Where can one find the complete story of the Zimbabwe women’s movement? There is no one repository, says Shereen Essof, whose book ‘Shemurenga’, published recently with the assistance of Hivos, attempts to frame that very story over the years 1995-2000.
Essof says that the idea of publishing a book based on her research on the women’s movement in Zimbabwe started to strengthen after a chance meeting with Ireen Dubel of Hivos at the Institute of Development in Brighton, in the UK several years ago.
That was the beginning of a journey that saw Hivos and renowned Zimbabwean publishing house, Weaver Press, come together with Essof to make the book a reality.
In a review of the book, Dubel poses the question: “Did Zimbabwean women’s organising constitute a women’s movement during the years 1995 – 2000?” And then answers: “In a fascinating account of a significant period of women’s collective organising, Shereen Essof’s response to this question is positive. As a feminist scholar she interrogates the period during which she was a more than full-time woman activist out and about in Zimbabwe. Inspired by the vision of feminism and social justice, she was part of a collectivity of women who were mobilizing and engaging women throughout Zimbabwe.”
However, as Essof herself was the first to admit at the launch of the book, the story of the women’s movement went beyond those who were mobilising and working for NGOs and included many other women unseen and unheard. “The story is much deeper and broader than the voices of those women at the forefront.”
She invites other voices to add to the story she has told: “This book is something we can all build on because there are multiple stories. It is really a framing. It offers a frame for that period….”
Rebecca Mahlunge of the Hivos Southern Africa Regional Office said that the book was funded as the first project under the Zimbabwe Knowledge Programme. “Shereen’s research was in line with the programme’s aims of helping women to tell their stories.”
The book’s title “Shemurenga” is coined from the Shona word “Chimurenga”, meaning revolution.