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Light at the end of a tunnel - my late submission

Change in my country is a word that has started to be associated with negative connotations. We have a political party opposing the long incumbent government and using the word ‘change’ or ‘chinja’ in the national Shona language in their slogans and political manifesto. Anything that follows has been associated to regime change agenda. Citizens have borne the brunt of a crumbling and slowly recovering economy, poor service delivery, human rights abuses and repression, as well serious intolerance for dissent with the government arbitrarily unleashing the repressive state apparatuses to ‘neutralise’ innocent protesters and dissenting voices. As a result, the youth have retreated into their shells and indeed, away from civic participation for fear of victimization.

Participation, especially in the development of public policies, is a civil duty, and citizens have a stake and an obligation to contribute to governance processes. Poor participation is due to lack of civic education about the issues concerning people. It is also attributable to unnecessary polarization of the public policy formulation processes and reactionaries within our system who resist change. What has also obviously not been deeply entrenched in the populace is the fact that our leaders are public servants who ought to be accountable to us. It has become the role of human rights activists to try and re-socialise society by pointing out the need to reclaim rights.

Reclaiming rights is essential to the realization of freedom of expression as enshrined in principle, in the country’s constitution. I am human rights activist and I believe that Zimbabwe will one day get back on the right track. But it can be achieved through a slow cyber-struggle that we have already waged.

Online spaces like Pulsewire provide liberating opportunities to share messages with the youth who shape the future of this country. While poor participation is often due to fear, new media technologies give people increased platforms to express themselves and sometimes, anonymously too. The biggest plus is garnering the support of other young people across the globe and exploring the experiences of others in overcoming their own challenges.

A study by a leading local human rights organization revealed that 68% of the Zimbabwean population have access to mobile phones. A huge chunk of this population consists of the youth that constantly check their Facebook and Twitter using their phones. This is an opportunity civil society has started to tap into via Frontline SMS, blog links, e-activism campaign, email and twitter alerts. I believe through these small steps, we shall reclaim this country. Little efforts such as these I believe take away a feeling and sense of helplessness that characterises the outlook of many a Zimbabwean.

Comments

MaDube's picture

Hey Stash

I liked your terminology 'cyber-struggle.' Well the people we fight against are mainly old and conservative and maybe if we use new and modern from of communication they will catch on too slow and by the time they do we will already have covered much ground without them knowing. We should definitely hook up when I get back home, I have an unrefined plan for covering the elections. I know you are interested and you probably have something under your sleeve already :-). Let's plan and talk some more.

Stash's picture

Too slow

Thanks MaDube. I laughed so hard last week when I heard that the first ever trial in Zmbabwe for a man who abused Facebook to 'incite violence' flopped because the police were baffled by the technology and lost proof when the offending post was 'deleted' off the offender's phone and there were no records in the Outbox! Too slow indeed. It has been both amusing and sad to note that our state operatives are not equipping themselves sufficiently in moving with the times. Tey can be outsmarted by a 10 year old, at the rate which we are going. And there is Chamisa distributing laptops to computer illiterate ministers and self-proclaimed land grabbers like Chinotimba. Its such a pity you know. I am very very interested to hear your thoughts on the threatened elections, got a few unrefined ideas of my own...

RosemaryC's picture

Love your writing!

Dear Stash:

I enjoyed your writing so much that I read all the pieces you had written. You have such a gift! That story about the two dogs, and the need to bark - wonderful :)

I liked your point about the power of mobile phones to help change the terms of public discussion. Earlier this year, I was evaluating a civic education curriculum for out of school youth, being led by a local NGO. I realized that in Zim, discipline and violence seem to have been conflated. It is as if when people express their honest views publicly, they are seen as being disobedient because obedience meanso respecting your elders and authority figures, no matter what they say or do.

The facilitators observed that young people really appreciated learning about 'ground rules'. They saw the power of naming the norms under which the group operated, and how it encouraged constructive group participation because the 'rules' were clear. In some ways, it seems to me, the new social media offer a similar kind of setting in which young people can start to name - and thus decide to change - the ground rules under which society operates.

The power of hope and of learning to bark!

Kind regards,
Rosemary

kati.mayfield's picture

Tapping in

Dear Stash,

It sounds like you have your finger on the Pulse of what's going on (and what's not going on) in civil society in Zimbabwe. Thank you for sharing these insights!

Through the conversation you and MaDube have going back and forth, it's easy to see that leaders like you ladies are already grabbing these new media tools by the horns to push for change by getting other people involved.

Wonderful! I am glad to be reading.

in friendship,

Kati

*resolved this year to think twice and to smile twice before doing anything*

Stash's picture

humbled

Thank you Rosemary and Kati for your very humbling words, and apart from all else, Zimbabwe is such an amazing country, with amazing and resilient people. I believe we are getting there, slowly but surely.

Stash

aimeeknight's picture

Hi Stash, Your post is very

Hi Stash,
Your post is very informative, thank you for sharing the struggles that citizens face in your country. I'm interested in learning more. You have excellent writing skills, however, I feel that you may be holding back. I hope you don't mind my saying so! You have great skill and I would love to hear more of your voice in your future posts. Wonderful work, best of luck in your journey with World Pulse.

"One shoe can change a life" ~ Cinderella

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