetrators of this crime. There is need for the law to be seriously involved.


However I also think prosecutions alone (like for murderers, paedophiles etc) will work well with more awareness and working together by different sections of the communities. Female Genital mutilation is child abuse and should be talked about freely without fear of being accused of racism or prejudice and treated the same way as all other forms of child abuse.


Prosecutions and most importantly awareness, on the dangers of FGM and training those who work with children could be beneficial to all involved. Without training of those working with children, it will be difficult to bring anyone to justice. A survey I did in Oxfordshire among teachers for example revealed that 1 in 10 people knew what FGM is and had no idea of the numbers of girls at risk in the UK. Talking about child abuse, even after the case of Baby P, there have been more cases of child abuse even with prosecutions. What are we doing wrong,?

What is the best approach to ending female genital mutilation?


A much more rigorous approach is needed, a review of what activists are doing now and see its effectiveness.


A systematic review by Berg and Denison (2012) found that there was little

evidence of the effectiveness of interventions to prevent FGM. The review

highlights that the factors related to the continuation or discontinuation of

the practice varied across contexts; however, the main factors supporting the

practice were tradition, religion and concern with reducing women’s sexual



Conversely, health complications and lack of sexual satisfaction did not favour support of the practice.


However, a wealth of evaluations of anti-FGM programmes from many countries exists, which can provide guidelines for good practice. These strategies are summarized below.

This is no time to be lone rangers –re FGM. For it to work there is need for a holistic approach which does not isolate those from FGM practising communities.

Understand the social dynamics of decision-making related to FGM

Decision-making and practices in many communities involve more than just

individuals and families– they are embedded in community or group dynamics. Interventions that target individuals, families or excisers alone are

therefore unlikely to be effective   eg. A research in Gambia and Senegal found that decisions about FGM were made by more than one member of the family, including mothers, fathers, grandparents and aunts.


Fathers were less supportive of FGM than mothers, and were often crucial to

decisions not to subject their daughters to the procedure.


In light of these findings and other research on decision-making in relation to

FGM, it is  recommended  that preventive interventions include elements of community dialogue; understanding of the importance of local rewards and punishments and a method for coordinating change among social groups that includes men and women from multiple generations within the community and related communities


Work with – not against – cultural and community practices and beliefs

FGM has rarely been abandoned when programmes against the practice have been perceived by the community as attacking and criticizing local culture and values, and/or as driven by outsiders. On the contrary, defensive reactions, including mass-FGM initiatives and proclamations in support of the practice, can result.


Evaluations suggests that reinforcing positive cultural values can be more effective , as can supporting community dialogue aimed at finding ways to signify a girl’s coming of age that do not involve cutting.


Target local, national and international levels of influence


Grass-roots-level interventions have been shown to benefit from complementary national responses. In addition, ethnicity – a major predictor of the type of FGM practised – can span national borders; thus interventions targeting a particular ethnic group should consider cross-border coordination.


Legal sanctions against FGM are the most common type of intervention at the

national and international levels but there is strong evidence that laws alone are not enough. Nevertheless, legislation creates an enabling environment for interventions at the local level, as illustrated in Ghana and Senegal.


Legislation and codes of conduct have also been shown to be important in relation to communities that practise FGM outside their countries of origin.

A study in the European Union found that effective implementation of laws

related to FGM is associated with better knowledge, including how to deal with an at-risk girl, and attitudes among health-care providers who are in contact with these populations


Together FGM can be a thing of the past but all parties in FGM communities have to be involved from the onset. FGM activists out there be careful as you move into people’s communities and keep up the good work.

Abigal Muchecheti is an author of a book, “A lost Youth  a book on Female Genital Mutilation.


Monday, 2 September 2013

Female Genital Mutilation, Culture and Schools

Now that the schools will be open soon in the UK, it is a shame to imagine what some of the girls from FGM practising communities have gone through in the name of culture or custom. The months of July to September in some FGM practising communities are considered "cutting season" where girls are mutilated. Most families in the diaspora take their children back to the countries of origin to have this procedure done. Unfortunately this is done in the name of culture. People seem to forget that culture evolves and even developed countries have long since left some dangerous practices like (workhouses-which did not take into consideration the mental and physical state of all involved and prosecuting gay people in the UK, etc). Why then do some FGM practising communities use culture to harm their children? A culture should be questioned at all costs if it is harmful.

Meaning of custom:  custom, habit, practice mean an established way of doing things. Custom, applied to a community or to an individual, implies a more or less permanent way of acting reinforced by tradition and social attitudes / A practice followed by people of a particular group or region.

Having established what a custom is, it is clear from the above definitions that customs are not rigid. They can change and be stopped at any stage of their existence. One would think a custom worth mentioning should be the one that people are proud of. However with FGM, the way it’s so secretive, I can’t help but think that even the FGM enthusiasts knows very well that this is a harmful, cruel and unnecessary practice. Who wouldn’t if the truth be said and it is such a shame that the practice still exist in the 21st Century. There is no doubt that all of those people involved with FGM have seen death, misery and prolonged physical and mental illness as a result of FGM. How then can people not see that? But not for long of course!

Culture definition

‘’The sum of attitudes, customs, and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions, and art, from one generation to the next.’’

 The problem I have with the above definition is it claims that culture does not change and this is what the FGM enthusiasts use as an excuse for chopping girls and women’s parts. But honestly culture does change and most African cultures have long since changed. Why then justify a practice that is so harmful both physically and mentally in the name of culture? The problem I have with FGM enthusiasts is that they claim FGM is part of African Culture. It is not and let us not define ourselves by cherry picking what we like just to make up for evil practices. I think the word culture has always been misused by people who try to make excuses for bogus traditions. The problem then is even those from parts of the world where FGM is not practised who should help end this horrific practice once they hear the word culture, they move aside and become spectators. This to me explains why FGM has survived this long.

We now live in a global village where not one culture has survived untouched. Even those tribes living hidden in the Amazon have had their ways of doing things changed by events happening around the world. So claiming that FGM is a culture is wrong. Why keep only that part of culture? Why not keep it all including hunting and gathering and all the rest of it?

To those FGM practising communities and enthusiasts, it is time to let go. FGM will not survive for much longer.

What can schools do?

It is vital for schools to create a culture where children feel able to come forward if they or a friend is at risk or has been a victim of FGM. If a child approaches a member of staff, they must be able to act on this information. This means schools need a clear protocol in place for handling FGM concerns.

If a child has already undergone the procedure it should be reported so that the child is provided with appropriate care and support. Signs that could indicate a girl has had FGM include:

             Being absent for a long time or during her period.

             Going to the toilet more often than usual or for a long time.

             Not able to cross her legs when sitting on the floor, trying to get out of PE.

             Urinary tract infections, being in pain, clutching her body.

             Sudden changes in behaviour (quiet/subdued/misbehaving).

             Talk about something somebody did to them that they are not allowed to talk about.

What to do if you are concerned about someone who is at risk of FGM

             Talk to them about your concerns in simple straightforward speech; if you ridicule you lose the chance of making a difference

·         Be sensitive

·         Consult a child protection advisor and make a referral to children’s’ social care


What to do if you have had the FGM done?

As I write this article, for some girls the procedure might have already been done while they were on holiday. Many families from the FGM practising communities take girls to their country of origin to have the procedure carried out. When they return, the girls are told not to talk about FGM and told of how they might be taken away from their family if people were to know about FGM.

My advice is seeking help from specialist health services. There are specialist clinics around the UK and in some of these one can have a reversal procedure.





By Abigal Muchecheti- Author of “A lost Youth” a book on FGM